Living well with Hashimoto's – and awareness
by Victoria Lister
Hashimoto’s Syndrome is a very common auto-immune hypothyroid condition. It manifests as an imbalance in the production of the thyroid hormones that play a major role in regulating key functions of the body. Those who have it know it well; for those of you who don't, there is a link to a brief summary underneath this article.
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s at the top of 2014. The on-set of the disease was so gradual and the symptoms so diffuse I didn’t realise they added up to something specific. I was tired all the time, there was more hair in the shower than usual and my eyebrows thinned. I lost muscle tone, my skin was dry, I had no energy, no libido and no zest for life –and, to add insult to injury, I was chronically constipated. When I finally found myself unable to get off the couch I consulted a naturopath, who ordered blood tests, and delivered the news.
I was devastated for some time. I’d always been a relatively healthy person and a potentially chronic disease just wasn’t part of my picture of how I thought I, and life, should be. Resisting a purely medical approach, I pursued naturopathic treatment and also sought the support of an integrated health GP to order and monitor my blood tests.
The natural protocols supported me to a degree but ultimately I didn’t feel confident they were enough. I consulted a GP who specialises in hormonal issues. Advising me to try hormone replacement therapy (HRT), he recommended the bio-identical kind. I baulked at the fact it was derived from pigs and went with a synthetic version.
The HRT made a big difference: clearly my body needed the additional support. After about a year I decided to give the bio-identical version a go, persuaded that it would provide me with a fuller complement of compatible hormones and a better health outcome. Another bonus: I’d discovered the synthetic version contained lactose, a substance I’d eliminated from my diet years earlier because of its effect on my body, and I could have the new mediation prepared by a compounding chemist, free of lactose.
And so my GP specialist’s words proved to be. Although the synthetic hormone supplement I’d tried had absolutely improved my health, the new medication was markedly better. I felt much recovered and started to feel more like my old self. Problem solved.
Or was it?
It’s about here most people’s story ends: go to doctor, get fixed, return to normal life. I knew however I couldn’t afford to think like that – that I could take a ‘magic pill’ and the problem would go away, because the truth was without the magic pill, my body was still compromised.
I was no stranger to self-reflection, or the world of natural medicine. I was long familiar with the tenets of psychotherapy, counselling and the basics of health and wellbeing, and I’d already spent a good seven years studying with Universal Medicine, going deeper with my understanding of true health and healing. In other words, I knew enough to know the disease I’d manifested didn’t just spring out of nowhere – there was something more to consider, a root cause to understand.
A precursor of hypothyroid conditions is adrenal exhaustion, a state often triggered by stress and over-exercise of the fight, flight or freeze response; by a life lived in excess push and drive and a need to get things done – which was exactly how I had been living. I realised my ambitions were fuelled by the need for recognition and identification in what I did rather than who I was. I took seriously the fact that I had to change the way I was living and acknowledge that, to a large extent, I had little mastery of life or myself and was letting life 'do me'.
I made practical changes, refining my diet, getting serious for the first time in a long time about regular exercise, looking deeper into sleep, resting, changing my pace and moving in a way that was gentle rather than rushed or strained.
I also addressed the way I’d oriented myself: I’d pretty much conducted most of my adult life from my head with little to no regard for my body, which I’d thought of as an inconvenience (if not a disappointment) much of the time. You could say, in line with the very nature of the auto-immune disease I’d manifested, I was great at attacking myself with my harsh ways and lack of positive regard. I had to learn to slow down, to know I was worth taking care of, that my body needed to come first, that there was in fact no true success without my health. In short I had to learn to honour, not abuse, myself.
My growth has been such that I now consider Hashimoto’s a gift: without it I wouldn’t have developed what is now a beautiful relationship with myself. I wouldn’t have reached the level of tenderness and self-care and nurturing I have, or known myself as delicate and womanly, as a being of inherent value before I lift a finger to do a thing.
I’m far from perfect – I still go into over-work, eat foods that impact my system, get stressed, get tired and have to deal with all that brings and I know I have further still to go with unravelling my condition. Yet, nearly five years on, I enjoy remarkable health even though I still have Hashimoto’s and still take medication. I’ve made my peace with the possibility it might always be that way; equally I know anything is possible.
The ‘magic pill’ approach might offer a great fix but it does not truly heal. If I’d relied solely on HRT and continued to live as I had, I know I would have simply manifested another condition or illness. The body’s like that – it will deliver the message again and again until we stop and listen, no matter how stubborn we are or how long it takes.
Choosing to appreciate medicine and see it as a wonderful support is one piece of the puzzle. Bringing awareness as to why we’ve manifested our ailment, to why we are the way we are, is however crucial if we are to live in way that gets to – and underneath – the heart of the matter. It requires honesty, patience and an on-going commitment but it’s a journey well worth taking.
See https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/hashimotos-disease for a brief overview of Hashimoto’s.
You can contact Victoria for support with Hashimoto’s or any issue related to work-life balance and wellbeing.