It's International Thyroid Awareness Week, so I thought what better time to share with you my own personal story.
2 years ago, I'd not really heard of Thyroid function. I knew you could have underactive or overactive thyroid, which affected weight loss and that was about the extent of my knowledge. How things were about to change.
Back in October '12 I started feeling poorly. REALLY poorly. I was continuously freezing or overheated. My energy levels were past exhausted, I couldn't sleep at night yet would nod off in the middle of a conversation. I had piled on weight after Sully's birth at an extreme rate, my hair was coming out in handfuls, my skin flaking off, I couldn't think clearly or sometimes even at all (which is terrifying, if you've ever experienced a true loss of thought). I was permanently ill with a cold/flu/bug/open wounds. Worst though, was my throat. I would wake up choking. I could barely swallow, my inside neck felt dislocated with a consistent huge painful lump every time I tried to swallow. It was a struggle to lay down or turn my head at all.
I've always been one for not going to the doctors (the irony, now!) unless it was a real hardcore emergency. My last visit for treatment before then and the pregnancy was back in 2007, so it was difficult for me to make the decision to go and ask for help but after crying in a heap in the loo at 3am *again*, I decided to make an appointment.
I was checked over and told it was more than likely Globus Hystericus. An anxiety-based problem due to stress and worry, bringing a lump to my throat and making my already diagnosed General Anxiety Disorder worse... because I was panicked about the lump feeling, it got worse etc. such is the condition. She told me to chill out and come back in a few weeks if I was still experiencing symptoms. I felt terrible. The name globus hystericus didn't help, making me feel silly. With the heart palpitations and pre-fainting increasing, I felt I was losing control of the anxiety disorder even more, losing control of my own body. I ached all over. I have always had joint pain and random swellings since I was a child but everything was increasing. I couldn't take it and went back under the two week time frame to see my GP. As a side note, my GP is fantastic. She just had no idea of the rare situation at the time and had no real need to check me out fully at that first appointment.
So on going back a second time, I had bloods taken. Within 48 hours they had gotten back to me with the news that they thought I had something wrong with my Thyroid. I had to have some more bloods and an ultrasound scan to check Thyroid function and the words no one ever wants to hear, Thyroid Cancer. They rushed me through pretty quickly but even so, the 10 or so day wait we had for the tests and then the wait for diagnosis was really hard. I was scared, I had been feeling like my body was attacking me, it 'felt' like Cancer, I was convinced I had it. My GP rang the morning of my test results and asked to see me within the hour. This made me even more petrified, I took stock of my life at that exact point and decided to kick butt with whatever was wrong with me.
It wasn't Cancer. I was overwhelmed. And I felt so lucky. And scared. So many crazy emotions. I was then diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, an auto-immune disease which makes the body's natural defences (white blood cells and immune system) attack the Thyroid believing it is a foreign body. This breaks down the Thyroid gland limiting its function, which in turn makes it have to work harder to release the correct amount of hormone. In doing that, it gets swollen, scarred and covered in nodules. Every flare up I have, my body kills a little bit of my Thyroid Gland and it has to work harder and harder until eventually, it can give no more. To counter balance this, I am on medication for life, a Thyroid hormone replacement so that even though my immune system is killing my Thyroid, it can kind of die slowly and with dignity - meaning the swelling and nodules calm down and I can start getting my life back together.
Having Hashimoto's and being on full time medication was hard to cope with at first. It was amazing having a diagnosis, not having Cancer, I wasn't being 'cured'... but certainly being helped back on track. However it was still a shock to the system. I wasn't used to even seeing a GP and suddenly I'm thrown in to a world of waiting rooms, Endocrine specialists, blood tests, multiple daily pills, levels, side effects, symptoms - for life. I am now, nearly 2 years down the line, forever grateful for the medical attention I received and continue to receive. Especially from my GP and as mentioned earlier, the Endocrine team. Without my Endocrinologist Dr Lulsegged and his keen eye for problems, I wouldn't be where I am now.
Loosely related to the Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, are my two other chronic illnesses. Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I have had these two things for as long as I can remember, we just didn't know about it. However, post-partum Hashimoto's disease brought them to the forefront of my life. The heart palpitations and pre-fainting weren't down to anxiety, my joint pain and swelling wasn't just a thing from my childhood. As my Hashimoto's became manageable it became clear that other things were wrong and had been elevated in my body by this massive change. Dr Lulsegged spotted my heart problem and connective tissue disorder when no one else had reason to. I won't go into these problems here, as this is a Thyroid awareness post but it brings the point back that if I had never gotten checked, diagnosed and started treatment for Hashimoto's, I would be in an even worse place now with other conditions.
I mentioned at the beginning one of the symptoms I knew about was weight gain in underactive thyroid. Mine had been underactive for a long time, hence putting on the weight so easily. No matter what I did, it wouldn't shift - until I became under Dr Lulsegged's care and started treatment. The medication and balancing of my Thyroid started to help but Dr Lulsegged suggested a short stint on a 'Very Low Calorie Diet' to give me a kick-start. Most of you reading this know it was really successful in helping me on my weight loss journey. I started in mid November vowing never to go back to the size and weight I was. I did the very low calorie plan for just over 3 weeks, made it over Christmas (the hardest time, ever!) and then slowly started to re-introduce more normal foods/breakfast and lunch into my diet. I now don't follow a diet as such but try to eat as healthy as possible, with reduced carbs and sugar. I haven't been exercising until this past week (as I had to see my heart specialist first), so everything so far has been diet alone. So here are some pics, as this post has been long and text heavy! My weight loss so far of 48lbs!
I am planning to lose another 14lbs and see how I feel when I reach that. I have gone from a UK size 20 (20+ in some shops) to an easily comfortable 14. I'm currently wearing a size 10 t-shirt now actually, which I have to say, feels bl**dy amazing!
Remember, if you're feeling unwell, relentlessly ill, struggling with your weight... just ask for a blood test. Ask your GP to check your Thyroid function AND Thyroid anti-body levels, don't leave it like I did. If you have a Thyroid related story to share, or a story of your own weight loss journey, I'd love to hear it.
As some of you may be aware, it's Mental Health Awareness Week. This year, the focus is on raising awareness of anxiety.
Anxiety is a weird one. I tend to find there are three categories that most people fit in to with their opinions towards it. I don't like putting people in boxes generally but for the purpose of this post let's roll with it for now.
Type 1: 'Anxiety is made up. Pull yourself together, man!' (...or woman, child, dog) It's the whole stiff upper lip thing. The type of people who fall into this category are usually ignorant of other people's feelings or to a lesser extent, genuinely unaware. I don't like to think of humans being closed-minded, un-empathetic souls but unfortunately there are quite a few of them out there, especially when involving mental health. These people tend to think that someone suffering with anxiety is weak-willed, silly, less worthy of a place on this earth than someone of a 'stronger stature' and they usually have no qualms letting everyone know this. I would like to hope that Mental Health Awareness Week can help people who are open-minded but unaware of the situation become more familiar with the signs of anxiety (either with themselves or those around them), I would also like to hope that it can help lessen the resentment and taboo that is held by people unwilling to see that anxiety is a bonafide mental health condition, not just someone hamming stuff up for a bit of attention.
Type 2: 'I have that, I'm like, so crayzee!' The boaster. Again it's not something I'm happy to talk about really but we're being honest, it needs to be addressed that there are a certain amount of people out there who identify with having mental health issues, yet seem to revel in the fact, even contradicting their own problems along with it. In my years talking about mental health, I can remember so many conversations (or having a cheeky earwigging session) listening to people having OCD stand-offs, 'funny' panic attack stories, this weird one-upmanship of 'Oh you think that's crazy? Well, I have to check my door 10 times before I leave the house, it's hilarious!' 'Only 10, well I do it 20! Hahah!' Ok, ok I'm getting cynical. Of course one of the most important things about mental health is being able to have a healthy dose of humour along with it but this is different and I hope that's coming across. I love a laugh at my quirks and I do try to embrace them especially with close friends but the Type 2 I am talking about are on another level. I also know that anxiety can make people chronic over-sharers/talkers but again this is something quite different.
Type 3: People who know the score. Thankfully there are a lot of this type of people out there! Whether this be anxiety sufferers themselves or people who empathise/understand the complexities of it. These people are usually quietly going about their lives, coping as best they can with what their brain throws at them on a daily basis. They are kind towards loved ones in bad times, offering a shoulder to cry on or a nest to hang out in. They know when to give space and don't ridicule over tasks that seem easy to anyone outside of the anxiety bubble (eating, leaving the house, sleeping, going on public transport, taking medication...). Understanding that, yes, some of the stuff we do is funny and we can laugh about it but alongside that, realising that the core of anxiety isn't some circus show of hand-washing and paranoia, it can be utterly debillitating. Type 3 people aren't saints, we all get it wrong sometimes but it's the willingess and understanding that is fundamentally part of their heart and mind that makes the difference.
I hope that didn't sound too preachy. It's something I feel passionate about and always have done, since being diagnosed 10 years ago with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. After going through huge life changes, my brain went through some of it's own. It decided to make me unable to sleep, panic about being in social situations, imagine terrible scenarios happening to my loved ones and towards the latter end of my diagnosis, have obsessional thoughts about things beyond my control (the worst one being finding an abandoned baby in a bin/by a bus stop and being unable to help them). Now statistically this was obviously almost never going to actually happen around me but it felt SO REAL. My heart would pound out of my chest going over what would happen if it did. Could I leave the house today in case I saw something? What about my own baby? Would someone try and bomb the bus I was on? Poison my drink? Would I have a huge panic attack and no one would help? I took a leap on the advice of my beautiful best friend who was going through a similar journey herself and went to my doctor. The last doctor I visited a few years back when I had just started having difficulties sleeping and leaving the house told me to take up swimming and wear brighter clothes, so putting myself back into the firing ring of the 'uncaring GP' was a big step for me, to say the least. With my best friend's support, i wrote down everything and went to my appointment.
My story is mostly positive from here on. I got brilliant help from my new GP with talking one on one and medication, which I understand is not a route everyone wants to take but it helped me. I researched, talked with people openly and tried to get to know and accept the 'new me'. It's still a work in progress 10 years later and will always be, I think... but this is where you'll find most Type 3's. Trying to accept themselves, accepting others, sharing their stories when needed, trying to raise awareness and break taboos, laughing at out coping mechanisms but realising the depth of the situations we're in, too.
The point of this post was to raise awareness of anxiety and especially in my case, to show that it is an actual recognised mental health issue, rather than just a bit of drama. Do you have anything you would like to share? Perhaps your own journey with anxiety or a realisation that you could offer something to someone going through hard times? If so, let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear about it.
Hopefully you've all seen my most recent review on the wonderful local business Memory Makers (if you haven't, take a peek here). Well, Tracy has generously asked me to give away one of her beautiful jars to one of you! How fab!
If you are picked as the winner, you get to build your very own bespoke jar. You chose the theme, ribbon, words printed etc. Everything just how you want. This is a fantastic opportunity to start making your own magical memories or indeed to gift to family or friends if you have a special occasion coming up. Don't forget the end of term teacher gift, too!
All you have to do to win a jar of your very own, is enter via the Rafflecopter below. The giveaway is running from Sunday 11th May 8:00pm to Sunday 1st June 8:00pm GMT and available to UK entrants only.
I have received no payment for this blog post, all opinions are my own and all photos are property of Memory Makers.
I met a lovely new person on Twitter a few months ago, called Tracy Griffin. We got talking about diet and lifestyle stuff, she too is an avid supporter of the local hashtag #BeckBromFL bringing local business and personal accounts in the Bromley borough (and surrounding areas) together. Tracy's business Memory Makers is what I want to talk about today! Tracy generously sent me a Memory Maker jar to review for you all. (photo by Memory Makers)
From the get go, it's clear Memory Makers was born out of love. The business grew from a beautiful idea Tracy and her family had about keeping track of those special moments throughout the year, in a pretty jar, ready to open a year on from the start date. After posting about this lovely tradition on her social media page on New Years Eve, Tracy woke up on New Years day to heaps of positive comments about her idea. It was then she realised she could spread the love and enable family, friends, colleagues... everyone... to start making and keeping their own memories in this unique way. (photo by Memory Makers)
I have a chronic illness that affects my memory terribly. I mean, to
ridiculous levels. This is another reason why the Memory Makers idea feels so great to me. What better way to help ourselves remember those little funny, cute, special moments that we might have otherwise forgotten in the hustle and bustle of every day life? As well as actually helping improve memory by jogging us back to those stolen moments in time, it's also very good for mental health; recording and then looking back on positive experiences throughout the year is a brilliant thing. As someone who had a pretty rubbish year last year, this would have really benefitted my family and I.
So how do you get a Memory Makers jar? It couldn't be simpler! Tracy's site not only looks gorgeous, it navigates easily too. The menu gives great examples of the types of jar you can make, from wedding gifts, to the school teacher's summer thank you gift. A newborn present or 60th birthday offering, there's so much choice. (photo by Memory Makers)
Each jar is personalised with a tag, with details supplied by you. There are
also a plethora of decorative ribbons to chose from. As an added detail, Tracy supplies you with a little pencil and quality paper matching your ribbon choice, gently tied together with a beautiful bow. Such a pretty way to start creating those memories! When you write a memory on the supplied paper, you simply fold it and place it in the jar. Once the memories start filling up your empty jar space, it starts to look even more eye-catching, bursting with cleverly matched colour.
These options are all picked via the 'how to order' form on the website. After filling it in myself (yes, I have already bought one for a friend!), I can
personally vouch for it being an extremely user-friendly way of ordering a
lovely bespoke gift. Tracy is always on hand via the website, social media and email if anything needs going over, there is also an option to leave your phone number in case of any problems or queries with your order. A nice touch that makes you as the buyer feel very secure.
So, on to the goodies. My Memory Maker dispatch note was sent via email and the jar arrived safely in a box with plenty of warning stickers for the over-zealous postie. It was carefully packaged in bubble wrap
and wrapped again in a deep purple coloured tissue paper. Very exciting to open!
Now, I'll let the images do the talking. I will say that the jar was larger,
heavier and more beautiful than I had imagined from the images. You can really tell both by touch and visually that this is a great quality product.
I asked Tracy to have both the boys on my label, so they can create a years worth of memories to look back on together in 2015, when Sully will be much more able to understand the concept of memories making you feel good. I'm really glad I'm getting the chance to document both my toddler's journey into pre-school and my eldest son's transition into secondary school, as well as our first ever family holiday later on this year. We haven't even started filling it yet and I'm already excited to open it next year!
I really liked the concept of Memory Makers but when I got my hands on one, I fell in love with it. Thanks Tracy for giving me the opportunity to review such a lovely unique product. To find out more, pop over to the Memory Makers website.
You can also find Memory Makers:
Go and show them some love! Don't forget to check back here soon, as you'll get the chance to win your very own Memory Makers jar!
I have received no payment for this review, only the jar and contents shown here. All views are my own, as are all pictures unless otherwise stated.
You may have ready my blog post about the wonderful clothing and body care company me&i? (If you haven't, go take a peek!) Well, local rep Mari has generously donated a gorgeous skincare package for me to give away to you! Prize consists of:
Alongside this fab giveaway, any person who choses to book a me&i party with Mari and mentions this blog will receive a free gift (e.g a bodylotion) on the day of their party.
So, to win the fresh, moisturising, paraben free package above, all you need to do is follow the simple Rafflecopter instructions below. There will be one lucky winner, drawn on Sunday 4th May at 8:00pm GMT.
Who is Julie?
30 something, mother of two gorgeous boys, lover of one gorgeous husband, perpetually living in a dream world full of wine, chocolate and artsy crafty things.