Since I can remember, I was always an anxious child. I bit my nails, had a “nervous” stomach, and always conducted an internal play-by-play of every encounter I had throughout the day to make sure I didn’t make anyone mad at me.
I vividly remember having digestive problems at a very early age and even ran to the bathroom to vomit before a test in elementary school. I used to double over in abdominal pain often in class, and it would strangely disappear as quickly as it began. I later realized this to be abdominal gas pains.
I also had killer headaches, heavy periods, and terrible cramping. I know now that this was because of my stress levels and probably the beginning of my autoimmune system going haywire.
I kept these things to myself, so my parents were unaware. Times were stressful with my dad losing jobs and money being tight.
I knew my mom was tense, and I didn’t want to add to her burden, which is probably why I was a straight-A student and all-around overachiever.
I alluded my digestive issues to a sensitive stomach, and resigned myself to the fact that I was a type A personality, but I didn’t realize that I wasn’t doing good things to my overall health.
Flash forward twenty years later to 2002, a divorce, two kids, postpartum depression, a new career, and a move, I found myself always tired, putting on weight, and not feeling like myself. But with all that going, I just figured that was just me going 100 miles an hour all the time.
When I remarried in 2005, I was happy, but I still didn’t feel right. It took a year of infertility and a subsequent miscarriage for me to find out what was wrong with me. I had hypothyroidism. I was relieved to have a name for what I was feeling, and it gave me hope that I could start to feel better. I just wished that I had found out sooner, so I could have avoided all the heartache.
Two weeks after beginning my lifelong prescription of Synthroid, my energy levels went up and my weight went down. Relief! I conceived my third child in 2007, and I knew the undiagnosed hypothyroidism was what caused my previous bouts with infertility and a miscarriage.
My hyper-anxious self still had stomach problems, and I tried various diets to see what worked – dairy free, sugar free, vegetarian, and vegan. It was hit or miss if I felt better, so I couldn’t figure out what the actual culprit was. Sometimes I felt great, and others, well, not so great.
Flash forward to 2016, I went through a very difficult time in my personal life. One day I’ll write about it, but for now, let’s just leave it at that.
My stomach problems increased, and then suddenly, I was breaking out in hives and welts, which I’ve written about before and found out that this was an allergic reaction to gluten.
Believe it or not, these things – anxiety, depression, hypothyroidism, stress, and gluten intolerance – are all interconnected. The stress that my body endured has created a storm of autoimmune issues where my body literally attacks itself. First, it was my stomach, then my thyroid, now my skin.
I must be extra careful with my stress levels, diet, and fitness so that my body stops attacking itself. Simple things like reminding myself to be mindful, closing my eyes and taking deep breaths, enjoying the little things, and making time for fun are all important components to keeping my sanity and maintaining my health.
Do you any of you suffer from autoimmune diseases? If so, I would like to know how you deal with it.