Thursday, June 13, 2013

Feeling Like Me

Sometime around mid-May, I began to feel awful. Exhausted. Unable to concentrate. Fuzzy-headed. I would get up tired even after nights when I had slept all night without disruption. I couldn't blame it on Brigid. I couldn't blame it on Teresa. I couldn't blame it on weather or illness or temperature or my bed. And yet I couldn't function. I knew there were things I was supposed to do, wanted to do. But I couldn't remember. I would sit and try to think, try to remember, but I had no idea what I was supposed to do or be doing. I was always tired, always hungry and gaining weight.

Add five kids and it was terribly miserable. I didn't know what I was doing when or what I was supposed to do why.  And I could only thing of one cause. My thyroid. I was first diagnosed hypothyroid in August of 1999. I had a physical in preparation for a semester studying abroad and my doctor noticed my thyroid seemed enlarged. Blood tests and a sonogram later, I was confirmed hypothyroid. Basically, my immune system attacks my thyroid gland and then the gland doesn't make enough of the correct hormones resulting in a low metabolism and a host of other annoying symptoms.

The first few years after I was diagnosed, I was on Synthroid, but nothing would stabilize my levels. It just didn't work for me but I had doctors actually accuse me of lying when I insisted I had not missed a dose and took it the same way and time every morning. This was before I was married or had kids. It was easy to be consistent back then. And the looks of disbelief were insulting. Finally, one doctor switched my medication to Levoxyl and it worked for me. It worked really, really well. I'd been on it for about 10 years since and, while my levels would fluctuate when pregnant, we'd figured out exactly what dose I needed while pregnant and exactly what dose I needed when I wasn't.

Then, in early-mid May, I tried to refill my prescription and was told all Levoxyl had been recalled. There was NOTHING wrong with the pills. Rather, the oxygen-absorbing canisters that were used in the 100 and 1000 pill bottles were producing a strange, but probably harmless odor. I'm all for caution, but why some other oxygen-absorbing device couldn't be used is beyond me. Instead, Levoxyl will be out of commission until sometime in 2014. Unfortunately, thyroid medications are not easily substitutable. So, avoiding Synthroid, my doc prescribed another brand of levothyroxine called Tirosint.

It seemed no coincidence that it was 10 days after I switched to Tirosint, after about a decade on Levoxyl, that I began to feel terrible and, simply, not even like myself. So I went to my doctor's office and had my blood tested. The normal level for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is between .4 and 4.0 mIU/L (milli-international units per liter). Mine came in at 6.31. Rather than change my dosage, a doctor recommended simply taking an extra pill once a week. Thyroid medicine has such a long half life, of a couple of weeks or so, that taking even just one extra pill a week can level things out. It is also why they would refuse to retest my levels for 4-6 weeks. 

So, while I began feeling crappy around May 15th and began taking my extra dose on May 31st, it took until around June 10th before I began feeling like myself again. This week I have finally had some energy with which to take care of 5 kids and I actually remember things I want or need to get done. 

Previously I had thought of being hypothyroid as more of an inconvenience. I take a pill each day. It isn't a big deal. If I miss a pill, I just pick up the next day. The half life is so long, missing one generally isn't a big deal. And even if I stopped completely, there would be no emergency run to a hospital or crisis. I know people with diabetes, fibromyalgia, bone marrow cancer, blood clotting disorders and a host of other conditions that have such greater consequences and are harder to balance with life that I never thought of mine as that big a deal. But, while it still doesn't compare with medical complications like those, for the first time I really do see it as a medical condition that does have real consequences and side effects and hence does limit and, in a small way, define me. 

It is so nice and I am so grateful to feel like me again!


  1. So glad you are getting it figured out! Armour has worked wonderfully for me, if you ever have to switch again. It's dessicated pigs thyroid so I wanted to try that first, with the agreement that I'd go on Synthroid if it didn't work- but it worked really well! I can't imagine feeling that way with littles around. I felt so terrible and only had myself to take care of!

  2. Glad you're doing better. I can't imagine feeling that way, and trying to get through my days!