#18 Hashi & Me: meet Paige
Hashi & Me is a series of stories for people with Hashimoto’s told by people with Hashimoto’s and other thyroid problems. In each piece, one of us will share our experience with Hashimoto’s, our personal findings and tips. We believe one person’s experience can be useful for others, especially to newly diagnosed people.
This week meet Paige. She is an IIN student and wellness blogger based in New York.
When did you discover you had Hashimoto’s? Tell us your story.
My autoimmune journey began when I was 12 years old. I began showing symptoms of scleroderma. CREST syndrome was my initial diagnosis, which I assumed was the only issue.
However, once I went to college I began to experience brain fog, hair loss, increased anxiety, and the inability to concentrate. I had my TSH level tested but was told the results were normal. At the time I did not know to insist on a full thyroid panel, but eventually even my TSH level was abnormal. I was officially diagnosed with Hashimoto’s at age 24.
Although it was difficult to hear that I had yet another autoimmune disease, it was relieving to finally have some answers.
What did you learn since? Do you have some tips or findings to share with other Hashimoto’s people?
I have learned SO much. I used to have the mentality that I could just take a pill for Hashimoto’s and all would be well. I have since realized how much of an effect my diet and lifestyle have on this condition.
My chronic perfectionism and workaholism were leaving me completely drained. I now practice yoga and meditate daily. I’ve learned that taking time to rest and recover is healthy, not lazy. I eat organic food whenever possible, and I have eliminated inflammatory ingredients including gluten and sugar.
I also learned how many toxins I was exposing myself to on a daily basis.
I switched out my cleaning supplies and makeup with nontoxic brands. I use an air filter in my home, and I have an alkaline pitcher that I filter water through. My symptoms have drastically improved since making these changes.
What does your day with Hashimoto’s look like?
My day begins with taking my thyroid medication as soon as I wake up. I do my best to write in a gratitude journal then spend 10–20 minutes meditating. This has been a difficult habit to develop but definitely worth the struggle.
Sometimes I make it to a morning yoga class, but there are days when the fatigue doesn’t allow that to happen. There are some mornings when walking to my bathroom feels as if I am dragging my legs through wet concrete. On those days I take a little extra time to start the day and have learned to practice self compassion.
Once I’m ready for work, I have a cup of celery juice (thank you Medical Medium!) followed by hot lemon water. The rest of my day is pretty typical. I work, do my best to pack a healthy lunch, and make time to decompress once I leave the office.
On ideal nights I limit screen time for an hour or two before bed, spend another 10–20 minutes meditating, and diffuse lavender essential oil next to my bed. However, I’m human and sometimes I’m lucky to just get the diffuser going after I binge watch a new Netflix series. I do always aim to have 7–8 hours of sleep though. That is a non-negotiable.
What’s the biggest struggle and biggest victory you experienced?
My biggest struggle was learning to use my illness as motivation instead of an excuse. I was young when I was first diagnosed so being “sick” became pat of my identity at a time when I desperately just wanted to fit in.
Once I was an adult I had developed a dependency on the list of excuses my illness provided. I backed out of plans at the last minute, I stayed in bed on days when the fatigue wasn’t very noticeable, and I enjoyed the attention I got playing the role of a victim.
People with chronic illness need to listen to their bodies and determine when they need rest. However, there is a line between self-care and avoidance. It took a lot of time and self-reflection for me to use my condition as motivation instead of my constant get out of jail free card. I started a blog so I could share my healing journey with others and this passion is what gets me out of bed every morning.
My biggest victory was finding what I believe is the root cause of my illness. If you asked me a few years ago what my biggest victory was getting a graduate degree or a promotion at work. I’m proud of those accomplishments, but digging into the root cause of my health issues feels monumental in comparison. If we don’t have our health, what do we have? I discovered that I have the Epstein-Barr Virus and since focusing on that particular infection I have seen incredible changes in my physical and mental health.
What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed to ease their first steps with Hashimoto’s?
Educate yourself and learn to be your own advocate! It may feel unnatural and uncomfortable at first, but it will change your life.
Once I began to educate myself I felt empowered to be my own advocate. For example, every time I had bloodwork for the first 5 years following diagnosis I needed my dose of Levothyroxine increased. My symptoms continued to get worse so I researched alternative medication options. It required a lot of difficult conversations and eventually I had to change physicians, but I have now been on a consistent dose of NatureThroid for 4 years. I’m not suggesting that anyone walk into their doctor’s office tomorrow and refuse their current treatment plan. That is not my goal at all.
What I want to share based on my own experience is that there is more than one option out there. Educate yourself, ask questions, and make your treatment plan a conversation topic instead of a blindly followed task list.
You can follow Paige here.
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