Hashimoto’s patient Ale on running, ballet, and putting herself first

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 interior designer Ale from Poland.

How and when did you discover you had Hashimoto’s? Tell us your story.

My older sister was referred to an endocrinologist when I was in elementary school because her doctor noticed that her neck was swollen. My mother is a doctor, so she decided to take us both. Our diagnoses were identical—Hashimoto’s. I was about 12 years old at the time, so to be honest I didn't realize what it really meant.

I was brought up in a small town, so every half a year I went to the doctor in a bigger city. And I was taking this mysterious pill every morning—the one that meant I couldn’t eat until 30 minutes after taking it.

Now I'm 26 and a lot has changed. Hashimoto’s went from being a meaningless word, to something that has greatly impacted my life. I had to find this out by myself and it took almost 11 years.

I now realize why I can't run so fast anymore. Why food I once thought as fresh and healthy now makes me feel sick. Why my intestines makes me stop doing things I used to love doing. It’s a process of humility and awareness.

It takes time, patience, and self-care to get through your journey with thyroid problems. I worked hard to get into art academy and tried to be the best in my school. I spent days and nights in the studio—eating rubbish food, what I thought was healthy food, and a lot of coffee. I wanted to push myself further, so I started running and loved it.

After challenging days, I used to go outside and run. I would feel pain, but I fought it with pleasure. But your body is like a machine—if you don't pay attention to warning signs and you don't provide it with proper fuel, it will falter. And mine did. I stopped with tears and disappointment. Nevertheless, I met good people and found enough strength to change my habits and lifestyle.

What did you learn since? Do you have some tips or findings to share with other Hashimoto’s people?

I got angry when I first began to suffer because of my thyroid condition. My hormonal problems existed beyond my thyroid. I didn’t menstruate, I didn’t have the strength to exercise, I was exhausted, and my stomach wouldn’t tolerate food.

During this time, I couldn’t cope with anything. But I learned to look for help, ask for help, and be persistent in my search for healing.

You need to start being your own best friend and treat yourself as you would your loved ones—with care and patience. Think about your passions and let them motivate you. This disease does not define you.

What does your day with Hashimoto’s look like?

I really don't do anything without thinking about what’s best for myself. Do I need it? How does it make me feel? Is it important? Because I’m important.

I'm currently struggling with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but I’ve learned to be patient and dutiful. I learned how to cook and I'm pretty good at it! So I now cook a lot and enjoy it.

I make careful and thoughtful choices, so I’m not spontaneous but it's worth knowing what I really like and what’s good for me. For instance when I was not able to run, I discovered I could turn my enjoyment of watching ballet into practicing ballet. And I’m not a thin adult like most people who practice ballet, I do it for pleasure. There are loads of activities that don’t have the motto “train hard or go home.”

What was the biggest struggle and biggest victory you experienced?

Stress while travelling. I’ve traveled a lot, studied abroad twice, and had an internship abroad. It was always quite stressful to have food prepared for myself, to see my skin suffer from acne, to feel weak after a work day, and not be able to party with friends.

I didn't want anybody to feel sorry for me, because I didn't want the disease to stop me from anything. It’s still challenging for me. As for my victory, I guess sticking with many diets and realizing that I feel better when I slow down. I now know that I don't need to say yes to everything and constantly push myself.

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed to ease their first steps with Hashimoto’s?

Don't panic. Tell a friend, or somebody you trust, that you need support. Take time to find the right doctor and don't give up—I’ve seen five doctors. Don't listen to all the advice you read, everybody is different. Read books about diet and food that can improve your health. Dream big and spend time outdoors. Don't stop doing the things you love.

Want to share your Hashimoto’s story? We’d love to hear from you. Fill out this Typeform.

Clar McWeeney