Thursday, May 26, 2011

There's an Upside to Everything

Over the past few months, I’ve posted quite a bit about my struggles with Graves’ Disease. What I haven’t had a chance to share yet is the story of life after the struggle. Why? Because I’ve been about doing things and enjoying life, feeling great! That’s right, after what seemed like an eternity of feeling miserable, I’ve finally come through feeling myself again.

This brings me to one of my biggest concerns before I went through treatment: I really thought I might not feel myself anymore. Or worse–maybe I wouldn’t be myself anymore. This probably sounds absurd, but for us hyperactive folks, it’s a big part of who we are. I have always been bouncy, energetic, and able to accomplish more in a day than many of my counterparts at work or at home. Treatment for Graves’ Disease set out to put an end to that–or so I thought.

But the truth was, I hadn’t been feeling myself for quite some time. It had been months and possibly years since I felt “normal”. I don’t know how the disease progresses over time, but as I think back, there were times were I can see some ebb and flow–where it’d get bad and then back off again and I’d feel almost right. By the time I received treatment in the form of radioactive iodine ablation (RAI), I’d say that I was about as far from feeling myself as I could get. (Though I’d rather not test that theory.)

So did RAI treatment change who I am? In terms of energy, no. The disease had slowed me done so much, that the treatment brought me back up to where I love to be. Yes, for a while I was a walking zombie. However, shortly after writing that article, I backed off the beta blockers (atenolol) the doctor had me on, and I did a complete reversal. It seemed that the drugs that had been making me normal for a while actually did the opposite once my thyroid had shrunk enough to produce less hormone to disrupt my system.

However, there is one major change. My other fear–which I imagine other hyperactives worry about–was that after enjoying years of eating as much of whatever I wanted and still maintaining a slim figure with or without exercise, I feared I’d quickly become obese. This fear, I assure you, is unfounded–at least in my experience. So what’s the major change? My appetite. It happened about two weeks after RAI treatment, and I swear, it was overnight. I went from consuming huge portions and constantly being hungry, to filling up on a couple of bites. (No joke.) Now at nine weeks after RAI, I eat about half the portion sizes I did before treatment. Could I gain weight? Yes. If I ate like I did before and continued not to exercise. Have I? No, because I’ve cut back and started exercising. (After not being able to do much for months, it feels fantastic to get my body moving again!)

While I surely would have preferred not to go through all of this (my wallet wishes I hadn’t too), it has had another very positive effect. Like many who’ve struggled through adversity, my experience with Graves’ Disease has changed my perspective on life and what’s important, and it’s given me even greater drive to achieve the goals I’ve set out for myself and do the things in life that make me happiest.

As they say, there’s an upside to everything.