On the morning of Friday, June 6 at a quarter to five in the morning, the annoyingly cheerful chimes of my alarm steal into my sleep. I roll over and hit snooze once, twice, and a third time, muffling a groan with my pillow: I must get out of bed.
I move slowly these days, as if wading waist-deep through murky swamp water. Lying on my side, I press my palms into the mattress, pushing my torso away from the bed. The cool air pricks my skin, gooseflesh rising on my arms almost instantly. Begrudgingly, I swing my legs out from under the sheets. Like the rest of me, they are stiff and heavy, reluctant to obey my rather unconvincing mental order to move. I yawn and let my head fall toward my chest.
Just one thing is crystal clear in my mind: I don't want to get up.
The last call I received from my family doctor tells me that second blood test shows my thyroid levels are normal. Normal: an appallingly nebulous and strikingly inaccurate word for whatever this is. This doesn’t make sense. I wonder if this is all in my head. I’m anxious to hear the results of the blood work the naturopath ordered. My head is foggy and empty and I can’t remember what he had tested. So many long words have passed over me these weeks, medical terms with too many syllables and not nearly enough vowels.
I rub my eyes and lean forward, standing to my feet. When I get to the bathroom, I look in the mirror and see dull, empty eyes staring back at me. I cannot see myself anymore. I’m not sure where I’ve gone. I've never felt so disconnected from my own flesh.
When I get to Dr. W’s office later that afternoon, I inhale the familiar scent of the old brown house and burning herbs. I sit in the waiting area, thumbing disinterestedly through a natural health magazine. It’s not long before he comes into the office holding my file and a clipboard casually at his side.
Get back here Kirsten, he says with his usual dry humor, gesturing toward his office. I follow him and take a seat in the familiar chair covered in navy velvet. I set my messenger bag down on the hardwood floor and wait as he pages through the yellow sheets of my file and asks me how I am. He should know, I think. I let go of the breath that has gone stale in my lungs, looking to the shafts of sunlight streaming through the window and puddling on the floor near my feet. He keeps turning the yellow pages back and forth, scanning them through his dark-rimmed glasses.
He looks up at me. Your iron is good, your T3 and T4 are fine. Your TSH is within normal range (again with the "normal"). But you’ve tested positive for thyroid antibodies, he tells me.
I’m not sure what this means, not having heard this term before. This alerts me to listen carefully. He explains to me that the supplement I’ve been taking over the past fourteen months to treat my hypothyroidism may have been working too well, stimulating the thyroid to produce TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Interpreting the increase as an unwelcome invasion, my body zealously produced the antibodies to subdue it. The fog has a name, then.
Unable to comprehend fully what I’m hearing, I am nonetheless relieved to have an answer and a direction to go with it. I would research antibodies more later and read that their presence typically indicates that an autoimmune failure is just around the corner. As I sit with this new information, it strikes me how utterly dependent I am in this place: that the right tests are ordered, that the right questions are asked, that I trust my physician to be thorough. How long might I have lived in a body at war with itself? What might have happened if I had waited too long? I don't want to consider it.
I leave his office carrying two white bottles: a thyroid support supplement to replace the one I have been taking, and another that is designed to enhance my immune system's ability to function appropriately while also diminishing the extreme antibody response. I hold them in my hand and peruse their labels. Dr. W has been spot on with my health every time before, one physician willing to get at the root cause of my health issues when some others were dismissively prescribing anti-depressants.
I lay awake in bed that night, my mind turning over facts and thoughts again and again; I am restless, unable to fall asleep. But in a good way.
It's because I’m hopeful. And that is everything.
Part 3 is coming...
sunlight photo by kirsten.michelle
Please note: I understand there are many schools of thought when it comes to how to manage one's physical health. I kindly ask that you refrain from posting comments containing disagreement with choices made by me or by my physician. The purpose of these posts is to share my journey through the health challenges I face and to describe how I am choosing to pursue wellness in a manner consistent with my convictions and my own ability to assess what is best for my body.