So when we left off, I was happily living as an asthma-free vegan in Colorado. I thought I was super healthy with my new diet and had discovered outdoor sports. After about six months, however, something happened that I had never encountered before. I stopped getting my period. The first missed period, I barely noticed. The second and third really got my attention. So I looked it up, and found articles on amenorrhea online. Most of them talked about how this usually happens with women who loose too much body fat or exercise too much. I hadn’t lost any weight, so I thought it must be the running. I cut back from 5 days a week to 3, and nothing changed. I shrugged it off as something my body would eventually figure out, and six months later it just showed up one day. After that point it was always different, however – irregularity was common, they were much more painful than before, and I would get horrible hot flashes. I had all of the hallmark signs of hormonal imbalance. When I finally saw my doctor about this after the fact, he said that it was the exercise and it seemed to have worked itself out. He didn’t want to do any more testing, and I was too naive and trusting to push for it.
At this point I decided to move back to California to be near my family and boyfriend. Transferring from one college to another for my senior year was proving to be difficult and I was going to have to have an overloaded schedule in order to graduate from the new college in a year. In the first month of school, I got engaged, and we decided to get married right after graduation. My family, who lived less than an hour away, was mid-collapse, with my parents’ drama at their worst and all of my younger siblings still living at home. This was probably the most stressful and crazy year of my life. To make matters worse, I had to live and eat on campus because I was a new transfer. This really disrupted the good habits I had learned living on my own in Colorado. The food in the dining hall was not vegan-friendly, and my best meal options were salad bar with beans or tofu or a peanut butter sandwich almost every meal of the day. This was when I first started feeling tired. I didn’t make any friends or socialize at my new school. I put my head down, finished college, planned a wedding, and dealt with my family drama all the while wondering where my energy went and why I felt so crappy all the time.
After the wedding we decided to stay in California for a couple of years. This was a good time full of riding bikes and being outside. I drank a lot and was hard on my body. Although my job was stressful and took a lot of energy out of me, I would stay up late drinking with friends and leave the house in a hurry on my way to work almost every morning. I started drinking lots of coffee around this time, and got seriously addicted. On days off I would just sleep and recover. I was still very entrenched in the vegan culture at this point, and was known as a really good vegan cook by most of my friends. Even though my lifestyle and drinking made me feel horrible, I tried to make up for it by doing stints of raw diets and juice cleanses.
We left California for Washington state for a change of pace. In Seattle my new friend group didn’t drink much – and over the next couple of years I realized how horribly alcohol affected me and eventually dropped it. At this point in my life, however, I felt awful, and no changes I made did anything. I couldn’t sleep, I had anxiety, my weight constantly fluctuated up and down, my hair started falling out, and I had no energy to do anything. Every once in awhile I would muster up enough energy to start running, and it would last a few weeks and then I would crash and quit. I was convinced that diet was going to fix me, and I did stricter and more severe stints of juice cleansing, the master cleanse and raw food diets, to no avail. I started having problems with blood sugar and blood pressure and felt like I was going to pass out a lot and had to eat every couple of hours. One night I passed out in the bathroom, and my husband thought I was having a seizure because I was writhing around. When I came to, I threw up and felt like my heart was beating strangely. It was one of the scarier experiences I have had in my life. When I went to the doctor, they said everything was fine. I was so upset because I knew deep down something was horribly wrong with me.
After this incident, I started to search the Internet for what could be wrong with me, greatly increasing my anxiety. I kept coming across Hashimoto’s disease online, thinking that made sense of my symptoms. I went back to my doctor and asked for thyroid testing, and all he did was test my TSH and declared me fine. He refused to test me for antibodies. So I went on, going through the phases of extreme anxiety, palpitations and insomnia, alternating with phases of deep depression, fatigue and joint pain. Almost six months later I mustered up courage to go to a naturopath, who confirmed my suspicions of Hashimoto’s by testing my antibodies and having them come back positive. He did not think my thyroid levels warranted medication, and wanted me to eat a “clean diet” and do a powdered smoothie cleanse. He didn’t know that I was already eating tons of organic fruits and veggies and no processed foods. As far as vegans went, I was extremely diligent about eating a varied whole foods diet instead of eating lots of processed soy and fake meat replacements. I went along with the program, however, because I was desperate to try anything to get better.
To be continued in part III…