I have some great news! I am in remission once again. My Graves Disease has settled down and I feel incredible. I still have my beautiful thyroid and I am medication free!
The first time I went through my Graves Disease battle I learned a lot. As difficult as this journey has been it has changed me in ways I could never have imagined. From my diet, to my outlook, to the way that I treat myself, I am, in a strange way, grateful for the changes that this experience has fostered.
This time around was different, of course, but I still managed to learn a lot from take two of my Graves Disease journey.
Here’s how I navigated my Graves Disease relapse as positively as possible:
Be Mindful of Your Plate
I mean your life plate. The reason I became ill this time around had nothing to do with my diet. I had taken on more than I could handle and my plate was full.
I am a passionate person and that is honestly something I truly love about myself. But being consumed by too many projects and being pulled in too many directions kept me away from something key to a healthy, happy body – downtime.
I was constantly consumed by everything that I had to do and stressed because of all the different people depending on me. It is hard to be mindful of yourself and hear your body’s messages when your mind is being pulled in so many different directions.
I am learning that I need to be ok with saying no. I cannot conquer everything and that sometimes things do not turn out the way you imagined, and that’s ok.
When you have room left on your plate you have room for silence and a chance to listen to the subtle messages your body conveys to you every day. If you do not listen, you might get a very loud, strong message instead… like another bout of Graves Disease.
It’s OK to Be Angry, Sad, Frustrated, Lost…
I’ll be honest with you – The first time I beat Graves Disease I had convinced myself that as long as I was mindful and maintained a healthy lifestyle I would never have to go through this again. When I was diagnosed a second time I was devastated.
For a couple of months after my Graves Disease relapse I was lost and angry and those feelings really bothered me. I blamed myself and felt incredibly stupid for letting this happen. The more upset I became the more disconnected I felt from the peaceful sense of self that I had developed in the past. And that made it even worse.
It was a never-ending circle of negativity; feeling down about being down.
When I finally admitted to myself that it was ok to be sad about coping with an autoimmune disease, the anger I directed at myself dissipated. I had accepted my feelings instead of opposing them. And when I spoke with my family about this emotional struggle, their support was so uplifting.
Let yourself feel whatever it is that you are feeling and then work through it.
It’s ok to be vulnerable. I’ve spoken before about building a healing team of friends, family, doctors, nutritionist, etc. and I think it’s important to lean on them whenever you can as well. There is a war waging inside of you. Don’t create more enemies by silently living through a vortex of negative feelings.
You Can’t Fast Forward Through The Shitty Parts
Immediately after leaving the doctor’s office I was formulating a healing plan. I do not wish to go through radioactive iodine treatment and destroy my thyroid if I can avoid it. I knew that I had to take certain steps to heal myself.
As I mentioned above, I felt really disconnected from my peaceful sense of self and I was so eager to reach the finish line. It was frustrating to be sick again and I just wanted to fast forward to the end and be healthy again. But that isn’t possible.
Healing takes time and you can’t just go through the motions and expect to get better.
Trying to rush through the process can be very depressing because you are constantly anxious for a future that isn’t here yet and frustrated with the sometimes slow-moving pace of your body’s healing process. I kept thinking back to how healthy I felt in remission and looking forward to being healthy again. I had difficulty accepting the way I felt now. That made the entire process even more difficult.
Like the incredible Buddha said: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment”.
This may not be what you envisioned or something you would ever wish on yourself or anyone else… But you are here and if you are working towards a brighter, healthier future then you are in for an incredible journey.
There will be ups and downs and it will change you in ways you never thought possible. It might be the most incredible experience once the smoke clears and you’ve made it to the other side. Be present and mindful and listen to your body. Take it one step at a time and do not put unnecessary pressures on your already compromised body.
The Art of Letting Go
Whether it’s your first time facing an illness, or you are facing it again like I have you will have to let some things go.
It took me some time to be honest with myself about why I was here; what factors helped to reignite the autoimmune flame and what could I change to make it better. It was difficult and even heartbreaking to let certain things go. But here I am 4 months later in good health. I can tell you without a doubt that it was all worth it.
Examine your relationships, your career, your diet, your life. What needs to change in order for you to move up the ladder and back to good health? I’ve let go of poisonous relationships, jobs, foods I never would have imagined giving up permanently, cosmetics and more. Big or small, letting go isn’t easy. But it is honestly worth it. And, in my opinion, it is one of the most important parts of getting well.
Use All The Resources You Can
I want you to remember that you are not alone. There are so many people going through similar experiences and so much information that may be helpful to your individual journey.
Reach out to friends, family, counselors, doctors… get in touch with people who have had similar experiences (I’m always happy to speak with fellow Graves Warriors).
Listen to Your Body
It’s much easier to do this once you have made more room on your plate for mindfulness. It is so important that you listen to whatever it is that your body has to say. No one knows how you feel better than you do. And your body will often tell you exactly what you need if you learn how to listen.
A couple of months ago I knew that my dose of Propylthyouracil was too high; I was insanely tired and had a difficult time just existing through the exhaustion. My doctors wanted to wait until my next blood test (which was more than a month away) before we decided to do anything. But I knew this was not the best move for my health and, with their supervision, we cut my dosage in half.
This was ultimately the right decision. But if I had ignored the message or remained a passive patient I would have very likely became hypothyroid while waiting for more blood work. I do not recommend changing your dosage without doctor supervision. But I do want to stress that this is YOUR beautiful body and only you know how you truly feel. Listen to those feelings and be honest with your health care team, your loved ones and yourself about your needs.
The last step in the 5 stages of grief is important and, admittedly, difficult. But one of the best ways to beat that negativity vortex I spoke about earlier is to accept not only your feelings but your journey.
This journey is a part of you and, depending on your condition it may be something that you will have to revisit. You cannot live everyday in fear of what may or may not happen. It’s not good for you to constantly feel angry or upset about your condition.
This time around I am prepared for a potential future flare-up and I accept that Graves Disease is a part of me. Of course I plan to continue to take the best possible care of myself in order to reverse my disease; my body is incredible and worth protecting, (yours is too!). But if it should return again I know that I will learn something and ultimately make it through.
Graves Disease has changed my life. It has been one of the worst and best experiences. It has guided me towards a loving, happy and healthy present that I never imagined. I wouldn’t change that for the world.
I am grateful for my journey and the destinations that await. What have you learned from your own health journeys?
Wishing you health, happiness and love,