September 3, 2015

let's get real for a minute

You may have recently seen me posting about Jen Hatmaker's new book For the Love. (I say that tongue in cheek, as if you're my Facebook friend, you know For the Love and Jen are just about all I've been posting about recently!) I posted my review a couple weeks ago, and I'd love it if you'd go check it out.

If you've been following me very long, you know that I have an autoimmune disease: Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.

Note: Those two paragraphs are connected. I promise. Just keep reading. 

I've been fairly open on the blog about my struggles with the disease, but usually I've been writing from a place of hope: I'm doing x, and I hope it will help. I've been feeling better, and I'm thankful.

But today's post is all about realism: This is where I am, this is how I feel, and this is why I'm frustrated.

One of my friends recently shared this article on Facebook. (Please, if you haven't read it, go do so now. I'll wait.) The author has Lupus, but it really could apply to anyone who struggles with a chronic condition. My sister texted me to tell me that she had read the article, and it helped her to understand what I'm going through. "And you definitely don't have the spoons to mow your lawn." So true, sister ... yet I also don't have the funds to hire someone to mow my lawn, so I do it anyway--and sometimes I pay the price later. (If you don't know what she means by "spoons," then go back and read that article I just linked to.)

Here's one small example to give you a glimpse at how Hashimoto's affects my life. For the last seven or so years, I've been attending a church in a town 20 miles away. It takes me exactly 30 minutes to travel from my house to my church. At first, I was involved in several things--choir, women's Bible study, an English-language tutoring program. Depending on the time of year, I made the drive to church between two and four times per week. But as Hashimoto's has reared its ugly head, the extra things have dropped off, and I now struggle just to make it to church on a Sunday morning.

I know that part of this, rightly or wrongly, is because I don't have to go to church. I have to go to work. I have to go to Saturday speech meets. But, as much as I love seeing my friends, as much as I'm challenged by my pastor's sermons, I don't have to go to church. And when I'm struggling with fatigue and just generally not feeling well, sometimes I don't possess the energy for that 30 minute drive.

I've made diet and lifestyle changes that have me feeling better than I did a year ago. But I still have bad days--days where I close the door to my office and lay on the floor for 20 minutes. Days where I can barely muster the energy to scramble some eggs for supper. Days where I hit the couch as soon as I get home from work and barely move until it's time for bed.

I'm tired of being tired. I'm tired of a simple thing like walking across campus making me exhausted one day and energized the next. I'm tired of never knowing from one hour to the next how I'm going to feel. I'm tired of missing out on things because they happen at the end of the day when I have no spoons left. And I'm tired of the extra limitations I have because I'm doing this alone.

When I was growing up, I never would have believed you if you'd told me I'd still be single at age 34. Honestly, though, I generally don't mind being single. Would I like to be married? Yes. But singleness isn't something I dwell on ... most of the time. I find that I'm least content with my singleness on the days when I'm physically feeling the worst. Here's my train of thought on those days: If I had a husband, he could drive us to church--I wouldn't have to expend precious energy on driving. He could mow the lawn, or at least do the push mowing part that so wears me out. He could do the yardwork that I don't know if I will ever have the energy to do. Pretty selfish reasons for wanting a man, but I'm being real here!

I don't want you to think I'm an invalid: I'm not. I have a full time job. I take walks with my mom. I sing in a community choir. I get together with friends. I help coach a high school speech team (for now!). Some days, I feel pretty good, and I can do lots of things--it's just that I often need ample recovery time afterwards. That may mean that I skip out on an event or I take a day off work or I don't even attempt to get ready for church.

The really frustrating part, though? I can never tell when I'm going to have a good or bad day. Overall, there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to how I feel. (I mean, if I've stayed up late the night before or eaten total junk or been incredibly stressed, I can predict that I won't feel great. But often, when I feel bad, it's for no apparent reason. Same for when I feel good.)

The other frustrating part is that I don't look sick. In fact, with my 43-pound-and-counting weight loss, I look better than I've ever looked. So if you ran into me on the street or even know me casually, you'd have no idea there's anything wrong. Really, you'd only have a clue if you read my blog or are one of my close friends...because it's not something I like talking about.

Now, this is where Jen Hatmaker and For the Love come in. I've dealt with a decent amount of guilt over my illness. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense at first, but look at it this way: I am constantly missing out on things. I have a friend who faithfully invites me to a monthly Ladies' Night at her house, and I have yet to make it because by the time the weekend rolls around, I'm done. Church choir friends ask me when I'm going to rejoin the choir, and I put them off. Someone asks me how church was, and I have to admit I didn't go. Just a few hours ago, I made the decision to skip tonight's Newsboys concert at the State Fair, where I was planning to meet up with a friend I haven't seen in two years. I feel guilty about all those things.

I also feel guilty about the state of my lawn.

In For the Love, Jen talks about how women try to balance a zillion things--often things they don't need to be doing, be it for a season or forever. She talks about how we shouldn't look at other women to decide what we should be doing. I found that to be so freeing! At this particular stage, getting healthy is what needs to be "on the beam." I chucked church choir off the beam a year ago, and I don't see it ever returning! And I shouldn't feel guilty about that. I'm not shirking my duty to God or my church by prioritizing my health.

Graphic: Jenny Garwood
In an effort to keep fighting for health, I'm preparing myself to begin the Autoimmune Paleo Diet right after Labor Day. This is an incredibly restrictive diet for the first 30-60 days, and my hope is that following this diet will allow my gut to heal and will help me learn which foods I should avoid. I mean, it can't hurt, and I'm at the point now where I'm ready to try.

I don't know if this diet is the magic pill I'm looking for, and if it's not, I'll keep looking. I may wish that Hashimoto's wasn't part of my journey, but it is, and I think part of coming to terms with it and, eventually, healing, is being real about my struggles. In fact, I was feeling pretty down about everything when I started writing, and now, after putting everything out there, I'm feeling hopeful again, so we're already making progress!

I tell you all this not to make you feel sorry for me but to help you understand where I'm coming from. And can I ask you a favor? If you are healthy, don't take your health for granted. Live your life to the fullest, and thank God every day for the health He's given you.


  1. I think your feelings resonate with a lot of people if we're honest! It is so hard to explain to those who truly don't/can't/won't understand, and at the same time we are happy for them that they don't know what it's like to live with a condition that doesn't have a cure and interjects itself into your life at will. I feel this is the same for those with mental illness. People can't see it, so to them it isn't real. We have a long way to go with having compassion for our fellow humans in this regard I feel. Thanks for being honest and putting it out there. I do hope that you are able to connect the dots to what works for you and enables you to have far more good days than bad ones!

    1. Thanks, Nikki! I think you make a great point about mental illness. That was something I hadn't considered until very recently, but it's so true. Whether mental or physical, ailments that aren't visible are difficult for people to understand, and we need to have more compassion for one another instead of automatically jumping to conclusions about someone.

  2. I totally agree with Nikki! Thanks for sharing your struggles...I think all too often we float through life with the appearance that everything is great, when the struggles are HUGE behind closed doors! I will be praying for you as you battle your thyroid...I have done quite a bit if reading on this crazy little thing that controls sooooo much of our bodies!! I ran across a blog This lady struggles with Hashimotos herself and has done a lot of research and also has tried a lot of different things with her diet...hopefully, this blog with will give you some encouragement and ideas!

    1. Thanks, Beth! One of the reasons I struggled with linking to this on Facebook was that social media tends to be so superficial and only highlight the good--and I wasn't sure how "real" to get. But I do feel that being transparent (without oversharing) is important, especially if I want people to understand me.

      I've heard of Wellness Mama, but I haven't read any of her stuff. I'll have to check her out. Thanks!


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