When we left off, I had managed to recover enough to get a part-time job. I was still very much sick and tired, but had a small window of energy every day and figured that it would be best if I started using that for work. In the beginning I wasn’t capable of anything besides work – I would come home and go straight to my resting routine. My poor husband did an incredible job taking care of me during this time – he did all of the shopping, cleaning, and housework. I felt pretty bad about the situation but I needed the self-esteem boost I got from being able to work, as well as the money to pay off all of the medical debt I incurred over the course of my illness.
When I look back on that time I remember how tired yet sleepless I was. I was slowly getting more and more into the Paleo diet which I could tell was benefiting me, but the introduction of work stress was taking me a step back. Sleep was becoming very difficult; I would have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up too early despite having deep fatigue and extreme tiredness. Given all of the gains that I had been making in my diet and nutritional status I was stumped. I decided that I was going to find a naturopath that was well versed in endocrine issues and knowledgeable about natural thyroid medication. I researched and found one, but she had a three month wait for an appointment. I figured I had been on my healing journey so long that three months was not going to kill me, especially to see someone good.
In the months that I waited to see her, I really dialed in my diet. I read the work of Weston A. Price and got into making bone broth and fermented veggies. I started eating liver (although I had to make my husband handle and cook it!). This is when I discovered the Autoimmune Protocol, and although I didn’t go for it straight away, I started noticing which of the foods on the list were obviously affecting me. I did a little trial just for eggs, and found that I was having a negative reaction to them. I continued on, learning more about how to listen to my body and find out which foods were making me healthy and which ones were slowing down my progress.
By the time I got in to see the naturopath, I had made a lot of gains in the energy department and was able to do more housework in addition to working. It felt good to be seeing a practitioner not being in a super desperate, sick state. In the first visit, she ordered a salivary cortisol test, neurotransmitter test, and thyroid testing. The results from this showed that I had wonky cortisol (high in the morning and night but super low during the day), massive neurotransmitter deficiencies (serotonin, gaba, epinephrine) and was in need of thyroid medication. Gradually, she put me on two neurotransmitter support supplements (mostly amino acids), rhodiola rosea and lifestyle changes for the cortisol and a small dose of Naturethroid.
Finally, after about a month of implementing and adjusting to this plan I was feeling great. The neurotransmitter support was enabling me to sleep amazingly well, and I found the effects of that fixing so many of my other problems. Even though previously some nights I had gotten plenty of sleep, the quality was poor and I would wake up feeling unrefreshed. With the supplement, I was sleeping like a rock and waking up energized and refreshed – something I had never felt before. Although I was started on a low dose of natural thyroid, I felt warmer and less tired. Around this time I also committed to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, and was able to identify which foods caused my symptoms to worsen.
This past summer was amazing. The combination of actually feeling healthy and the excellent northwest weather gave me a huge boost. One thing that I had become weary of since becoming sick was traveling, with my restricted diet and whatnot. At the end of the summer I had two vacations planned, a family reunion in Oregon and a wedding in California. I stressed out a lot in planning for these trips, but in the end they turned out fine (I might even go as far to say that they were fun and relaxing!). We opted to drive in both occasions, and I brought lots of food with me and cooked most places we stayed. Everyone who had seen me the year before at my sickest was amazed at how my health had transformed and wanted to hear my story. I got comment after comment about how good my skin looked, and how I had my spark back. It was really nice to see other’s perspective on my journey, because sometimes you can’t see a difference when the road has been so desperately long.
As for where I am at now, I would say it is a very good place. I am able to cook for a living which brings me incredible joy, and I also just started studying nutritional therapy through the Nutritional Therapy Association so that my cooking can be more well informed by nutrition. Now that I have added schoolwork into the mix, I can find myself struggling to keep up with the lifestyle changes that helped me heal my adrenals (sleep habits, walks, yoga, meditation etc). I have been strictly eating on the Autoimmune Protocol, although I have found that things like egg yolks and soaked nuts don’t bother me. Still, I am doing a little extended experiment to see if I can experience even more gut healing through the protocol. I still suffer regularly from some pesky Hashimoto’s symptoms – brain fog, internal trembling, neuropathy, fatigue, and coldness. I am hoping through supporting my body with the right diet and lifestyle changes as well as working with my practitioners on supplementation and thyroid medication one day I can feel like a normal person – if I ever remember what that feels like when I arrive there!
November 2014 Update–I’ve had a lot of emails lately inquiring about how I have been feeling lately. I’m happy to report that I have considered myself fully recovered for over a year now–no obvious symptoms to complain about, my dosage of medication stable, and generally feeling productive and happy. I take hardly any supplements these days and still eat a modified version of AIP (I have been able to add in a few foods long-term). A new thing for me has been able to tolerate more exercise–I’ve been walking, hiking, and doing yoga on a regular basis without feeling trashed. I’ll always be aware of my autoimmunity, and the need to rest and be gentle on myself, as well as the need to feed myself a particular way, but I am happy to finally feel like my recovery has “settled” and confident there will be no regression as long as I keep up the lifestyle changes I know are important.