Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It's time to talk about the thyroid

Ok, this is getting ridiculous now so it's time we talked about it. The reason I have been ill recently, and on and off for almost 7 years, is because my thyroid, the small gland in my neck which pretty much controls everything in my body, isn't particularly happy and is getting sluggish. And when the thyroid slows down, everything slows down. Of course, it's not just one organ, it's the whole system, everything is connected - liver, adrenal gland, etc... etc...

While I have been staying in and resting, my partner J has been explaining to people he meets that I am not well, and whenever he mentions thyroid, it seems as though everyone else - or at least, every woman, - has a thyroid problem too. And this is no exaggeration. For the past few days he has been coming home and saying, Oh, I told X about your.... and she's also got a thyroid....

What is going on here? Is there some kind of epidemic amongst women and no-one is talking about it? My mother has been taking thyroid hormones for years, as has my paternal grandmother. I would say that 50 percent of my female friends have or have had some kind of problem with the thyroid. Two friends this week told me they are having theirs tested. And now all these other women that J is randomly coming into contact with.

And in a lot of these cases, the thyroid gland isn't working properly because it is being attacked by the body's own immune system.

Why am I mentioning this here, on a blog about writing? Because when I had my first bout, almost seven years ago, which knocked me out for several months, my chiropractor, who is much more than just a manipulator of joints and gives advice on diet, nutrition and emotional well being, said: "Look where this gland is. It's in your throat. This is all about expression. Self-expression. Expressing your creativity."

This made a lot of sense to me at the time. I wasn't writing, I was just beginning to listen to that small voice which was saying "Isn't there something else you're supposed to be doing? Is what you're doing now really satisfying you?"

Of course, I am most definitely not saying that everyone is responsible for their health problems, that we bring it on ourselves. As someone who did study science,I know very well that "cause" and "effect" are loose concepts, difficult to determine in any situation. I can only speak for myself.

What I have experienced is that stress makes this much, much worse, and I am stressed when I am not expressing myself creatively. Of course, there are many other sources of stress. This latest bout came at a time of enormous pressure which both has to do with the product of creative expression (my book) and nothing at all to do with creativity (selling my book). In some ways, this "systems crash" has given me what I secretly wanted: an excuse to stay home, stay very very quiet, not talk to anyone, about me, about my book, about my writing. To hibernate, basically. In a strange way, my body gave me what I wanted because I didn't know how to do it myself.

So, I am writing this in the hope that others will come and share their stories. Is this some kind of epidemic? What are we doing to ourselves that one of the most important glands in the body, is being attacked by the body itself and we cannot function properly? There is no cure for this, the few options being offered involve taking synthetic versions of the hormones the thyroid gland is supposed to be producing. And apparently the most popular brand of this synthetic hormone is the fifth most prescribed medication in America!

If you Google "thyroid" and "epidemic" you get all sorts of things talking about too much soy, too much fluoride, etc... I am sure none of us is eating well enough, doing enough exercise etc.. But I am worried. This really worries me, and not just because it is affecting me. Is anyone paying enough attention here? This really shouldn't be happening, right? What are our bodies telling us?


Anne Brooke said...

So sorry to hear this, Tania - I don't have any wisdom to impart (as ever, we cry!...), but I do hope it's under control for you soon.

The rest and recuperation focus sounds perfect and just what you need.

Hugs & stuff


Clare Dudman said...

Hope you're better soon, Tania!

I have nothing to add to this either, I'm afraid. I do think having a book published is very stressful though. I think stress affects the immune system, and the effects of stress only kicks in after the stressful event has passed. I often find myself with a cold after exams, for instance - maybe for you somehow the thyroid is affected. That's my theory...

annie clarkson said...

what a beautiful honest and insightful blog post. I'm not sure that there is anything wrong with my thyroid, although I do know people who do have this problem. But I do have depression, caused by... well there are many medical and psychological theories about depression, and so many of my friends are in therapy or on anti-depressants, and I think it boils down to the same question, what are our bodies telling us?

Hope you get plenty of rest and recuperation, it sounds like you need it xxx

Nik Perring said...

I'm no expert either but I wanted to send you my good wishes and get better vibes.

More hugs and stuff from me.

Nik XX

Lauri said...

As I lean a little too much toward conspiracy theory thought, I tend to think pharmeceutical companies push doctors to make diagnoses that lead to them (companies) selling more drugs. Look at anti-depressants-does the whole world need to be on them?

Having said that I beleive like you that we have more control over our health than the medical world would like us to know. I for one know that if I'm depressed, I'll catch something soon after. Depression, stress, they compromise our immune system. So many people are runnng after their tails and not taking the time to find their true path- that has got to cause stress.

Tania, hope you can feel better without the plastic medicine. I'm sure there must be alternative otions.

Jessica said...

Hi Tania,

Rest is the best thing and a good book. :)

I had my left thyroid removed two years ago, after developing a lump as big as a tennis ball. No one could tell me why this had developed, only that it could be genetic (an aunt and one uncle have had problems).

Before the operation, I lost alot of weight but now (even though I'm exercising more and have a better diet) the weight is creeping back.

But the tablets help, if not I feel tired and I am draw to the sofa like a magnet.


Tania Hershman said...

Thank you all so much for commenting, I appreciate it.

Anne, you are a great imparter of wisdom, no doubt about it!

Clare - yes, you are probably right about "after the event" type stress. It's only when you stop that you notice it, right?

Annie, it is strange, this whole question of depression, isn't it? Does it affect "creative" people more? Do we write/paint etc... to try and stave off depression or does doing that actually depress us? I hope you have found some ways to deal with it that work for you.

Nik - thank you, as always!

Lauri - I too subscribe to that kind of conspiracy theory - especially since there is only ONE treatment that doctors prescribe for this, which makes no sense. There is a natural version of the thyroid hormone which has been shown to work just as well, if not better for many people, but this has been abandoned by the medical industry, funnily or not funnily at all. I certainly don't believe in taking synthetic hormones and I am trying, alongside taking them, to do everything I can so that I don't have to take them for long. Plastic medicine is right!

thanks so much for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment and share your experience. I am sorry to hear about your lump, and it does say something about modern medicine that no-one could tell you why, doesn't it. I am glad you have found the tablets helpful. I tried on two occasions over the last 7 years to take them and find the right dosage, but they always made me feel worse. I am sure if they had made me feel fine I would have just taken them! Anyway, good to meet you, and yes, a good book is a great curative!

Naomi said...

It's just like the life of brian - we are ALL individuals.."I have a thyroid problem too!" (well actually, the doctor said that my level is 'borderline'), but obviously, my grandmother also had this problem so there is a tendency towards it, at least in my family. I am tickled by what your doctor said about the location of the gland ...

I hope you are feeling well soon, and that I can have you guys for dinner (as promised) soon!

Tim Jones said...

I have a friend with a thyroid problem, and it always seems to be worst for her in winter - so I hope that, as the season advances, so your health will improve.

Anonymous said...


When I was going through my health problems a few months before I met you, I mentioned to the doctor that I thought I had an issue with my Thyroid. They tested me, I tested negative, and they continued to give me the runaround for two months until finally we came to a conclusion -- that another doctor even admitted didn't entirely fit.

Now, as I'm once again feeling similar, though having difficulty admitting it for what it would mean, I'm ready to go back to the doctor and tell them that I know there's a problem.

Because I still remember what Yves said, that I, too, have trouble voicing myself, and that there was the beginning of a problem.

It's a theory, but one I believe in: I think that the reason why this is coming to the forefront is because more and more women are listening to their own bodies and not the expertise of their doctors. I believe that you know your body better than anyone else, and if you know something is wrong with it, you should listen, insist, and figure out its cause.

I believe that the mind and the body are so incredibly connected -- too much so to discount the parallels.

Here's to you finding your voice and taking care of yourself to get yourself well.

Wishing you lots of luck and even more love...

Jenn said...

There's trouble like that with some of the women in my family too. An interesting idea about it being to do with your throat and therefore your creativity. It sounds a bit like something I read in a gestalt textbook.

Hope you're feeling better soon


Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that excessive dieting along with binge eating can lead to a thyroid condition. Fasting and feasting can confuse the body's natural rhythms and mess up your thyroid - which is responsible for the pace of much of your body's internal workings, after all. Or so I read somewhere.
It's one theory that speaks to me, because I used to diet a lot in my teens and early 20s. At 27 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and I've now been taking thyroid pills for over 10 years. It seems to work well for me. Hope you find the treatment that works for you.
By the way, considering the crazy pressue in Western society for women to get and stay thin, it might make sense that women are coming up with more thyroid problems than ever before!

Tania Hershman said...

Naomi - sorry to hear you've joined the ranks, let's definitely talk about this soon. If only it had been my doc that had talked about the location of the gland being related to self-expression (throat chakra), but no, it was my more "alternative" health practitioner. Don't take any drugs yet....

Tim - another example of how everyone has a friend with a thyroid problem. I am sorry to hear that, but yes, everything is worse in winter, even if here winter is 21 degrees C and sunny!

S - so sorry to hear you are feeling ill again, but you have the right attitude, most definitely, something it took me many more years to learn. Here's wishing you lots of luck in finding sympathetic health practitioners, wherever they are on the spectrum, who really make you feel listened to, and help you hear what your body is saying. Lots of love to you too. xx

Jenn - I've never read anything about gestalt psychology, but if it is something similar then maybe I should. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Ilene - very interesting, it seems all roads lead to the stunning conclusion that if we are not kind to our bodies, they might just not work so well. That does make sense. I am glad you found what works for you!

Anonymous said...

...also what doctors do NOT tell you about thyroid is that a sluggish one can cause depression. If you have been undiagnosed for so long, you must have really been feeling unwell. My mother and older sister both suffered from an underactive thyroid - they changed dramatically when they took thyroxine.

Get better honey bun so that we can enjoy your writing...hope that doesn't sound too selfish, as I want you to be well, just to be well of course!

Merc said...

Hi Tania,
wishing you well. I know that my thyroid problem is due to Lupus and that was due to enormous unacknowledged job-related stress in the late 70s.

Tania Hershman said...

yes, I have been reading about that recently, the link between depression and thyroid and how many people are misdiagnosed and on antidepressants when it is really thyroid-related. I was diagnosed 7 years ago but the thyroxine always made me feel worse so I stopped taking it. This time I am trying again. Ia m so glad it worked for your mother and sister. And thanks for your lovely sentiments about my writing!

Sylvia, so sorry to hear about your thyroid condition and lupus. Stress is a terrible thing, especially if it is due to your job, how awful. I hope you are feeling well now.

Debi said...

Ah, poor you. And sorry it's taken me so long to get here ...

I have a couple of friends with underactive thyroids and one with an over active one. My own belief is that just about all illness is dis-ease of the mind in some way or other.

For example, I have periods of deafness that I KNOW are worse when I don't want to hear what's going on around me. The equivalent of covering your ears going, 'La la la, I can't hear you ...'

Wishing you well, m'dear.