Sometimes I find myself at the super yogi yoga classes at my studio. They talk about your third eye and grounding stones and the different chakras of the body. When they talk about the throat chakra, they focus on stretching various parts of your neck. Sometimes they have us do things that “will massage your thyroid”.
When this happens, I usually laugh to myself. Thyroid. Ha. I don’t have one of those! This week, I started crying.
I was diagnosed with Graves Disease when I was 16. A common form of hyperthyroidism, yet I was diagnosed with an uncommonly aggressive case at an uncommonly young age. At one point, I was on 16 pills a day to get my body to some semblance of normalcy.
I had my thyroid completely removed at 22, after it basically stopped responding to medication. My senior year of college was spent battling symptoms I thought I left behind in high school, battling my body in a way I thought I wouldn’t have to anymore. I had the surgery three days after I graduated. Post-grad adventures, I told my friends.
It’s something I typically only talk about in passing, for context in a story. Or with a wave of my hand, dismissing it away. At least trying to.
I often try to laugh it off, but it’s not really funny.
Your thyroid gland regulates your body’s hormones. How fast your hair grows, your metabolism, your energy levels. Your muscle strength, your ability to fall asleep, your body temperature. Shaking legs. Racing heart. All controlled by your hormones. 50 million things are controlled by your hormones. 50 million things in my body don’t work like they should.
The shaking. The hair falling out. The weight gain. These things, on their own, might not be so bad. The worst side effect of Graves? They like to call them neuropsychiatric symptoms. I call it your sanity.
I don’t have a thyroid gland anymore, and yet the last few months of my life have been ruled by my thyroid. Or lack thereof. I’m being haunted by the ghost of a gland.
My hormones levels are out of whack, which means my body is out of whack. Which means my life is out of whack. When I first got the call from my doctor, when I first rushed to the pharmacy to pick up my new pills, I fought back tears as I waited in line at CVS. The boy I was dating at the time was texting me about our plans for the evening, and I had to fight to not throw my phone across the store.
I couldn’t fathom dinner plans when all I could think about was what was about to happen to my body. I could already feel the heightened anxiety, I could already feel my body battling with itself. I foresaw the waiting game I was about to play with myself – months long – to find a new normal. I foresaw all the stress and pain and frustration I had already gone through, reintroduced into my life once again.
I pushed back tears and pushed back the memories. I thought to myself I can’t go through that again and tried to will it into action. I didn’t tell anyone what was going on for another month or two.
It started with my legs shaking in yoga one day. Which took me back to high school, when I went to get my nails done for prom and couldn’t stop my legs from shaking for the lady trying to give me a pedicure. In yoga, in most works out classes, they say welcome the quiver. It means you’re training new muscles. In my life, it’s dreaded. In my life, it means more is to come.
I can feel it in my veins: the anxiety running the gamut of my body. I feel anxious about the prospect of anxiety once taking over, I feel anxious about my thyroid once again ruling my life. I feel apathetic to everything, everyone because my life has suddenly become too difficult for me to handle. I fight against it, I know it’s my body and my hormones and my blood levels and not me – but it feels impossible to fight. I sleep 17 hours one day and then I don’t sleep for weeks. I can’t find the energy to do anything, I can’t find the energy to care. I feel a depression that’s heavier than anything I’ve ever known, heavier than anything I’ve ever carried. I feel depressed over the lack of control I have of my body, over my lack of control to be myself. I just want to be myself.
I’m depressed about having a disease that causes depression, anxious about my side effects – that include anxiety. I worry that I care too much and then I start to not care at all. It’s a never ending circle, which happens to be my life.
And did I mention stress can either bring about these symptoms, or increase these symptoms tenfold? Sometimes I’m stressed that all my symptoms are back – it’s back. And it’s only stress, it’s only my body making me think that. My body playing jokes. Sometimes I’m stressed that my symptoms are back and it is back – and the stress makes it worse. I’m not allowed to stress over my life being thrown out of control, because the stress throws it even more out of control.
How does a 16 year old deal with that?
How does a 25 year old?
There was an uncomfortable – to me – silence at my Bible study after I shared. We were taking prayer requests and I asked for prayers for my health. I rushed over words like thyroid disease and surgery and symptoms and stared at the floor after, because what else do you do in that situation? I hate being the sick girl. I was the sick girl for so long growing up.
Afterwards a friend chatted with me about it, mentioning how hard it must be. I was honest and said it sucked – but that there was also light at the end of the tunnel. We have modern medicine. I get blood tests and change my medicine dosage and repeat and repeat until I feel better – there’s hope. It’s a waiting game, but I know there’s hope. I know there is a happy ending somewhere down the line.
But I realized that all this “light at the end of the tunnel” talk is what depresses me most. Because that light seems so far off and so far away and I don’t know when it’s getting any closer. Talk of the end of the tunnel might be hopeful to some, but when you’re sitting at rock bottom it doesn’t feel like a rock tunnel. It feels like a pit.
I don’t need a light at the end of the tunnel. I need a light, right here. I need a light, right now. Even if it’s small, even if it’s not too bright – I need something. Don’t we all?
I struggle a lot with the concept of God’s goodness. Not because I doubt it, but like that ol’ faithful C.S. Lewis quote – I’m wondering how painful His goodness will turn out to be. I know my God is faithful. I know that He is good. But I also know that good does not equal easy.
I’m learning that things aren’t necessarily 100% good or 100% bad – at least in my concept of good and bad. I would like to determine what qualifies in these categories, I would like to decide what needs to happen in my life and what doesn’t. But it’s not that simple – it’s not like things being 100% fun or 100% boring. Its not like food being totally delicious or completely disgusting. Maybe this thing I’m going through is 80% bad but 20% good. Maybe it’s even 99% bad and 1% good. I don’t know. I don’t get to decide.
I’m also learning that, although I hate talking about this, maybe silence helps the darkness. Maybe silence makes it even darker. Maybe opening up is scary and nerve-racking, but it’s one way I can push back. It’s one way I can fight, even when my body doesn’t have the energy.
This isn’t a “Life may be hard, but just look for the good! I promise there’s good somewhere!! Yay, life is good!!!!!!!” blog. I haven’t slept in a few days; I don’t know if my body will let me tonight. My hair is not only thinning but changing texture. My arms have lost almost all of their muscle strength. I am very, very deep in the middle of this-doesn’t-seem-good.
And yet I am learning to open my eyes, in this darkness I find myself. I’ve been hunched over, eyes closed, facing the wall of my rock bottom – all while waiting for the magical light at the end of the tunnel. You don’t see the light if your eyes are closed; you don’t see the light if you’re staring at the wall. I’m still in this pit, so it seems. But I’m letting my eyes adjust to any form of light that is seeping in – Light I am faithful will find its way to me.
My name is Krysti and I have a disease I don’t like to talk about. I serve a God who I don’t fully understand, but who I fully trust. I pray you can see a little Light in your life today if you, too, find yourself sitting in what feels like the darkest of rock bottoms.