Have you every felt completely numb. So overwhelmed and yet somehow frozen in place, unable to process what’s happening?
That’s exactly how I felt 7 years ago as I sat in my doctors office and tried to understand what was happening.
“You have Graves Disease”
And I was confused and scared. So much, in fact, that the very first words to leave my mouth were:
“Do I have to start digging?”
Thankfully I didn’t need to invest in a shovel. But I did need to learn to invest in myself. In the form of time, love and care. And all of those lessons Graves taught me about being kind to myself… well, they’re pretty useful for you too!
Let’s talk about the 10 powerful life lessons I learned from Graves Disease and how they can give you a super health-esteem boost:
Graves Disease Seven Years Later
As you likely already know, I have Graves Disease, an incurable, but thankfully treatable, autoimmune disease. (The title gave that away, didn’t it?)
Like many diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, my life drastically changed after my diagnosis. Initially I was devastated and angry (which is normal – it’s ok if you feel that way after a diagnosis!) Seven years later I can honestly say that Graves Disease has, in many ways, changed my life for the better.
Really, I changed myself for the better. But knowing I would be spending a lifetime with Graves Disease truly motivated me to examine my life and foster changes that would allow me to thrive in my circumstances. And there are so many ways that you can too! Even if you don’t have a chronic illness.
Your girl waiting to get her blood tested
Don’t wait for a disease to make yourself a priority.
I’m glad to be able to tell you that I’m now happy and healthy, autoimmunity and all. I’ve also learned to think of Graves Disease as my guide, teaching me love, resilience and kindness. We have a lifetime together after all. So I might as well gift it a positive purpose.
I’m very lucky to be in remission. Radiation and surgery are still an option if things ever get too aggressive but they have yet to be necessary. However, I continue to have regular blood tests and see my Endocrinologist, because medical care is self-care. Otherwise this girl just does her best to live life to the fullest. It isn’t always easy, but you have to work with what you’ve got, right?
I love my life, Graves Disease and all.
A little battle scar from my last blood test ^^
I do everything in my power to protect my health, but the unfortunate truth of the matter is that autoimmune diseases are a strange beast. They ebb and flow. And while there are certain factors, like lifestyle, diet and stress that play a role, even under the best circumstances it’s hard to say exactly what will happen in the future.
But reflecting on the journey, I can say that Graves Disease has made me calmer and more grateful for the things I have and the people around me. It changed my perspective on life. And it taught me to stand up for myself and stick to my guns.
Most importantly, Graves Disease taught me to love myself fiercely. I wouldn’t change this experience for the world.
You don’t need a disease to motivate you to be kind to yourself. You can do incredible things for your beautiful self now. Don’t wait.
Here are some beautiful life lessons that I learned from Graves Disease. They’re powerful little tips and tricks that can help you build your own happy, healthy lifestyle. I truly hope they resonate with you.
If you’re newly diagnosed with Graves Disease, or anything else, know that you can weather the tough times and there are still good times ahead. Take a deep breath, listen to your gut and make yourself a priority. You have what it takes to build an incredible life, even with a chronic illness. And you are not alone in your experiences. I’m sending you all my love <3.
10 Powerful Life Lessons I learned From Graves Disease
1. Don’t Cut Out Modern Medicine
Creating a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle is an integral part of your well-being… but so is modern medicine. You need and deserve the help of a good doctor.
If I had turned my back on my doctors and only focused on diet and lifestyle I would have been at serious risk of a thyroid storm, a life-threatening side effect of untreated hyperthyroidism. Not to mention other icky things like osteoporosis and heart disorders. Yea, no thanks!
To this day, I continue to seek medical care. And I was so lucky to have an Endocrinologist, the late Angela McGibbon, who stayed up to date on all of the current traditional treatment options for Graves Disease. And pointed me in the right direction when it came to supplements and alternative treatments. That guidance is everything.
And if my disease ever becomes aggressive and unresponsive to other options, I will 100% rely on my new Endo to help me make the right treatment decisions.
When you’re sick, your life may be on the line. While alternative health care, diet and lifestyle are all useful and incredibly helpful options, your doctor may very well save your life. Don’t turn your back on them.
2. Participate in Your Healing
With all that wonderfulness I just said about good doctors, I don’t want you to think of your body as a car that you’re supposed to leave in the hands of a skilled mechanic (i.e. your doctor). Your body is still yours and your health belongs to you. So get involved baby!
Ask your doctor thoughtful questions. If you have an illness, learn everything you can about it. Keep copies of blood work in case you need to refer back (sometimes this helps me come up with the questions I need to ask).
Your life may sometimes be in your doctor’s hands. But your overall health is, in many ways, in your hands.
It’s so important you take care of yourself and find ways to de-stress, unwind, rest and relax.
Will this fix everything? Not necessarily. I have an incurable autoimmune disease, and all the healthy living and de-stressing in the world won’t fix that. But you know what it does do? It helps me thrive in my circumstances. By taking the best possible care of myself I’m able to feel better than I ever thought possible.
Being well depends on more than simply having a great doctor. Make your health and your self a priority. You deserve it. And you need it. Your wellness depends on it!
3. Love Yourself Fiercely
If I asked you to tell me what the foundation of a healthy lifestyle truly was, what would you say? Diet? Sleeping habits? Stress management? A killer exercise routine?
Those are all great things. And they play a role in a healthy lifestyle. But I wouldn’t personally say that they’re the foundation that holds everything together.
It’s all about self-love baby!
When your healthy lifestyle is built on a foundation of self-love, everything comes together. You eat a balanced diet because you love yourself, you move your body in ways you enjoy because you love yourself, you do the things that bring you joy because… you guessed it, you love yourself.
Make a choice to work on loving and accepting yourself, as you are. Once you’ve made the commitment to love and accept yourself fully, everything else can come from a more positive, self-loving place.
A deep love and respect for yourself changes your perspective and motivates you to take amazing care of yourself. Is it easy? Not always. In fact, your relationship with yourself is just like any other relationship. It takes time, effort and care. And it’s a continuous journey. You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days. And that’s normal and totally ok.
When you prioritize that relationship, you can truly create something great! And don’t you deserve that? I mean, what relationship is more permanent and lasting than the one you have with yourself? You’re going to be spending a long time together – why shouldn’t it be in a relationship that’s built on understanding, forgiveness and love?
4. Take Care of Your Mind
Prior to Graves Disease, I never gave much thought to how much stress affected my physical well-being… but since then I’ve learned that the state of my mind has a HUGE effect on the state of my body.
In fact, my first relapse was brought on by a period of extreme stress. Stress is a pretty big trigger for autoimmune disease onset (source). But even if you’re autoimmune disease free, prolonged stress affects you emotionally and physically.
So learning how to cope with stress is in your best interest. Because, while we can remove ourselves from some overly stressful situations… life happens and stress happens. Preventing it entirely is inevitable.
Learning how to calm your mind is a gift. Whether it be meditation, gratitude journaling, painting, writing, a weekly massage or the support of a counselor, therapist, or therapy pet… you deserve outlets that soothe you. Find what works for you and embrace it.
And remember, when it comes to therapy there is no one size fits all. It’s absolutely possible to find the right fit for you and your individual needs. Find out more about what types of therapy are available and how you can get the most of it right here: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/
5. Embrace Self-Care
You matter! And the things that make you feel awesome, relaxed, and special? Those things matter too.
You deserve to foster soothing habits that de-stress you, feel-good activities that support your well-being. or just the little things that make you happy.
Self-care is a form of self-love. And we already know that that’s a pretty big deal.
I like to think that they go hand in hand. Self-love inspires self-care and vice versa.
So whether it be long baths, good books, dry brushing, stir fries, clay face masks, writing, or anything else… dedicate some time for you. This also includes prioritizing doctors or dentist appointments and all those other little things that help us be well.
I know that the idea of making the time for self-care can be a little overwhelming… It can seem impossible to make time in your busy schedule for you. But, the coolest part, making a little time to relax and unwind actually makes you more creative and productive! Your work truly benefits when you step away and decompress for a hot minute.
Prioritizing can help, which is why I made you a Free Self-Care E-Book and Planner that can help you do just that. Just fill out the form below and I’ll send it right to your inbox sweet friend <3.
And remember – Sometimes the best self-care is allowing yourself to rest and do nothing. Self-care should never stress you out, so don’t be hard on yourself if you’re having a particularly busy day and can’t make everything happen. Your routine should be flexible to your changing needs.
6.Create a Balanced, Healthy Diet
You know when you’re reading a good book and something huge happens that changes everything? Well, in the story of my life, that huge, life changing revelation took place the day I decided to really think about what I was feeding my body and how that affected my health.
Everything changed after that day. Everything! I had spent months on medication, which helped to save my life, but I still felt like a big ol’ pile of crap. But after an elimination diet and some food and symptom journaling (and tons of support from my doctors), I developed a more balanced, healthy diet and was feeling better by the day!
Today I’m in remission and faring amazingly well, all things considered. And while I owe thanks to many different things (including everything listed in this post), healthy eating is a critical player in my well-being. Don’t worry – there’s still room for chocolate.
Your diet doesn’t have to be overly complicated, especially if you don’t have any health woes. Anyone can make a healthy diet work for them!
What you choose to eat has a powerful effect on your health. But, remember, it’s ultimately all about creating the best balance for you! Healthy diets don’t make us feel bad if we want to enjoy a cookie or hold our self-love for ransom until we hit some sort of fitness goal. And they don’t force us to stress about our meals. They support our mental and physical well-being and feed us with flexibility and kindness.
We’re ultimately talking about building a good balance. Not about becoming fixated with perfection.
Don’t hesitate to seek the support of a doctor or dietician if you need it. They’ll have your back!
7. Be Mindful Of Your Skin Care And Beauty Products
Do you have a ton of beloved makeup? Go-to moisturizers? Adored bubble bath and bath bombs? Have you ever thought about how that may affect your health? I sure didn’t!
The fact of the matter is, we all love self-care products. On average, women use around 12 products per day, and men stick to about 6.
But, bad news bears…. those products contain around 168 unique ingredients, some of which might not be the best options for your health. In fact, 1 out of every 24 women are exposed to ingredients that are known to be potential reproductive and developmental toxins. Every. Single. Day.
How? through our personal care products. And dudes aren’t exactly safe from junk ingredients either.
Kind of takes the ‘care’ out of self-care, eh? (Find out more at EWG.)
Why does that even matter if you’re only putting it on your skin?
It matters big time! Your skin is your protector, shielding your body from harm and playing an important role in your innate immune system. It’s our largest organ, and has approximately 11 miles of blood vessels and countless nerve endings!
Unfortunately, sometimes the things we place on our skin can pass through and be absorbed into our bloodstream. Think about things like nicotine and birth control patches; those products literally medicate our bodies through our skin. And some of the ingredients in your self-care products can potentially find their way in too (source).
Even though we don’t generally think about it this way, when we place something on our skin we are, in a sense, feeding our bodies.
So we should be a little more conscious of what we’re placing on our largest organ.
Does that mean that we freak and throw all of our favourite self-care products away? Nah! But choosing a few healthier options, slowly but surely, can potentially make a difference.
Thankfully there are tons and tons of good options out there! And the Environmental Working Group has a fantastic database to help you make awesome, informed choices.
And hey – it can be super fun to make your own self-care goodies too. I just so happen to have a few recipes waiting for you right here.
8. Move That Booty
I spend a decent portion of my time on my booty. Kind of a side effect of writing, ya know? And hey, a few hours a day on your butt may be unavoidable depending on what you do for a living. But it’s important that you make a point to move. Preferably a few times everyday.
That doesn’t mean you have to get a gym membership, invest in fancy equipment or take up running if that doesn’t interest you. If you hate it you won’t stick to it. But it is possible to make exercise fun! And you can even switch things up when you want to to keep it interesting.
Personally, I enjoy yoga, crunches, jump rope, long walks and random solo dance parties. The Fitness Marshall is also an awesome way to dance, work out and have fun at the same time (this one’s my favourite). Extra points if you’re giggling through it all.
Regardless of what you choose to do, find ways to regularly move that beautiful body of yours. I know that we often have such a strong resistance to developing an exercise routine. But exercise actually makes you feel damn good, mentally and physically. And even short bursts of physical activity are good for your health! Your immune system is definitely a huge fan.
So find that outlet that you enjoy. Martial arts, dance, pilates, running… whatever floats your boat. If you enjoy it and have fun doing it it’s much easier to make it a priority.
9. Build An Awesome Support Group Of Loved Ones and Friends
It takes a village… to be healthy, fulfilled and happy. Seriously – I wouldn’t be where I am today without my amazing, loving family, incredible friends and extremely caring and helpful doctors and health care providers. They’re my team and I’d be lost without them.
And then there’s you – my magnificent Ms. Health-Esteem community. Always inspiring me and bringing me so much joy.
The point is – you should not, and, in fact, cannot do all of this by yourself. I’m by no means claiming that you are dependent or incapable. You are totally magnificent and you have the insight, intuition and ability to do incredible things (for the world and for yourself). But having a group of people who love you, care greatly for you and have your back is not only uplifting and inspiring, it’s necessary and endlessly healing.
Who lifts you up? What wonderful people make you feel happy and comfortable? Who do you feel safe baring your soul to? Or makes you laugh and forget the world and your woes?
These are your people. Cherish them, be open with them about your life and your needs and share in their’s as well. Let them know how grateful you are for their love and support. You will be better for it. And so will your health.
And on that note…
Building your support system is not only about embracing and opening yourself up to loving, supportive people… It’s also about removing yourself from toxic relationships.
Is there someone in your life who leaves you feeling drained or anxious? Are you walking on egg shells with anyone? Keeping your true self hidden for fear of rejection or judgement. These aren’t your people. And while it can be difficult to admit to yourself that a relationship isn’t healthy, it’s better for you both in the end.
Being well and loving yourself fiercely only works if you feel safe and empowered enough to be yourself. And you can’t do that if you’re around people who make you feel like who you are is unwelcome.
You deserve a close-knit group of people who inspire you, empower you to be who you truly are and motivate you to grow. Releasing yourself from toxic relationships is deeply healing and so, so uplifting.
You’re a pretty big part of your support system too.
Remember how we talked about self-love as the foundation of a healthy lifestyle? You should make a point to be one of those loving, supportive people in your life. You deserve that.
10. Follow Your Passions
What pulls on your heart strings? Is there something you’ve been aching to do? Dreams that are calling to you? You need to go for it!
It can be something tiny, like learning how to paint. Or something grand, like embarking on a new career. Big or small, follow the things that call to your heart. They’re pulling you towards them for a reason and you owe it to yourself to explore them.
It can be scary as hell. Things like this call for us to have faith in ourselves and take a leap. And nothing is ever certain. But if you stand still so many things will pass you by and you’ll be left with those ‘what if’ feelings. That sucks a heck of a lot more than trying and failing.
Graves Disease inspired me to go back to school. It encouraged me to leave a job that was draining me and embark on this strange journey as a writer. Something that terrified me, but has become a crazy interesting and fulfilling experience. I started my own website with absolutely no idea what I was doing (and sometimes I still don’t). And I picked up a camera and began to document my journey as a health-esteemie.
I have big dreams and I’ve been chasing them with vigor. There are no guarantees. But in life there never really are.
Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. But they always lead us somewhere. And embracing my passions and following my heart has never led me astray. Especially over the last seven years.
It’s been an astonishing, life altering, exhilarating time. I have never been so vulnerable, but I’ve also never been so enlivened.
I’ve learned so much from Graves Disease and I know that if I continue to love and care for myself things will be ok. <3
You’re a priority, you matter and so do your thoughts, feelings and dreams. You deserve love, joy and vibrant health. It’s out there waiting for you. Go get it.
Thank you for all of your love and support these past seven years! I’m so grateful! Here’s to many more thriving.
Is there any advice that you would add to the list? What’s your favourite take away from all of this goodness? Let me know in the comments below!
Health and love,
Thought of the day: It’s up to me to make my world shine; I am far more capable than I ever imagined.
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