this is what a thyroid day looks like

Since I’ve been back my thyroid has been wreaking it’s annoying old havoc. While I was away it was so much calmer, perhaps one day a week of pain. For the past week, it’s been four days of pain, which is how it was before I left. I’m still trying to work out what triggers it. In the meantime, I cope, I modulate, I recalibrate and I try to see it all as a necessary gift.

brian oldham photography this is what a thyroid day looks like
Photo by Brian Oldham

I just had a bad few days of it over the weekend. So I thought I would share just how a typical thyroid day transpires for me, while it’s fresh. And how I cope with the various symptoms. Not to garner pity*, but to comfort those out there with chronic illness who grapple with the loneliness of it all. Mostly, I find, when you have chronic, unexplainable, unfixable illness, all you want is to know you’re not alone and that your symptoms are real and understandable and worthy of recognition, if only via some stranger’s blog post.

* although, if I’m honest, I’m often seeking “leeway” from the world.

But also – and I say this often – I reckon what I learn from having auto-immune disease is applicable to anyone wanting to lead a better, more well life. A life closer to the core. More real. More conscious. When you have an auto-immune disease you are that much more sensitive to the bad shit we do to ourselves and that we’re forced to put up with – the smells, the additives… the noise. We are the canaries down the mineshaft. Want to know what’s bad for you? What’s doing you damage? Ask an AI sufferer! They feel it with their every pore in real time where others often do not.

So. My Sunday.

* Wake early. 5am. Despite being unable to walk properly the night before from weariness, I have not slept. I wear earplugs and an eyemask, but my hypersensitivity on thyroid days means I wake to the slightest stimuli. The smell of the perfume of someone walking past my open window will do it. Perfume…the stuff should be banned. As a canary down the mineshaft, can I tell you, the stuff is poison.

* My feet and lips burn. They’re swollen and bloodflow is restricted. It’s inflammation and lymphatic blockage. My left
eye twitches. These are usual symptoms on thyroidy days. From my neck down, my right side plays up. From the neck up, my left side plays up.

* Realisation #1: Lack of sleep is the biggest trigger for thryoidy pain. It’s that simple. Anything less than 7.5 hours now will send things haywire. A cruel reality when thryoidy days beget insomnia.

* I feel tender and I don’t want people. Near me. In my thoughts. The hub-bub of humanity hurts. I describe thyroid days as: “Imagine your worst hangover and times it by three.” You know when the very idea of the phone ringing and having to deal with someone or some issue hurts to the core? It’s like that.

* Remedy #1: move. In the morning.  I’ve realised lying down doesn’t work, as tempting as it can be. Moving does. Walking, stretching or swimming….very slowly but for an hour at least. Enough to get the lymphs open and flowing. It truly works. Overseas, I hiked on thyroidy days, for up to four hours. The symptoms faded over the day. But I do it in the morning. By the afternoon I’m cactus.

* Realisation #2: being cold is a big trigger for thyroidy days. So is wind. It’s like it takes too much to keep warm. And to deal with the fluster of the bluster. On hot, dry, still days I feel best. Which goes back to the role of vata in all this.

* I go to power yoga …a gentle alignment class. I focus on my breath just to cope. In. Out. I can feel toxins release in and around my knees and hips. It’s not painful; it’s like a syringe of hot, acidic coffee is being injected into my joints. Oddly relieving. Better out than in.

* Remedy #2: sweat. Hot yoga or a sauna. Preferably infrared – read here for why infrared is good for auto-immune disease. Again, sweat gets lymphs moving. But heat also takes the strain off my body. It was windy on Sunday…a yoga class was the best place for me to be.

* Realisation #3: Thyroidy days get me present. By which I mean, due to the fact you can only focus on coping one second at a time, one step at a time, one conversation at a time, I get down and dirty in the moment. I abandon plans, abandon forward-thinking. I’m just coping, like walking across a desert without water. Which I’ve done before. So I know the analogy is fitting.

* I attempt one chore: I go to a mall to redeem a gift voucher. And am approached by no less than five people who read my blog and want to chat and be lovely. Four of the five recognise me from my green shorts. I’m acutely aware I look like hell. Puffy face, small eyes, swollen lips. Delicate. I put every, single, iota of energy into conversing and looking cheerful and grateful. In hindsight I’m glad I look like hell and a lesser version of the glossy me on the cover of my books and the health messages I sell. It’s good aerobics for my ego.

* I seek calories and stimulation. I make no apologies for this. On thyroid days I seek caffeine and chocolate and fat and carbs. All of it. I refuse to punish myself for this. I let it unfold until the feeling subsides and drink coffee and eat 50g of 85% dark chocolate. And nuts. Fat is good for thyroid days, stimuli not so much. But so be it. Coffee gets me through a few more hours. I’ll recalibrate this caffeine hankering another day.

* I crash. I can’t move. I can’t get up to go to the toilet. I hate and resent everything and life is ugly and noisy. I can hear the electricity meter next door ticking. In go my earplugs and on goes my eyemask and I just lie in the dark for an hour. Coping. That’s all.

* Remedy #3: a Thai massage. I’ve tried all the styles. Thai is best. It’s no-fuss and it works to trigger points. And it’s about getting the lymphs moving and the joints mobilsed. It rarely fails to work. It’s an expense I just accept now. I don’t buy nail polish or get blow-dries. I get Thai massages for $40 for 30 minutes. I get the masseurs to focus on my calves and hips.  I walk 20 minutes to the massage, up the hill, in the dark. This works, too.

* I eat vegetables with oil. Fennel, zucchini, peas and bok choi. Lots of oil. This works, too.

* I take a laxative. Yes. My thyroid renders me incredibly stuck and toxic. It’s not ideal, but the priority is to get things out. Better out than in.

* I take aspirin. Yes. It’s a Molotov cocktail of drugs going on here. But aspirin brings down inflammation and helps me sleep in one hit. I sleep. Four hours…

And so it begins again. Modulating. Slowly. One remedy at a time.

Are you coping with chronic illness? How so?





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