17 June 2008

this unnatural fog {part 2}

Read part 1 here.

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.


  1. SO glad you have a good doctor to have good insights and help your body. Your voice is back and I'm glad to hear it ;)

  2. Well written. I know how the story ends so I won't continue....I will just say that God is good.

  3. yay for naturopath - I have felt better the past week than I have in a long time - so much energy. While this still doesn't mean I'm going off my anti-depressants, I love the fact that taking 5 horse pills 2 times a day is actually making a huge difference. I haven't gotten the insurance bill yet, but no matter what it is, I'm going to be glad, because I feel really good.

  4. hello, my friend. i agree with sarah; it's so good to hear your voice again in this place.

    i am struck so hard by the questions you share . . . how much longer could you have lived in a body at war with itself, what might have happened if you'd waited too long. it makes me shudder to think of it, too. sounds like your body was truly on the brink of collapse, and it is only by God's grace that the timing is what it is.

    i'm SO THANKFUL for your naturopath doctor. every time you talk about him, i feel sunlight in your words. i continue to love the way you describe his "office," which feels like a welcoming home more than an office, and leaps and bounds better than a regular doctor's office!

    sitting here thankful with you, friend. wishing i could be there to lope my arm around your shoulder and just sit, grateful for God's goodness, grateful for your presence, grateful for your life, grateful for our friendship. can't wait to do that soon.

    love you.

  5. Ah, my cyber-friend, I've discovered the real cause of the fog: YOU GET UP BEFORE FIVE IN THE MORNING!
    (Note to self: apparently this hour does exist.)
    In all seriousness, I'm glad you're working through this. It restores my hope in the medical profession. I'm thankful for good doctors and most of all, God's guidance.

  6. sarah - i'm so glad too! my naturopath is the best!! i'm definitely feeling more myself these days & yeah ... so glad.

    caleb - hello my exhausted friend!! God is good. i'm thankful that he brings the right people along at the right time.

    ilse - i'm so glad to hear about your improved energy!! i can celebrate that with you now!! i am paying a lot out of pocket too, but yeah ... health is totally worth it. priceless, you might say. ;o)

    christianne - dear, sweet friend. thank you for sitting with me in this dark & confusing place. it hasn't been easy: it's been dark & confusing for us both i know. thank you for praying with me, for crying with me. those things alone lifted me when nothing else could.

    i'm so thankful for the naturopathic doctor, too. he listens, he gets it, he pays attention. i can't believe all the different tests there are to test the output of one little organ in your body, & thank God he tested the right one.

    i can't wait to see you soon, either. 9 weeks & counting!!!!

    AAAAAHHHHH!!!! ;o)

    heather - i used to get up even earlier than that (at an hour that is truly ungodly), but then i discovered i could wash my hair the night before. this glorious discovery gives me an extra hour in bed. hoorah!!

    i'm SO thankful that God gave me this naturopath. he really has been a partner & advocate for my health and wellness, & i couldn't ask for a better physician. well, except the Great Physician, of course. i can't imagine where i'd be with regards to my health over the past two years without that guidance.

  7. Sorry you would even have to most such a disclaimer about someone disagreeing with your choosen way of healing. Pretty poor tastes if they disagree, especially in this venue.

    Glad to see a diagnosis was found and healing has begun. I look forward to part 3, and then 4 and 5 if there are more.

    Hang in there.

  8. praise God!
    i am so glad.

  9. i'm with everyone here...really grateful that you found this guy who listens and investigates effectively. that's a rare thing. the fog is burning away, i think...

  10. "The fog has a name." Isn't naming a freeing thing? Somehow it helps to know a name, though it might be a temporary, shallow relief. But I think it helps dispel the fog itself, just calling it what it is. Glad for you. You're going to make it!

  11. carl - no one has expressed dissent just yet, it's just about being careful & protective of my heart & my decisions in this place. i don't want to get into an argument or feel put in a defensive position by anyone who might right this.

    it's just nice to know this can be treated!!

    nancy - me too!! and i finally have the energy to jump up & down to celebrate it now!! ;o)

    terri - he is a rare one, indeed. i'm addicted to feeling heard, to having my concerns both validated & investigated. between him & the lady who does my hair, i have two very compelling reasons to stay exactly where i am. ;o)

    joelle - how funny, we were over commenting on each other's blogs at the same time!! it is so true that when a nebulous something that overshadows us is named, is called out, that it starts to lose its power. that alone was reason to celebrate.

    and even more now ... but i'll get to that in part 3 ... :o)

  12. Maybe you just need to move to a warmer, sunnier climate. I'm being ridiculous I know, but it is really chilly there. I'm glad to be back home although it is beautiful in Washington (not that I saw a lot of it). I'm really happy that it seems like your doctor was able to figure things out. I hope that it's all up from here.

  13. glad that your health is beginning to turn the corner. I lived thru real maine fog one summer for 17 days. my dad and I took our boat out in not the best conditions and my family took many side trips during the fog. remember to take many side trips with your friends and families and God awaiting for the clear Northwest breeze to blow all of it AWAY/ Peace scott
    travel well in the saraha.

  14. Kirsten, when I shared with Mrs. 23 about your other post, she suspected thyroid. Glad you are on the mend!

  15. jules - thanks, & sorry the weather wasn't better for you. this year has been chillier than msot (let's face it, the weather has been freaky just about everywhere this year). and yeah, it's nice to have someone on my side helping to figure things out!!

    scott - thanks for your well wishes.

    23 degrees - yup, it seems my thyroid resides on the end of a yo-yo. it's low, it's high, it's up, it's down ... just can't decide what it wants to do!! :o)

    tell the mrs. "hi" from a gluten-free friend!! ;o)

  16. Hey beautiful girl,

    So happy that you are feeling a bit better... must be even more strange and uncomfortable not knowing?

    and now there are a knowing in all this... together with you were not imagining it... with it was real... it was there... and now.. you can breath out...

    cause one of these days you are going to wake up with a the sun streaming through your windows (remember to leave the curtains open:-) waking up with a smile...

    you are going to lay in bed, opening your eyes to this beauty, feeling 'alive' and energetic...
    you are going to jump out of bed to grap your camera...
    to snap your beautiful heart till you fall down exhausted on the same bed...
    with the full moon shining his light on you...
    the stars twinkling around him,
    reminding you that this was His plan..
    that He love you...
    that YOU are enough,
    healthy and
    loved to the end of days! xx

  17. I’ve found that there’s a huge distinction between a doctor and a true healer. It sounds like you’ve found a healer in your naturopath, and I’m thankful for that. Having been through many years of complicated thyroid issues myself I can honestly understand a little of what you’re facing. I admire your faith in your body, and its ability to heal.

  18. Good to get some answers. Our bodies are delicately made and these feelings we have, they are always telling us something. Glad to find that someone has stilled his opinions long enough to really listen to yours.

  19. hi there, kirsten. i am just catching up on this, and just wanted to say how glad I am that some of this is coming into the light. Picturing how hard it would be to "be in a body at war with itself" as you so poignantly put it, is so awful to imagine. I pray that part III reveals even more clarity, and perhaps some peace and relief, and even if it doesn't, that that might come soon!

    love, katie