For the past few weeks, I have been hiding a big autoimmune flare-up.
I say hiding, because I when I have these flare-ups I tend to be much quieter – online and off. Every twinge, ache and feeling in my body is exaggerated. Every one of my senses feels heightened. I have become brilliant at hiding it, but I can’t be around too many people when I feel this way.
I have Hashimoto’s – an autoimmune condition that attacks my thyroid. The antibodies that are responsible for this were discovered after my second miscarriage. I have been taming these antibodies with a gluten-free diet for 2-years, but every now and again they rear their ugly head and wreak havoc on my body.
I could feel them coming towards the end of the Easter school holidays. I’d had a few late nights, drinking red wine with family and friends and eating way too much of the kids’ chocolate stash. I am usually so strict about never having gluten, but there were a few chocolate eggs that I am not entirely sure were totally gluten free because of the way they made my tongue fizz. I’d also been a bit stressed at home because of all the work we are having done on our house at the moment.
And, Hashimoto’s LOVES stress. In fact, it thrives on it.
The first sign of a flare-up for me is always tiredness. I feel so exhausted that I crash out in bed by 8pm, sleep all the way through and wake up still feeling exhausted in the morning. This time, I also noticed hives on my abdomen, my skin started breaking out and my muscles felt tense. I was too hot, or too cold. Sometimes it was difficult to catch my breath. My hands felt stiff. I walked into a room and could not remember why.
But, it is the anxiety that’s the most crippling.
Did I leave the oven on? Did I turn the tap off? I hope I didn’t offend him/her with that comment. Is this chicken under-cooked? Did I close the door behind me?
It can also get really scary.
What if the ceiling caves in while we are sleeping? What if something happens to the Greek God(zilla) on his way to work and he never comes home again? Could my son have escaped from school without anyone noticing? What if I die when I am alone with my 5-year old and my body is not discovered for days…
My chest tightens, I feel dizzy, nauseous and an overwhelming fear of impending doom takes over. I don’t realise it at the time, but I am in the midst of a panic attack.
There was once a time when I was having a few of these a day.
If I was driving, I’d worry I was about to crash. If I was on a plane – that it was going to fall out of the sky! A bridge might collapse, somersaulting me into the river below. A tunnel could cave in on top of my car. Or, a stranger was going to break into the house while we slept.
There were a hundred things a day that could potentially hurt me and I was on high alert for every single one of them.
It is exhausting.
I knew it would end eventually and I know now the steps I have to take to help the process along. It can be a lonely time, but not as lonely as telling everyone you are freaking out 26 times a day and them all thinking you have gone crazy.
So, I just tend to wait it out and don’t tell anyone until it is over.
Many will advise me to see a chiropractor about the back pain. Get an early night to beat the fatigue. Put the heating on if I feel cold. Drink more water to clear up my skin. Do more exercise to combat the aches and pains that come to everyone with age. Seek a specialist about the anxiety. There’s no need to cry, some will tell me. Just go to the Doctor, others might say.
It is hard to explain that there is nothing my GP can do for me. Of course, I can take medication for each individual ailment, which may provide temporary relief but will never really deal with the root cause. You cannot cure Hashimoto’s; you just have to find a way to live with it. To manage it as best you can.
The main triggers for me are gluten, caffeine, sugar, alcohol and stress, so I’m trying to avoid all these for now. I’ve started a new Pilate’s class and I’m taking a selenium supplement, which I have read has been found to improve thyroid health.
I feel the worst of it is behind me for now. I feel safe. I am myself again.
I have to be, because thinking you are going to die is really no way to live.