Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Grieving and Acceptance of My Health

Yesterday, I was prescribed a medication that I will most likely have to take for the rest of my life. This morning I took that first pill and it went down quickly and easily, but my acceptance of this health condition has been a much harder thing to swallow.

After going to my general practitioner last fall with complaints about heart palpitations, I was tested and it was revealed that I most likely had hypothyroidism, an endocrine disorder. Since then I believe that my feelings about this illness have progressed through the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief.
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
Denial - When it was first suggested that I may have a thyroid problem, I was completely unconvinced. The author and patient advocate Mary J. Shomon wrote that most people have a vague idea that the thyroid is somewhere in your neck and that,
"...when malfunctioning, [it] makes you gain weight and develop a goiter."
I just couldn't accept that I was being diagnosed with the same illness that relegates people to a 300 pound body where they are so weak they have to ride the electric cart at the grocery store! I decided that the blood test must be wrong, or maybe I was just having an off day. When my doctor suggested I start taking a hormone replacement (the standard treatment) I flat out refused and he agreed that since my numbers weren't that bad, I could come back in four months and be tested again.

I knew the test results just had to be different then.

Anger-During that period of waiting, I began to research the causes of hypothyroidism and I began to get MAD.

It seems that just about everything in the world, and more specifically things man made, have been linked to endocrine malfunction. Cosmetics, household cleaners, artificial flavors in food, food emulsifiers that enhance processing, wireless frequencies from cellphones and computers, fluoride and other chemicals in the tap water, all of these things have been shown to harm thyroid function.

I believed that I had been wronged and I wanted someone to pay.

Bargaining - I then decided that I was going to take control and fix myself.

I thought that if I could change my diet or start the right exercise routine, than perhaps I could make this all go away. I started trying to lose weight (which is supposedly very difficult for someone who is hypo). I was able to bring my weight down from 160 to 145. I just knew that I was going to make everything better.

I would cure myself of hypothyroidism.

Depression - Last week, on Monday, I returned to my doctor for a new blood test. The nurse called me on Wednesday to tell my that my numbers were MUCH WORSE. I could hardly think on the phone when she told me that I would have to go on medication. I think that she sensed I was stunned and said she would schedule a consultation in one week and I could discuss my prescription with my doctor.

So, for the past week I have been mopey and dismal. Frequently suggesting to my husband that I was probably not going live into old age. Asking him bleak questions about whether he was prepared to raise our children alone.

I knew in the back of my mind that these assertions were unfounded, but my feeling was just one of general loss. I suppose I was mourning my youth and the more disturbing realization that I only have a limited amount of control over my health.

- Tuesday, the day before my doctor appointement I decided to quit whining and empower myself. I started reading websites and forums that discussed living with a thyroid condition (instead of just looking for a cause or a quick fix as I was before). I bought a book and read until 1 am. I prepared myself with questions to ask my doctor about the medication and outlook.

I am very thankful to have a wonderful general practitioner who was willing to spend 15-20 minutes discussing things with me yesterday. He answered all of my questions and I can honestly say I feel good about the future.

Postscript: While researching online I discovered that Oprah did a feature about hypothyroidism in her November magazine, as well as an entire television show because she has it. I guess now instead of telling people I have that weird thyroid disorder that sometimes makes you obese and develop a bulging goiter in your neck, I can just say, "I have the same illness Oprah has". Perhaps that might put it in a better light.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Anytime you can relate to Oprah is good.