Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Working on myself.

At some point last October I got rather sick of being sick.

I mean, I was used to feeling shitty pretty much all of the time.  Going to sleep was like running a marathon in my mind - angst wouldn't let it shut off.  I woke up tired and bedraggled, feeling like I'd not slept at all, and I was unable to sleep more than three and a half hours at a time without waking up.  I hardly had the brain power most days to do anything other than basic household chores, tending to my child, and going to work for my 12 hour shifts in the emergency room.

For years I'd complained to my doctor about being tired.  He'd diagnosed me with fibromyalgia (a diagnosis I'd never quite been sure of) years earlier.  My body hurt all of the time.  All.  There was never a day where I was pain free.  Never is a serious word, but I do really mean never.  There were better days than others, but most days it hurt to just be alive.  Any exertion made it worse.  Lots worse.  Roller skating, cycling, walking, working my shifts, sex, even rough and tumble tickling with my daughter made me pay the next day.  Always and forever I lived in pain.  No one could see the pain I was in.  It wasn't like I had a broken leg.  I had some sort of invisible illness attacking my body every day and there was little to do but grin and bear it and gripe to my family about how miserable it was.

My guts were sick too, only I was in so much musculoskeletal pain I couldn't really focus on how unhappy my digestive tract was.  Until a few months ago, when literally every day I was eating tums and zantac and still feeling bloated and gassy and downright miserable.  I attacked and cured an overgrowth of candida, but I still felt sick a lot more than I should have.

I started exercising on the direction of a dear friend who's also a dietician.  Slowly but surely I worked my way up to more than 10 miles a week at one point.  My heart was pumping good.  I had endurance, but my body was so tired and in so much pain that I literally had to fight to get the strength to go each time to walk with her.  Plus, she's wonderful at encouragement and harassment, because her job depends on motivating her clientele so they'll get results.

For me, no results came.  My doctor changed up my anti-depressant thinking that was the culprit.  No change in my weight.  Finally three months later he ordered a bunch (5 vials worth) of blood tests.

Turns out, my immune system was working a bit overtime (high white blood cell count).  I knew this because I frequently had low grade fevers - a side effect I attributed to my work in the emergency room where everyone is exposed to all sorts of illness.  Normal people with healthy immune systems build up a giant resistance after working in germ laden places.  But frequently I'd get sick, so much so that my coworkers made (nice) jokes about my crappy immune system.

Nevertheless, I came to work.  I never once have called out due to illness or feeling like crap.  Probably because I was so stinking used to it.  Feeling bad was normal.

Back to the blood tests.  My thyroid peroxidase antibody was elevated quite a bit.  This is a diagnostic tool for Hashimoto's thyroiditis, or when your own immune system attacks your thyroid.

I'd been feeling tired and had been unable to lose the "baby" weight from the pregnancy and birth of my daughter - 10 years earlier.  No matter what I tried I didn't lose any substantial amount of weight.  I constantly felt bad about myself, and my body image (which had always been a-ok) tanked.  Before pregnancy the heaviest I'd been was 140 pounds.  I was not skinny, but I was a very healthy weight.  I'd always suspected something might have happened to my thyroid, but each time I had blood tests the thyroid numbers came back low, but still within "normal" range.  Frustrating to say the least.

The doctor's office called in a low dose of levothyroxine to my pharmacy and I began taking it about a month ago.  Immediately after figuring out the thyroid issue, I began researching it.  I read message boards and forums and question and answer sites galore, and over and over I kept seeing people talk about GLUTEN intolerance and how it goes right along with Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

I researched the symptoms of gluten intolerance/Celiac's disease and found nearly a virtual description of how I'd been feeling for so long.  Unbelievable.

I stopped eating gluten that day.  Now, nearly two weeks out, the pain in my body has almost subsided entirely!  I have no more bloating!  When I eat my stomach and intestines do not rumble for hours on end and remind me that I shouldn't have eaten whatever it was I ate.  I am a carb-a-holic.  I may always be, but I'm no longer eating any carbs that contain wheat or gluten.

Now I'm reading the book by a cardiologist, Dr. Davis, called Wheat Belly.  He's definitely preaching in this book, but not only do I see his logic but I agree wholeheartedly.

I know that I'm now on a straight path to wellness, and quite honestly, I have felt very much "led" to each of my discoveries since that night in October when I prayed for help.  I asked God to please help me end my physical suffering, with tears in my eyes, and told Him that I honestly didn't know how much longer I could keep going as I had been for so long.

I now take a handful of vitamins and prescription drugs that are helping big time.  But ending the hyper inflammatory immune response to gluten might have been the single best thing that's happened to me since my child was born.

Moral of the story? Never be afraid to challenge your doctor, trust your instincts about your body, and use your own mind and brain to find the solution.  And of course, when you're searching for answers, never forget to pray for guidance.  Trust that the Universe has your back, and your best interest, at heart.