DATE: 1/27/2004 10:22:00 AM
I'm a Hyper Hypo!
Your thyroid wants to love you.
Last night I decided it was time to take a break from the Rock Star Lifestyle and stay in for once. So I was at home, and just reaching into the freezer for a half-pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food ice cream I think my sister left in there (it's gone now, sorry!), when the phone rang in my kitchen. It was my doctor.
A few months ago, I had gone to see him, the better not to have to see my stinky psychiatrist anymore. About a year or so ago, after about the fifteenth time in one visit I brought up how much my shrink irks me, a nurse practitioner had mentioned to me that since I had been stable for a while on a consistent dosage of my medication, she could probably take care of the prescription-writing for me. I told her I'd think about it, and by the time the issue came up again she was no longer with the practice, I had two days of pills left, and going to see my pychiatrist was still a fate worse than death. So I made an emergency appointment with this doctor at the same family practice in the hopes of getting the prescription filled. One catch, though: he made me agree to a complete physical.
This is about as fun a prospect for me as getting my teeth drilled without anaesthetic, but I'd put myself in a tight spot; by the time we'd reached the point of haggling about a physical, I could no longer wait for my psychiatrist to have an opening, and my protests about the nature of the appointment were really just a bluff, which was called, and so I found myself sitting in the little paper dress on the table, and listening to a lecture on obesity, exercise and nutrition when all I wanted was my stupid pills.
I wasn't going to get away that easily, though. No, no. This doctor needed to do blood tests. Blood tests which had been done before. Many times. He also needed a follow-up appointment, to "check the progress" of my "weight loss". Don't hold your breath, there, killer, I thought as I grudgingly made the appointment and left, clutching my hard-won prescription. And promptly forgot about the doctor.
That is, until a message appeared on my home answering machine reminding me that I had that followup appointment. Having gotten what I had gone there for in the first place, an evil, craven, unscrupulous part of my brain--okay, actually just about all of my brain is like that--began concocting schemes to get out of it. But it wasn't like I could say I was sick. And it had been scheduled for well after work hours were over, so that excuse was gone. And also, another part of my brain--okay, a tiny, microsccopic part, but still--managed to point out that I'd be the only person I'd hurt by not going. That's the idea, said my brain. Whatever, said the microscopic little voice of reason. We're going.
So I went. The new doctor told me my thyroid looked funny. I told him, get in line, Jack, you're about the umpteenth doctor to tell me exactly that. And every time that happens, we do another round of tests, and it turns out fine, and you shrug and I shrug and I go back on my obese little way.
We're going to do some more tests, the doctor said.
Suit yourself, I said.
So I went back to the stuffy little clinic at Lowell General Hospital (Good Lord Almighty, has ever a building smelled as powerfully and thoroughly awful as Lowell General Hospital?) and the cheerful Asian girl stuck a needle back in my arm and drew out another vial or two of my red-black life force, and I forgot about all this bullshit all over again.
That is, until last night, which is when, with one hand reaching into the freezer for the Ben & Jerry's, and one hand holding the phone to my ear, I heard this: "You have Hashimoto's Disease."
"Hashi-what, now?" I asked.
"Hashimoto's Disease. It's named after the pathologist who discovered it."
Thanks for the info. "Yeah, but what is it?"
Hashimoto's Disease, as the doctor explained and I have re-confirmed through obsessive-compulsive online research, is otherwise known as chronic thyroiditis, and is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system produces antibodies to thyroid hormones and attacks thyroid tissue. So essentially my body's attacking itself, which, if you think about it, is nothing new.
Symptoms include, but, of course, are not limited to: weight gain, astronomically high cholesterol and depression. So I pretty much have the trifecta.
In my Googling self-discovery session today, I also ran across a terrifying site about the condition, which contains numerous references to the creator's all-abiding love for Christ. Oh, shit, I thought. I didn't think this disease was that serious, but apparently, like many chronic conditions, it's the kind of thing that makes people cling to religion.
Still more terrifying, the author here spends a remarkable amount of time obsessing about the cognitive difficulties associated with hypothyroidism. Although if you check out that page you may discover, as this woman lists skill after cognitive skill she finds she cannot master, the problem may be something a bit more simple than chronic thyroiditis--it may be garden-variety stupidity.
But that is neither here nor there, because next up we have the depression issue. Here there's a link to a terrifying article which offers the following horrible piece of information:
Taking thyroid hormone replacement while taking the popular antidepressant sertraline -- brand name Zoloft -- can cause a decrease in the effectiveness of the thyroid hormone replacement, and make your TSH rise. This same effect has also been seen in patients receiving other selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors such as Paxil (paroxetine) and Prozac (fluoxetine). If you are on an antidepressant or thyroid hormone and your doctor wants to prescribe the other, be sure to discuss these issues.
File that under "Well, FUCK."
Meanwhile my family and friends are elated to hear of this diagnosis. "So, ya got Hirohito's disease!" my dad blustered. "That's good, though, isn't it? I mean, you can have a game plan now. Right? So now you can do something about it. Y'know?"
My dad. All he needs is a letter sweater and a bullhorn.
Kellie was even somewhat jealous. "So you've got a glandular condition now," she grumbled. "What's my excuse?"
Tim's first reaction was, "Awesome!" He elaborated, "I know a lot of people that are fat and depressed and they like to say or at least hope it's their thyroid. You've hit the jackpot. You have a total excuse now. I think you've struck gold with this Quasimodo thing."
Yeah. Whoopee for me.
Okay. Focus on the positive. One huge positive is the fact that were this to have gone unnoticed, sometime in the next couple of years my thyroid would have given out on me suddenly, probably triggering another Major Depressive Episode, which it is questionable whether I would have survived. Another is that maybe I'll stop being a fat sack of shit. Another is that even if I don't, I can just play the I Have a Condition card.
But even so, this whole thing just makes me feel reduced to my mechanical parts. Like a new picture is being painted of me, and of the vagrancies of my mind I had partially considered to be poetic, that's little more than a meshing of cells and synapses like the gears of an engine. Like fat, crazy, strange, creative, quirky me has been explained away as nothing more than a system of genes and hormones, grinding together, lurching downhill.