Dec 11, 2015
I was starting a new job in a new place all by myself; it was an exciting and scary time for me. 3 months into my job, I suddenly started to have acne breakouts. I was gaining weight as well. My sleep patterns got out of whack. I was struggling to fall asleep, and when I finally did sleep, it was only for a few hours at a time. My colleagues and supervisor even noticed by dip in mood and energy. At first, I thought it was just stress. So I tried meditation and music therapy, but nothing changed. Nonetheless, I plugged away at my work.
I sought a therapist 6 months into my job after my mental state began interfering with my productivity. I was having trouble concentrating and doing basic things like reading. I was becoming forgetful and making disastrous small mistakes at work. Just thinking seemed to be happening in slow motion. I’d always been a high-achieving person–it was one of the reasons I landed this job–so I was deeply distressed by the sudden poor performance. Yet here I was, suffering for poor cognitive function, anxiety (including social anxiety), and severe depression.
Then one day I went into the doctor’s office to discuss my menstrual problems. My period had suddenly stopped after only two days. The doctor asked if I there was a chance I was pregnant, but I wasn’t sexually active. She told me to come again in a few months if it continued to happen.
My mental and physical problems persisted and worsened over the next few months. My periods were now accompanied by painful cramps. They were also more spaced apart. I was having frequent headaches. And there was just this constant fatigue.
I began to research my symptoms after my supervisor brought up my troubling performance. I simply could not understand what was happening to me. It was then that I began to suspect I had hypothyroidism. It was a bit confusing, since some of my symptoms seemed to suggest hyperthyroidism instead–like my inability to fall asleep and my anxiety. In addition, I also had hot flashes at night. But two of my sisters had hypothyroidism, so if I had it, it would not be a surprise.
As I read stories of many people with hypothyroidism, I was alarmed and saddened by the number of people who literally had trouble convincing their doctors to even test them for hypothyroidism. If I wanted to get tested for hypothyroidism, I would have to orchestrate it.
I told the nurse with whom I was scheduling my appointment about my fragmented sleep, said I was interested in sleep aid medication because it was causing me fatigue and forgetfulness. She asked me if I had depression, and I admitted that I did, but insisted that my sleep needing to be managed alongside my depression because it was causing me trouble at work. As she neared setting up my appointment, I also asked if I could set up a separate appointment for my shortened menstrual cycles that were now accompanied by painful cramps and headaches. She asked if my periods were irregular. In truth, I was not sure, but I told her the symptom that was associated with hypothyroidism: they were regular, just occurring at longer intervals. She asked if I had hot flashes. I lied and said that I did not. She told me she needed to speak with a doctor and that she would call me back.
When she called me back, she informed me that I needed to come in for a suite of lab tests. One of the tests she mentioned was for thyroid hormone. I went in a couple days later, and results of the test came out the day after. My T4 and T3 levels had been within the normal range, but my TSH levels were 10.5 mU/L. I had overt hypothyroidism. I mentally thanked all the people who had shared their stories.
I was started on 50 mcg of levothyroxine (T4) each morning for a month. I was also started on anti-depressants and and a sleep aid. I was a bit reluctant to take the depressants since they’d given it to me based on my response to a 10 question survey, but I tried it. The anti-depressants caused me extreme drowsiness and nauseau, and I eventually gave it up when I had to make a long road trip. I decided not to start it again.
After my check up, my doctor bumped my levothryoxine up to 75 mcgs, since my TSH levels were still above normal (5 mU/L). Because of a hectic schedule, I have been missing some doses. I have not been taking it at the same time each day. I don’t know its because of my missed doses, irregular intake, or increased dosage, but I have actually been feeling 100x worse than before. (I have also been eating unhealthily, like eating three microwaveable dinners at a time and frequenting McDonald's. My period must be starting up soon.) I sleep excessively and feel tired even after I sleep. I have to spike myself with 5-hour energy drink sometimes. Lately the back of my throat has been swollen–making it difficult to breathe, swallow, and sing–and now I have postnasal drip. I will definitely take some time to learn how to manage my hypothyroidism.
I am now leaving my demanding job to take care of my health, especially since my hypothyroidism has interfered with my work. I hope to take on a job that, although less satisfying, is less strenuous and will give me time to take care of my well-being and enjoy life.