Recovering with Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroid disease (or commonly Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) is a decreasingly uncommon disease in which the body’s autoimmune system attacks the thyroid gland in the neck. This condition leads to many symptoms, from fatigue to the swelling of extremities, coldness, depression, and weight gain. Check out a description by the American Thyroid Association here.

When I was diagnosed the summer before college, I can’t say I was surprised. Half of my paternal family had the condition, which is largely genetic. I was lucky that I was tested routinely and caught it early, because many don’t discover their thyroid disease until their thirties or forties, once the condition has progressed to a point where symptoms are debilitating. In the three or so years since I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve managed the disease fairly well, taking daily hormone replacements and visiting a curmudgeony endocrinologist biannually.

That is until this morning, when the grey window on the electric scale enticed me beyond the point of return. I stepped on and frantically read the number that appeared before I lost my will. I was gravely disappointed, having gained 20 pounds in the past year due to factors beyond my control.

Seeing my weight anew, higher than ever, got me wondering whether my thyroid could be to blame. Maybe, I attempted to justify to myself, maybe it’s that my dosage is too low. That’s why I’m gaining weight. Maybe it’s not the cyclical bingeing, the compulsive drinking… all I have to do is take more thyroid pills!

Trying to recover with hypothyroid disease, or for that matter any disease which leaves you disposed to gaining weight (think polycystic ovarian syndrome, perhaps), is complicated. When weight gain or loss occurs, the question of whether it is attributable to recovery, disorder, or the disease always lingers. I’ve gained another few pounds this month– should I celebrate successful intuitive eating? Mourn the frequency of binges? Should I have my blood tested to see if my thyroid has caused my weight gain?

Part of me/most of me wishes that it were just my thyroid controlling my weight. That would mean there might be a relatively easy fix, upping my medication, which would allow me to lose weight. It’s easy in my mind, at times, to separate the disorder from the disease. Diseases are easier to deal with than eating disorders, in a sick sense (pun intended). They are usually concrete, measurable, mostly treatable. Eating disorders and eating disorder recovery is impossible to track, measure, or analyze. In my recovery, it’s been difficult to not blame Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

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