Just before Christmas I conducted a survey asking people with thyroid issues about their challenges and successes in managing their condition. Nearly 300 people responded and I was so blown away by the the answers. You shared your struggles, many of which broke my heart, and you shared your successes making my heart soar. I so appreciate your feedback and vulnerability.
I promised I would share the results of the survey with any respondent who requested. The link to the full report is posted below.
But before we go there I’d like to highlight a few of the responses I received.
Question 3: Your Biggest Challenges
Question 3 asked about the biggest challenges you face with thyroid illness. Two major themes emerged from this question. To quote one respondent, “Doctors who don’t understand and family members who dismiss your health problems as ‘not a big deal’ because you look fine.”
Wow. Can you just hear the pain in her voice? This sentiment was echoed over and over. As you can see in the full report, the number 1 thing patients tried that did not help was working with doctors.
Standard Medical Care
This is such a sad commentary on our healthcare system. I could go off on a major rant about that right now but will refrain. The good news is that Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition are rapidly growing fields. There’s a good chance there’s a Functional practitioner near you. Even if there’s not a practitioner near you, many of us help clients over video conference or by phone so your location doesn’t matter. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that many Functional practitioners do not take insurance. Why? Because insurance does not allow providers time to truly get to the root of client complaints. Most insurance only pays for a 5-10 minute visit with the doctor. This is just barely enough time for the standard of care, “What’s your symptom? OK. Here’s your pill.” A true root-cause approach requires the practitioner to get a highly detailed health history and spend time educating the client on lifestyle modifications. This often takes 1-2 hours on an initial visit. Insurance simply won’t cover that.
My Family Just Doesn’t Get It
The other major theme from this question was lack of support from family and friends. This deserves a blog post all of it’s own which is forthcoming. For now, know that you ARE heard, even if it’s outside your family. Many people deal with “invisible” illness whether that be autoimmune conditions, diabetes, chronic infections, vision or hearing problems, joint pain, limited mobility, and on the list goes. You are not alone.
A colleague recommended the site The Mighty as a source for support. I looked it over and there’s a lot of great stuff there. I hope you find it helpful.
Is this low thyroid?
Question 3 also brought up another really good point: knowing what symptoms are caused by thyroid and what symptoms are not.
Reversing chronic illness is a multi-layered process. But once we have an official diagnosis such as low thyroid we tend to see everything through our “thyroid” glasses. We forget there likely are several issues contributing to symptoms.
Take fatigue for example. By far it was the biggest complaint I heard in this survey. Yes, that is a biggie with low thyroid. But it’s also a major symptom of poor blood sugar regulation. I’m not talking about full diabetes, I’m talking about any blood sugar disorder such as hypoglycemia or insulin resistance. If thyroid numbers are improving but fatigue isn’t, looking at blood sugar might be a good idea since half those with thyroid issues also have poor blood sugar control.
Question 5: What did NOT work
Question 5 was about what things you’ve tried that have NOT worked. The results were pretty much the same as question 3. Doctors and the DIY approach didn’t work. Neither did simply taking supplements.
This wasn’t a surprise. The thyroid is SUCH a complicated critter! And rarely is it acting up alone. There are often many co-infections and other imbalances at work. It’s nearly impossible to unravel it all by yourself. And simply throwing supplements at the problem is no different than throwing drugs at the problem. You’re just exchanging one pill for another. Seek out a trained practitioner who can look at you as a whole person and begin to peel away the layers of chronic illness.
I’d like to share one inspiring message left in the comments on this question:
I feel everything I’ve done has led to minor improvements in my health.
If something didn’t work it got me closer to the thing that will
THAT is a healthy attitude toward healing! You go girl!
Question 7: Your OMG Best Result Ever
Oh how I wish I could share all these comments with you! Here’s where people truly shared their heart, their dreams, and their heartache. Unfortunately doing so would also reveal participants email addresses and I certainly don’t want to do that. So I’ll simply share a few responses here.
“Not be embarrassed when I can’t remember words”
“If I could feel better I would be able to play, smile with my kids more often”
“I’d be able to be spontaneous again, I wouldn’t need to plan how much sleep I need because I want to go to an event. I’d feel like me again….I miss me”
“Waking up excited for a new day, as opposed to clawing my way out of bed to face yet another day of pain and depression.”
“I’d be able to work a full day without relying on pain meds, I’d be able to lift my little grandchild without pain.”
“I wouldn’t be afraid of dying from the strong medications I must take.”
“I could be the mom I want to be”
THIS is why I do this, people! THIS RIGHT HERE! I’ve been where these women are (and the one man who responded). I’ve experienced fatigue so debilitating I could barely make it through the day. I’ve experienced the grief of a lost life. I missed ME.
At my worst I’d drag myself out of bed at 5 am (the alarm started going off at 4 but it took me an hour to actually wake up) a full FOUR HOURS before I had to be at work. I’d sit in my recliner and suck down coffee for a couple hours until I felt strong enough to get in the shower.
The effort of raising my hands to wash my hair would leave me so utterly exhausted I’d quickly turn off the water, wrap up in a towel and lay dripping wet on the bathroom floor until I had enough strength to get up and finish getting ready for work. My day would not get any better…
This was NOT a life.
And I was like this for over 15 years.
And so this is why I started Reclaimed Health. Because I don’t want anyone else to have to exist this way. I want them to Reclaim the Health They Were Meant To Enjoy. It’s not just a slogan. It’s my driving force.
And it’s why I’m developing a new course to help people suffering with thyroid and Hashimoto’s issues. It’s still in the brainstorming phase but I’m expecting to have it ready to go by mid-February. If you’d like to know when enrollment opens, you can get on the waiting list here. As with my blood sugar class, Total Energy Upgrade, it will be offered online so you can attend from anywhere.
I hope you found this survey as enlightening as I did. If you’re dealing with fatigue, thyroid, autoimmune or any other chronic condition I hope you realize now that you are NOT alone.
I also want you to realize that THERE IS HOPE! You CAN get well. You just have to persist and keep at it. Take time to mourn your old life. That’s OK. But don’t stay in that state. Pick yourself up and keep going. Keep searching for a fix. Like the woman said earlier, “ If something didn’t work it got me closer to the thing that will.”
PS: Here’s the link to the full survey results
Having overcome her own health struggles using whole-food nutrition and healthy lifestyle changes, Marla Evans is passionate about helping others reclaim their health.
“I lost 15 years of my life to poor health. I don’t want you to do the same.”
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Mainstream medicine is BROKEN. Mainstream doctors are like the old fable about the blind men and the elephant – as each one bumped blindly into a feature of the animal, they became convinced that was the main characteristic – thus, one said “It’s like a tree” while another said “It is like a snake”. Between insurers to whom people are just like lottery tickets that they hope will never be cashed, and doctors who are so focused on one specialty or one medication, the mainstream medical community has left the majority of us out in the cold, struggling with inadequate information, poor nutrition, chronic pain and dying a slow death. I am a “Baby Boomer” – we were supposed to be the generation that would never die because of all he medical advances we saw during the first few decades of our lives. Now we all just wait for death, WISHING we could “go gently into that good night”.
I hear you! While Western medicine excels in areas of infectious disease and trauma, it completely falls apart dealing with chronic illness. The good news is that functional health practitioners such as myself are becoming more and more common. And more doctors are recognizing the problem and are incorporating functional medicine principles. Trouble is….it takes an average of 17 years for a new concept to become accepted in the medical world. So while we’re moving in the right direction, we still have a ways to go.
In the meantime it’s vital we continue pushing for functional healthcare, and not just give up and wait to die. I hear your pain and frustration. I’ve been there as I explained in the post. I’ve been greatly disappointed by doctors too. But we have GOT to keep pushing for improvements and advocating for ourselves. Not only for ourselves but for our children and grandchildren.