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Here’s a little story about the last two days I think needs to be shared. Feel free to send something to my ask if you have questions or want to talk about this…otherwise, I’m mostly sharing it because it needs to get off my chest. It’s been festering into self-hate and potential self-harm, and I don’t want that. I don’t need that. And I certainly don’t deserve it.
#FuckFatShaming As you may or may not know from a previous post of mine, my partner and I are trying to get pregnant for the first time. Yay, right? Right. We’re super excited. So I’ve been preparing in whatever way I can because I’m a Scooby at heart and research soothes my obsessive mind. But that’s good, right? You want to be prepared for your hopefully coming soon baby. My first step, aside from us talking to our donor friend, was to set up a doctor’s appt. Partly because it’s a good idea in general, but partly because I have hypothyroidism and I know this can sometimes cause complications during pregnancy because normally your thyroid would kick itself into high gear during pregnancy to protect you and baby, but mine doesn’t even work well enough to support me without supplements.
I know my levels are off because I know my body well. I’ve had this diagnosis for years now, close to 6, and when they finally gave me a diagnosis I was utterly relieved. My symptoms then, which is very common for hypothyroidism, included weight gain (not attributed to change in eating patterns), daily migraines, sleeplessness at night and then, once asleep, I’d sleep for 12-16 hours at a time, I was depressed and had all of those symptoms stacking on the others-these two things often go together because the symptoms have a way of making you feel like you’re just a lazy jerk, when in reality, your thyroid gland simply isn’t producing any of the hormones or signals needed to tell your body how to metabolize or sleep or anything. I was miserable. My doctors all thought I was just a whiny, college student who couldn’t wake up to her alarm and packed on the freshmen 15. CT scans showed no reason for migraines. I was told I was fine. Eat less, work out, write out your feelings, the collective medical community said. So I found another doctor. One who would listen. She heard what I had been experiencing, listened to my family history and decided that she was going to…shocking, wait for it…RUN SOME TESTS. None of the others took any bloodwork at all. The labs came back saying that all my other levels were fine, but my TSH was practically non-existent. She put me on synthroid/levothyroxine and we adjusted doses for a while until we found one that worked. Suddenly I was my motivated, over-achieving self again. I wasn’t mean anymore for no reason, I could sleep at night and go to class again (by this time I’d been put on academic probation and disability services because it had become that bad).
Each year since then my levels have dropped a bit so my doctor would readjust my meds accordingly. I can always tell when my levels drop because the weight comes back a bit, I feel like I’m moving slower, I am never rested, etc. To the normal person I appear to just be “having a rough day” or “need a nap”. I, however, know myself very well so these are signs for me to get my bloodwork done. So, current time. I go to my new doctor (stupid non-profit sponsored insurance plan!) and tell her that I’m worried because, even though I know I’m a big girl I also know I’ve been eating really well lately, healthy foods, mostly grilled chicken for meat and TONS of fruits and veggies but I’m still gaining weight at a ridiculous rate. She pulls up my chart, the weight chart backs me up. I’ve gained just under 15 pounds in the past two months. This is out of character for me because, though I’m definitely overweight (due in huge part to my thyroid being treated so late in the first place) I’ve maintained my weight for years now. So she orders my usual labs for TSH. FYI, TSH is thyroid stimulating hormone and it sends messages to your thyroid telling it how to do it’s job, essentially.
So, I do the labs and go home. I get a call the next day saying that my levels are fine so keep taking my normal doses but increase by two pills per week while trying to get pregnant. Having looked at my lab results online, I know that the standard TSH levels at between 0.3 and 5.0 mine is at .89 and I’m trying to conceive and showing symptoms of my thyroid struggling. I ask the nurse to please check with my doctor again. I tell her all of the above. I tell her that in October of last year my TSH was 4.13, so my thyroid’s productivity is obviously decreasing at this dose of synthroid. She says she’ll call back after speaking with my doctor again. So this morning I get the call back and the nurse tells me “Doctor Who (won’t use her name here) wants me to tell you that your levels are fine and that you should definitely not adjust your dose. You should keep taking the blah blah blah and while trying to conceive take blah blah.” I said, okay, and I’m frustrated at this point. Advocating for yourself shouldn’t be so miserable. And I ask her well what did Doctor Who say about the weight gain and the fact that my TSH went from 4.13 to .89? She says that Doctor Who didn’t mention why the drop in numbers but that she did say, and here’s the kicker, “the number one cause of weight gain is overeating so Doctor Who wants you to keep a food diary.” What the literal fuck? I was so hurt and offended that I thanked her, essentially for being rude, and hung up. I was so ashamed and pissed off.
I know I’m overweight, I’ve owned up to that, but I’m also pretty healthy. I take all the vitamins I should, I’m active, I eat healthy foods, I take care of myself physically and emotionally because it’s all linked to your health. I’m proactive about my damn health. But to this doctor and nurse duo I’m just another fat girl who is delusional about how much she overeats. Screw the facts: that I have overweight people on both sides of my family, that I have hypothyroidism, that my levels are so far off, that I’m telling you I eat healthy and all of the above. None of that matters. Nothing except that fact that I’m fat and probably just eat too much. I know people who “just eat too much”, they don’t even gain 15 pounds in 2 months!
Not to mention, it my levels are so close to the lower standard and I’m trying to get pregnant, her assumption and lack of compassion means that my baby could be at risk of mental retardation and a bunch of other serious health issues right away. I know this because of research, but also because she told me this quite coldly before asking if my partner and I planned on getting married before we got pregnant. Which is not her business, and is not legal in our state yet. So that triggered red flags for me too. My TSH will have to support two people and .89 simply won’t. So, now that I’ve vented and raged. I don’t know what to do. My fiancé was pissed. She immediately said that she was going to take me to another doctor and that she wanted to write in to the clinic because that doctor was completely out of line and rude. It meant a lot that I wasn’t the only one who thought Doctor Who’s words were less than okay because I’ve grown up no stranger to the idea that fatness is something to be fixed and that it’s my fault.
For a split second I thought I deserved that from Doctor Who, to be shamed and made to feel responsible for something I couldn’t help (my thyroid being broken). Christina reminded me I did not. I guess I don’t know what I’m asking…maybe if anyone else has been through something similar? Or has hypothyroidism too? Or knows a good doctor in the Twin Cities? Maybe just support. I’m not sure yet. But I definitely needed to vent. Thanks for letting me do so. And please, think about the words you say before you say them. You have no clue what that person you’re encouraging to “try this new diet” or “just work out more, make yourself do it” has been through already. Shame is the least productive way to help anyone. Ever.
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