I'm Tired, I'm Frustrated, and I GIVE UP!

What To Do When You've Reached the End of Your Rope?

I received this email from a reader. She is saying what many of us feel like saying at various points in dealing with a chronic illness. I know that most of us have reached this point somewhere along the way. So...here's her email, along with my response.

My name is Ellen*, I'm 38 years old, 188 pounds, with depression/anxiety, high cholesterol despite proper diet and moderate exercise, hypertension, infertility, etc. I suppose I need to stop now because you know all about the above signs and symptoms. Oh! I have about 10 more I could name but you understand my struggle. I may seem very harsh in my presentation but drastic times call for drastic measures. I was diagnosed with a goiter in 2001. A physician had me take thyroid supplements for approximately 2 months, only to no avail.

I had a thyroidectomy in fall 2002 and the rest is history. I inherited this condition from my maternal grandmother. I am the fourth female to suffer from this condition.

I own your book, and your Thyroid Diet and several other pieces of literature on the subject.

I've tried everything under the sun to help myself but without any success.

Basically, I'm tired of not being able to see any results from my labor. I'm tired of doctor hopping, tired of getting my hopes up that this idea will work, I'M JUST FLAT OUT TIRED.

I feel like I've left no stone unturned and so now I need permission and encouragement from you to GIVE UP, GET OVER AND MOVE ON TO ACCEPTANCE OF CURRENT POSITION.

Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to be alive and I'm not contemplating suicide, I just want to relax and relieve myself of helping myself. Do you feel me?

I'm really happy that you have found success in your journey with hypothyroidism and I pray that things will continue to go your way. So, having said all that, I await your permission to let go and move on with where I am.

I'm sure you've never received an email in this magnitude before, huh?

In closing, I would like for you to know that I haven't always been a pessimist, just since hypothyroidism invaded my life.

Keep your chin up and stay on the battlefield for all the puffy faced, thinning hair and eyebrows, dry skin, etc. chicks out there still looking for a MIRACLE.

(* I've changed the name and a few personal details to protect her identity)

Dear Ellen:

It may not be any comfort, but you are not the first person who has written to me saying that you just plain want to give up on figuring out how to get well.

Believe me, I can relate, because I've been there too. I was ready to give up too many times to count. And there have been points where I did just flat give up entirely -- for a while.

It's frustrating, because even though you don't have a medical degree or much energy, you're expected to not only be your own researcher, be your own patient advocate, your own therapist, your own nutritionist and your own personal trainer -- all at a time when you're more likely to want to curl up on the couch and nap from the sheer effort of it all.

In my case, for more than ten years, I've been on a journey -- a mission to be "cured" of my thyroid problem. In my case, I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, and am hypothyroid.

Down deep in my heart, I've always carried around the idea that somewhere out there is the perfect practitioner, endocrinologist, herbalist, alternative therapy, mind-body technique, diet aid -- the one that offers the "cure" to all of my thyroid-related health issues -- the miracle we are all waiting for that's going to change our lives.

What do I mean by the cure? After all, some doctors refer to thyroid hormone replacement therapy -- Synthroid, Armour, Nature-throid, etc. -- as a "cure." (They use this term incorrectly, however, because it's just a treatment to manage the disease...not a cure.)

By cure, what I really mean is returning to the way I used to feel. Feeling well. Losing every single extra pound I gained. Not being so easily fatigued. Having thick hair and healthy skin. Periods that are normal. Arms and legs that don't tingle and ache. No periods of depression. No foggy brain.

So I started looking. On my own journey, I've ended up reading hundreds of books, talked to hundreds of practitioners, read thousands of websites, answered thousands of emails. I've personally seen two endocrinologists, one internist, an infectious disease specialist, a naturopath, two holistic MDs, two osteopaths, an acupuncturist, and a Reiki practitioner. I've tried herbs, supplements, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, yoga, meditation, and tai chi, among other alternative therapies.

I've talked to everyone, and believe me, I have tried everything.

This certainty that the perfect solutions are out there somewhere is what spurred me to work on this site since 1997, to write my books, and to become a thyroid patient advocate.

Many of us are on a similar journey.

Whether it's a thyroid cancer patient who is now hypothyroid after surgery, or a Graves' disease patient trying to feel well after radioactive iodine to disable the thyroid, someone like you who no longer has a thyroid, or a fellow warrior against Hashimoto's disease, we're all coping with the effects of hypothyroidism.

And we all have become very certain that somehow, somewhere, there are answers that will cure us, that will return us to "normal," that will return us to the way we "used to be" before we developed thyroid disease. That something we're not doing is the key.

On our journey, we fill ourselves with information from websites like this one, we read books, scour newsletters, participate in support groups, exchange information on Facebook, and above all, see that never-ending string of endocrinologists, doctors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, herbalists, and other practitioners.

Some of the practitioners give us hope, some help a bit, some make us worse, and some of them make us want to run screaming from the office, and tear our hair out -- at least what's left of it!

We ask questions. "Who is the best endo in Chicago?" "Does this tingling in my arms mean I have Multiple Sclerosis?" "What can I do about my hair that's falling out?" "Can I get pregnant?

" "Are my dry eyes a sign of Sjogren's Syndrome?" "HOW can I lose 30 pounds!??"

There are always more questions than answers. It can become an obsession, this search for the answer that will solve our problems.

In my case, after ten years, I manage to get along pretty well most of the time. But I still struggle.

I struggle to get rid of those stubborn remaining pounds. I have times when I have no energy, and am very frustrated that I have to slow down. There are times when I feel like I still catch every single cold or virus going around.

But a few years ago, I stopped and had to ask myself a question -- one that I think we all eventually have to stop and ask ourselves... What if we can't be cured?

What if, as much as we want it, and work towards it, we can't find all the answers?

What if we can't ever go back?

It sounds to me as if you are at that stage.

And for me, there is only one answer...The only way to move is forward.

I had a very dear friend, Ric Blake, who was one of the rare people with serious, recurring thyroid cancer that is metastasizing.

This is a man who turned his struggle into a wide-reaching effort to help other thyroid cancer patients, and who never gave up looking for the medical answers that may hold a key to treating him, or prolonging his life. He lived with his thyroid cancer for a number of years, with amazing patience and grace.

This man also had an incredible spirit and energy. He had a unique ability to live every moment in the moment, without bemoaning the past or worrying about the future. He reached out to people, put them together, created amazing connections that changed the world for thyroid patients. It was awe-inspiring to watch.

Watching how my friend has coped with adversity, I realized that there was an important lesson for me. I needed to refocus my own efforts, and instead of simply trying to be cured, I should focus on being healed.

And they are really two very separate things.

For me, being healed means:

  • Accepting myself as I am, even loving myself as I am, with whatever limitations I currently have, without giving up hope that I can improve - in both mind and body
  • Refusing to live in the past, and refusing to worry about the future, but instead, living for now, enjoying this time, now
  • Learning how to value myself for what's really important, my spirit, my kindness, how I live my life, instead of focusing on the superficialities such as weight changes, thinning hair, a missing thyroid, not having enough energy to be everything to everyone, and other imperfections
  • And, above all, finding within the cloud of disease, the silver lining, the positive effects that thyroid disease has had on my life.

If you think about it, there have to be some good things that have come from your thyroid problem. Dear friends you've made in support groups, finally starting to exercise, eating better and caring for your health, or perhaps just learning how to stick up for yourself with doctors. Or perhaps, taking time to slow down a bit and take more time for yourself.

For me, having thyroid disease has had some benefits.

It's introduced me to many fascinating and pioneering practitioners, I've made lifelong friends of amazing and caring fellow thyroid patients. I'm learning how to treasure the days and weeks and months when I DO feel well, and to never, ever take my health or the health of others for granted.

As for my friend, his thyroid cancer was not be cured, but with his love of life and people and his refusal to focus on the negative, he was certainly healed in his spirit.

He constantly moved forward, while living in the moment, and never looking back.

And he was truly so much happier than so many people I know who enjoyed far better health than he does.

Struggling to feel well may always be a challenge for those of us with lifelong hypothyroidism -- or any chronic disease for that matter -- but there's one thing that no pill or endocrinologist or herb can change, and that's how we choose to live our lives, and whether our health controls us, or vice versa.

Can you find a way to focus on moving forward, without being pessimistic or optimistic, but neutral?

Can you stop viewing your health as a huge project hanging over your head that must be resolved?

Can you find some things that may help you live more in the moment, without giving up hope in the future?

Truthfully, I don't know if you are the one person with hypothyroidism who can't be helped in any way. It's possible you may be the one person who can't lose a pound no matter what you do.

You may have left no stone unturned in your efforts.

Only you can decide if you have indeed done everything you can do -- and more importantly, want to do -- to feel better. Only you can decide if you have actually given it enough time, tried enough different thyroid medications, seen every practitioner you can, explored diets from low-carb to low-fat to low-cal, dealt with the mind-body aspects of chronic disease, and so on.

If you want more ideas and advice in this respect, I'm here to help.

But if you have truly done everything you personally can do, then the next step is acceptance, and moving on. It's deciding that it is time to focus on being healed, instead of being cured.

The only person who can give you permission to let go and move on is you. But please do know that as you move on, there are many of us moving on right alongside you.

Stop by my Facebook page, and I promise you'll have company on your journey!

Live well,

 

Mary

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