It may have taken a long time but your practitioner has finally given your laundry list of symptoms a name: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Turns out you have an autoimmune disease, though your doctor might be treating it more like a thyroid condition. Hearing that there’s no cure for what has ailed you can hit you like a punch to the gut. Discovering you have a chronic illness can be a real shocker. Now you know you’ll be living with Hashimoto’s for the rest of your life.
Maybe your first stop after getting your diagnosis was Google because to defeat an enemy you have to know your enemy. Or maybe you just crawled under the covers and hid from the world for a while because you were the one who felt defeated. That’s okay – we all react to this diagnosis differently! Eventually, though, we have to come up for air either way.
One of the worst things about autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s is that we still know so little about them. It can feel like your questions lead to more questions instead of answers! But the good news is that you are SO not alone in this and a community of Hashimoto’s patients has grown up to educate, support, and cheer on the newly diagnosed!
So you’ve got your diagnosis. Here’s what you need to do next to start adjusting to life with an autoimmune disease:
Find that community
There are so many great people-driven resources out there. HeyHashi has a page and a group on Facebook. And we’re not the only ones! Lots of people have started online Hashimoto’s support groups where you can ask questions and get a virtual hug when you need one. You might not know anyone else with an autoimmune disease yet, but with just a little googling you can connect with thousands of people who understand what it’s like to live with Hashimoto’s.
Autoimmunity may be the last thing you want to read up on right now but leave yourself space to learn when you have the energy and the time. It can be easy to drown in information and to obsess over conflicting information – e.g., iodine: good or bad for Hashimoto’s patients? – so start slow. First, broaden your understanding of what autoimmunity is. Then learn more about Hashimoto’s and its treatments (in both standard medicine and functional medicine). Read up on root causes and see if you can determine yours. And then look into treatment options that you can ask your doctor about.
Here are some posts you may find helpful:
- Just What Is Autoimmunity, Anyway?
- 10 Things People Living with Hashimoto’s Want You to Know (great for sharing with loved ones)
- Why Chasing ‘Perfect’ Health May Be Hurting You
- Hashimoto’s & Environmental Toxins
- What Is Healing the Gut & Why Is It Important?
- You’re Not a Victim, You’re a Survivor!
Learn to accept help
You are not lazy or crazy! Hashimoto’s affects the thyroid – an organ that has an effect on literally every system in the body. When it isn’t working, nothing can work correctly. Fatigue, confusion, mood swings, food sensitivities, pain, and other symptoms can make it hard to fulfill your obligations. If you have people in your life who are willing to step in to do what you can’t do right now, let them!
Yes, accepting help is hard. It can feel like giving into defeat. But accepting help is actually a feat of great strength! You’re not giving up but rather doing what you have to do to make it through until you’re well again.
Discover the joy of no
Every season of the year (and every season of life) brings with it its own kind of busyness. Here in the US, people treat being overwhelmed like a badge of honor – and frankly, that’s not healthy even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Admit to yourself that you are currently dealing with limited resources. You don’t have reserves to pull from when the going gets tough, which means that you need to learn to prioritize strategically.
At first, having to say no to obligations and invitations can feel like a burden. But eventually, you’ll come to realize that one of the gifts Hashimoto’s gives us is the opportunity to focus on what actually matters. Making homemade cookies for your child’s bake sale will never be as important as simply being with your child. Doing your work with purpose and passion is more important than logging 60 hours in the office. Spend less time thinking about what you may be missing out on and more time celebrating the blessings in front of you. That is the joy of no!
Don’t stop living life
Having Hashimoto’s often means needing more rest. Like, a lot more rest. But taking it easy shouldn’t mean that you isolate yourself. While you work to heal your body, you can still make time to feed your soul! Take a lesson from the Danes and practice hygge (pronounced hue-guh) and do what you can to make your everyday life feel cozy, welcoming, and warm!
Put on some thick socks and read a really good book. Invite a friend over to watch a movie. Invest in some really nice bedding and jammies so you still feel special even when you have to spend the day in bed. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts that enrich your mind or calm your spirit. Sketch or color. Call a loved one and chat about everyday things. Cuddle with your kids or with a pet. Bottom line: Find ways to do things you enjoy even when it feels like Hashimoto’s has knocked you onto your butt!
Keep stress at bay
Easier said than done, we know. But your emotional health has a real effect on your physical health, so it pays to do what you can to lower your overall stress level. Maybe you can’t cut back at work but you can use part of your lunch hour to do a short guided meditation. You have kids to care for and that’s tough, but try planning after-school crafts or activities in advance so they’re occupied (and not acting out for attention). Practice being present in the moment, simplifying, and choosing foods that are known to help calm the mind. Heck, light a couple of candles and hop in a bath. Try different stress-reducing strategies and see what works for you!
Obviously, these aren’t the only things you should do after a Hashimoto’s diagnosis. They’re just the things you can do right away, without needing a prescription! Honestly, these strategies aren’t just good for Hashimoto’s patients – they can be good for everyone. You may just find that you’re inspiring people around you to live better as you work to adjust to life with an autoimmune disease.