Guest post: What It’s Like Living with Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism by Veronica McGale
Hi. I’m Veronica McGale, I’m 41. I have many chronic illnesses, all diagnosed at different ages. The one I’m going to talk about today is my underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) – and my overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)!
For months before I was diagnosed, I just knew something wasn’t right. I was ill but blood tests were coming back as clear. It took my doctor 8 months before I was properly diagnosed.
What is Hyperthyroidism?
Overactive Thyroid, also known as hyperthyroidism, is a common hormonal condition that occurs when your body produces too much of the thyroid hormone in your body. Higher levels of the thyroid hormones can speed up the body’s metabolism which can trigger many symptoms, including nervousness and anxiety.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
There are many symptoms that can occur when you’re living with hyperthyroidism. Here are some that I had and some of the most common ones:
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Mood swings
- Painful joints
- Unsteadiness on my feet
- Hair loss
- Severe fatigue
- Swelling in the neck (due to the thyroid being enlarged)
The list is endless.
Diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism
When I was first diagnosed, it was diagnosed as an overactive thyroid (I’ll explain more soon). Doctors got me in urgently, as an overactive thyroid can be extremely dangerous. I had to go on a drug called carbimazole first to bring down my levels back to a manageable level. Then I had to go on thyroxine which I’ve been on ever since I started on the standard dosage of 50mg daily.
Living with Hyperthyroidism
I stayed stable for 18 months. Then, my levels started playing up again, so my endocrinologist had to adjust my thyroxine again. 75mg this time. After 6 months, I felt no better. I’m now up to 350mg a day. So at this point, it was decided I would be eligible for radioactive iodine. This will kill the excess hormones, I was told (if only I had known). This requires you to drink a glass of iodine, which then starts its job of killing the hormones. I drank it, then went home to be isolated in my room for 3 weeks, due to being radioactive.
After another check of my levels, my thyroid was stabilising. It stayed stable for just under 2 years. After 2 years I started presenting new symptoms, weight gain being the big one. No matter how much I diet or try to control what I eat, my weight hardly budges.
Diagnosed with Hypothyroidism
The doctors were concerned, so they carried out more tests, only to discover I had hypothyroidism. Living with hypothyroidism means my body was running on very little thyroxine. All my symptoms were playing up at the one time and I felt awful. Every day I feel like I have the flu and nothing in my body feels normal. I have a permanent virus, it’s awful. I can wake up one day and have to stay home because I’m floored, even peeing is an effort.
Living with Hypothyroidism
On a good day, I can maybe get dressed and do some chores around my flat and maybe even get out for a coffee or visit my mum. 16 years later I have a very low quality of life. I try to go to occasions and events, but most of the time I need to give them a miss. I’m an auntie to 3 amazing boys (the reasons I’m still alive). I used to love going to the park with them, playing out in the garden with their trucks or a football. Now when I see them we have to play a board game or watch a movie as I’m unable to run around much. I hate it, I feel like the worst auntie ever.
Thyroid Problems and Relationships
My fiancée is amazing. My health controls the relationship. We see each other when I’m fit, but we talk every day. I often feel really awful and say to her I’m letting you go to find someone you deserve. She refuses to leave me, which I’m so happy about as I love her so much. We do have fun together. We do normal couple things – dinner, movie, shopping, long walks. She has my back, her support is unwavering. I can be a total nightmare sometimes. If my thyroid is playing up to full capacity, I’m floored with all symptoms, which in turn can make me extremely frustrated. We got engaged in October and plan to marry in 2021 or 2022, money depending.
Previous relationships have been short-lived, as my former partners all branded me as boring and lazy. They just didn’t want to understand what it’s like to live with hypothyroidism.
I was never extremely popular, but I did have a few great friends who I used to meet regularly for lunch, shopping, cinema, dates. Gradually, through the years, I started having to rearrange and friends always got sick of it. Now I have one friend left. I spend most of my time with mum and aunties, and of course fiancée.
Daily Life with Hypothyroidism
I stay in most of the time, so my hobbies are adult colouring, reading, writing and listening to music. Swimming and walking too, when I can. I also do a lot of crafty things. I also use social media to communicate with people.
Doctors told me when I was first diagnosed that life would go on as normal. I feel ripped off. My life has not been normal. I can’t do anything now unless my thyroid allows it. I’ve tried multiple times to end my life due to not wanting to be broken anymore. I hate this. I hate it with a passion, but I’m fighting on, as I have too much to lose. Hypothyroidism may be kicking my butt, however, it will not beat me. I refuse to sink.
I wish I had been told right at the start to prepare for a rollercoaster life, as life will change. If I had been told this, maybe I would have been more prepared.
I have 4 chronic illnesses besides hypothyroidism, but I will share these at a later date. Thanks for reading.
Veronica would like to have the NHS website linked. You can reach that here.