I have always struggled with my weight, it has always fluctuated and what I consume has always been an issue resting at the forefront of my mind. For years I had attributed this oscillation to hormones, breakups, bloating, emotional insecurities and simple greediness.
But, a few years ago my weight really fluctuated, uncontrollably. I exercised and ate well, I didn’t drink and yet I was gaining inches around my thighs, tummy and face. I would sob uncontrollably at my swollen figure. There are few things worse in life than gaining weight as a 22-year-old and not having any elucidation or clarity as to why.
Then, the weight disappeared, evaporated and proceeded to fall off in chunks. The shorts I had been wearing all through the summer (pre-weight gain) miraculously fit again. I could don a bikini without inwardly shuddering. But, I was eating the same food (if not more) and doing the same exercise regime…why was I then two dress sizes smaller?
This wasn’t the first time I had fluctuated between approximately four dress sizes in a matter of months (unnerving, I know). Between 18 and 19, my weight was an inconsistent and overindulgent flirt: flaky, greedy, vapid and unfaithful. By 22 and following a particularly painful breakup I physically and emotionally unburdened, a lot.
Uncovering & revelation
At 23 I departed for the UK. Naturally, weight gain and a cold are two of the first pleasantries which greet you after you touch down at Heathrow. However, as the months dragged in the midst of a cold and grey English winter, my emotions, weight and mental health couldn’t and wouldn’t lift.
A dark veneer had clouded my consciousness and I was physically and mentally cemented in an opaque, melancholic and impenetrable façade. I could hardly get out of bed in the morning, which I had then attributed to homesickness, being broke and gaining a few pounds.
After a particularly horrendous incident, I packed myself off to my GP and they suggested a few blood tests. Unsurprisingly, it turned out I had Hypothyroidism. In the NHS spirit of ‘getting to the point’, the doctor informed me that I would “have it for life, never be able to get rid of it and should be cautious when getting pregnant.” Little explanation was given to what actually Hypothyroidism it is, and how common it is too.
Clarification & definition
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. The most common symptoms include weight gain, anxiety and depression. It really did align with my current status as an emotional, sleepless and slightly overweight wreck.
Thyroid function can only really be monitored with persistent blood tests and the consummation of medication, Levothyroxine to be exact. I am none too thrilled about taking medication for the rest of my life, but I also conscious of how fortunate I am to be in a position to be able to have access to this medication.
It’s been a sordid few years of trying to comprehend my own thyroid function. At one stage, they had confused my blood tests with another poor patient and rang to desperately inform me that they had some serious news to convey. After a further four blood tests in 10 days I was casually informed that there had been a ‘system error’ and that my previous result (which had pronounced a far more serious illness) was in fact false. It took me a few months to recover from that emotional tsunami.
Additionally, I can’t describe the inner turmoil of not having control of your own body’s function or purpose. To an extent, I don’t have complete sovereignty on my weight, skin or hair (thyroid disorder means your hair can fall out in stages), nor can I completely control the occasional dark wave of pessimism that envelops over me from time-to-time.
Recognition & acceptance
For me, I feel that 2019 has been the first year that I have been able to properly reconcile myself to Hypothyroidism. I possess far more self recognition across all of my conscious channels; the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, and I feel this is the key. So many women (it is a disease which mainly affects women) are diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, yet there is very little conversation around the issue.
It’s an anecdote to my life, not an arresting chapter or god forbid, the protagonist. I have shifted my perspective; once all-consuming and overwhelming is now a moderate background concern.
This year has been the first time in four years that I have been able to see my body, mental health and emotions change for the positive. I exercise, attend gym classes, travel and ensure that I continue to try and put it ‘into perspective’. Life’s too short to worry about the pounds, no?
- Weight gain
- Dry skin and hair
- Muscle aches
Please check out the NHS webpage for more information: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/underactive-thyroid-hypothyroidism/