Healing your body while running around after children can feel almost impossible – but what if that illness or exhaustion was trying to tell you something? Here, Amy reflects on what her chronic disease means in her life.
It’s a pretty horrible idea to wrap your head around – your body attacking itself.
When I was first diagnosed with postpartum thyroiditis, just four months after my first baby was born, I thought it was a passing thing. Postpartum meant it would be over once I was past the partum, right? I’d been so unwell that, at the time, I was relieved to finally have the diagnosis. Shivering blue from the cold in the milk aisle at the supermarket; arms so achy I couldn’t brush my teeth for longer than fifteen seconds; exhaustion so thick I actually slurred my words.
A diagnosis – and medication – was a God-send.
But then, it didn’t pass.
Post-partum turned into Hashimoto’s Disease, and that’s when the reality of a long-term chronic illness kicked in. I’d be on medication for life – or so I was told.
Nine years on and yes, I am still on medication. In fact, unlike the vast majority of my fellow autoimmune friends, my medication is constantly being adjusted: up for a couple of months, lower when things are really good. It’s literally my litmus test: when I push myself too much for too long my hair starts falling out again and my skin gets so dry it’s itchy and painful, then I know I need to go back for another blood test. And, when the results inevitably come back with a heightened level again, I struggle not to despair.
I’m doing all the right things.
I’ve given up my high stress media role, I meditate every day, I go to yoga, I drink the smoothies, I take the vitamins.
Why isn’t this working?
There have been some significant turning points in my journey with my health. Healing my gut and discovering that I also have Pyrrole Disorder (double whammy!) has dramatically changed my energy levels, and how overwhelmed I feel. Nine months ago we found that I had a pretty nasty parasite hanging out in my belly, which was why my iron, nutrient and thyroid medication was not being processed properly. Healing that meant intense antibiotics followed by a rebuilding of the whole gut system. Probiotics, fermented food, and the discovery of a super little sachet called ‘Sunrise’ that gives me the equivalent of 8 cups kale, 61 cups of avocado, and 8 apples in one little shot each day have transformed how I get through the day. No more worrying about my daily intake of what I know I need – it’s there, done, in ten seconds every morning.
But my thyroid isn’t about my mineral intake or my gut health. Yes, these discoveries have changed my health and my family’s health, but that’s not what my thyroid disease is here to teach me.
This chronic illness is about my super woman addiction. Pure and simple.
The tiny little nodule in my neck is my guide to understanding why I have to push myself so hard, and why I’m so hard on myself. It’s my self-acceptance teacher. It’s my barometer of worthiness.
Author Bronnie Ware, in her life-changing book ‘Bloom’, describes her acceptance of her own autoimmune disease as a realisation that “if the disease was my body attacking myself, and I somehow manifested it, then that means at some level I am attacking myself.”
Something that I’ve come to have to accept about my own disease too.
At some level, I am attacking myself. And if I am ever going to heal this disease, that is what I need to heal first.
And so now, when my hair fills the bathroom floor and I have to wear two jumpers to bed when everyone else is hanging out in their summer pjs, I try to thank that little broken part of me. I still cry every time my doctor says I have to increase my medication and – I am hopeful that one day, as I heal and accept myself as being enough, the news will be very different. But for now, I know this illness is part of my greatest life lesson:
To know that I do not have to prove anything or do anything for anyone else.
To know that life can be easy.
And to truly know that I am enough.