It was 2003 and I was completing my Honours degree in Psychology. A huge year that required every last bit of energy and time I had to get through the course work and to complete my thesis. To say I was stressed that year would be an understatement. It was to my utter dismay that I failed to achieve a first class honours (because of controversy surrounding my thesis), and thus was not considered to get into a Masters program, which I needed to become a psychologist. All those years of study, my singular focus on becoming a psychologist now seemed impossible. Lost and without direction for my life, I found myself feeling increasingly worse over the following year.
Firstly, there was the pain in my calves when I ran or played sport, which soon became pain from simply walking. My skin became dry and yellowish, my hair started to fall out, and I became increasingly lethargic and demotivated. It felt like I had cotton wool in my brain, and any repetitive actions (like brushing my teeth) would cramp up my muscles. I could never seem to get warm and the winter that year was hell. Doctors and other practitioner were all baffled and offered their solutions based on one of the symptoms. But nothing helped. I felt like my life was slowly grinding to a halt.
Finally, a blood test revealed my condition to be a severe case of hypothyroidism, and I was promptly put on medication. I started to feel better straight away and after a few months I was almost back to normal. Almost. I still got fatigued, and I was still very sensitive to the cold.
After being told at the age of 22 that I would be on thyroid medication for the rest of my life, I couldn’t shake the belief that it was possible for me to heal. I have simply refused to accept that as my fate. Hence my foray into natural therapies, looking for healing and answers in modalities such as naturopathy, homeopathy, TCM, Ayurveda, acupuncture, nutritional medicine and IM GPs.
Each time I engaged with a practitioner and told them my health story I felt the excitement of what was possible in their modality and own knowledge and experience of working with patients. And each time I’d undergo their treatment, which would be beneficial to my body to some degree but I hadn’t “healed” my thyroid. And yet, there was a little voice in the back of my mind that said “Only you can heal yourself”, and it refused to go away.
In 2012 I decided that as I’d learned a lot about MBM, I should put my own body through a grand experiment to see if indeed I could heal myself. I called it my Healing Quest, and I documented my experiences and discoveries in a journal. I began by reducing my thyroid medication, eventually cutting it out all together, which took about 12 months. I’d focus my mind on my desired outcome (to heal my thyroid), and use a combination of hypnosis, meditation and affirmations to talk my body into a state of healing. I ate mushrooms and other foods known in nutritional medicine to support health thyroid function. I felt incredibly empowered. I felt good.
Throughout the journey I agreed with myself that if I started experiencing any of the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism, that I’d be realistic in my need for medication. But the symptoms never came. I felt fine. I functioned as per normal. I did gain some weight in that time and had a period of mild depression, but that coincided with the most difficult period of my life emotionally, practically and financially. To say I was excited with my results was an understatement – I was so convinced I’d succeeded.
And to a level I had. I had weaned my body off medication and maintained my normal function. So I thought it was time for a blood test to confirm my miraculous healing. My bloods were in complete opposition to my lived experience – I was extremely hypothyroid, to the same extremes as my original results before I was diagnosed. I was dismayed, disheartened. How was it possible my body could give one picture, and the pathology report another? I defied medical logic and both my GP and my Endocrinologist were baffled, unable to explain my condition. They all agreed I was a ‘freak’.
It was at this point I wondered if there was more to my condition than simply an underachieve thyroid. None of my GPs, Endocrinologists or any other practitioner had even suggested what I had was an autoimmune condition. After doing my own research, I got my blood tested and sure enough, I had the autoimmune markers to confirm I indeed had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
I now know that if I’d had this checked right at the beginning of my symptoms emerging, I may have been able to do something to curb my thyroid’s decline. Over ten years later, I’d managed to get myself in a better place, but there was something still not right. My thyroid had not recovered, even through my body had adjusted so much to function well without the thyroid hormones.
My autoimmune condition taught me:
- There’s more investigation (e.g. testing) available than what conventional doctors often offer or talk about with patients
- There is a big world of medicine beyond conventional; the world of natural, complementary and alternative medicine offers many solutions and methods for healing and quality of life
- The mind is incredibly powerful
- Nutrition and what you put into your body can either make it well or unwell
- That stress can contribute to the break down of the body, and even trigger disease
- That determination is rewarded; never give up.
I’m still on my Healing Quest, but I’m much closer to finding the Holy Grail than I was all those years ago. It’s shaped the person and the practitioner that I am. I have no doubt my condition will continue to teach me for some time to come.