How I Cracked Down on Taking Care of My Health

How I Cracked Down on Taking Care of My Health

Properly maintaining the health of an adult body is a full-time job. Especially since these meat bags don’t come with an instruction manual – or a trial period, for that matter.

When you consider the fact that keeping a household clean and running is also a full-time job in addition to whatever full-time job we work to put food on the table… Let’s just say that being an adult requires a lot of time and energy.

I don’t remember feeling particularly indestructible in my youth. But I do remember a time when I could eat whatever I wanted, not bother with exercise and still feel pretty darn good when I woke up.

Those days are long gone.

I discovered the importance of taking care of my body a few years ago, when I realized I was lactose intolerant. Changing my eating habits had a radical effect on my health. I went from feeling like I could barely drag myself through the day to feeling young and spry again.

Which is why it might come as a shock when I confess that I let my health fall by the wayside again recently.

It wasn’t intentional. I didn’t do it on purpose. But the lapse reminded me why it’s so important to keep on top of taking care of myself, even when it’s difficult to make it a priority.

I have a chronic condition

I haven’t spoken about this on the blog yet, but I’ve been talking about it on my streams a lot, so maybe it’s time. A few years ago, back during the heavy lockdown, I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease.

I had never heard of Grave’s Disease before my doctor told me I had it. So it was never on my radar. But once I looked into the symptoms, it suddenly made perfect sense.

Grave’s Disease is the leading cause of hyperthyroidism (that’s a thyroid that over-produces the metabolism hormone). Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is far more common and also considered easier to treat.

Even though Grave’s Disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, it’s a relatively rare condition. It affects only about 1.2% of the population in the US. It tends to more heavily affect women between the ages of 30 and 40.

Grave’s Disease comes with a long list of symptoms. But among them is anxiety, insomnia and some unpleasant restroom-related activities.

My doctor discovered my condition somewhat randomly, at least from my perspective. I had gone to check on something else that concerned me, and the blood tests evidently showed that I have the antibody which causes Grave’s Disease.

Evidently, my immune system regards my thyroid as a threat, so it creates antibodies to attack it. As a result, my thyroid works extra hard and floods my body with metabolism hormone.

It took awhile to notice a change

After my initial diagnosis, not much changed. Sure, it was nice to know why I struggle with certain things, like getting a good night’s sleep or dealing with heat. But aside from going to the blood clinic at regular intervals to check on my thyroid levels, my day to day didn’t really change.

It was frightening to know that my body doesn’t work exactly the way it’s supposed to. In the beginning, it was really hard to adjust to the concept. But over time, it fell into the background buzz and became just another thing on my plate from time to time.

Until a few months ago.

My doctor was pretty satisfied with my thyroid hormones for awhile, so I was only expected to visit the blood clinic every couple months. I ended up missing an appointment because we were busy, and I injured myself. But I didn’t think much of it until I started getting dizzy every day.

At first, I didn’t think much of it. There were several things that could have been the cause. My biggest suspicion at the time was the weather. I am a human barometer after all. Any small change in pressure and I get a headache. It wasn’t that large of a leap to assume the pressure meant nausea and dizziness instead.

But the dizziness persisted. I found myself fighting against it, struggling to focus on things that were usually easy for me. I knew a blood test would confirm my growing suspicions but, still, I didn’t go as soon as I should have.

After all, as I said, I had other problems.

I let my health fall by the wayside

It’s shockingly easy for health stuff to cascade. A few times during the pandemic, I note I’ve developed tiny little painful lumps on my feet. I’m not entirely sure what these are, but I suspect they are plantar fibroma. I also suspect that something I’ve done causes the irritation. (Especially since padding my feet with fuzzy slippers helped them go away.)

Again, I thought nothing of it when the first one appeared on my left foot. Not until trying to walk carefully for a few days caused me to pinch a nerve in my foot. I recognized the sensation because it was exactly what happened in my arm a few years back when I ended up with cubital tunnel.

At this point, I had been taking a break from my daily exercise routine for a couple weeks so as not to irritate my feet. And of course, just when my first foot finally started to feel better, the foot that had been pulling all the weight for the interim decided it was done, done, done.

It was a lot of little things honestly. But they were starting to add up to big things. Especially since I’m fairly sure dropping my regular exercise routine and stress eating probably only helped compound the other health issues as they developed.

I felt gross. I had a hard time feeling better. And worst of all, I knew at least some of it was my fault. Even though I can’t control my thyroid’s hormone production, I do control my eating and exercise habits – which can affect that aspect of my health.

I made myself a priority

I doubled down on taking care of myself and resolved to get healthy matter what it took.

The first step was getting rid of the nerve pinch in my foot. I started what I call aggressively icing my foot ankle and knee four times a day. (I didn’t know where the pinch was, so I covered all my bases.) Also, I padded my feet with socks and new slippers even though it was still midsummer.

And slowly, bit by bit, my feet stopped hating my guts.

Of course by this time, my exercise routine had fallen completely by the wayside. The dizziness had flared, and it felt like my heart was pounding out of control. As soon as my husband could drive me to the blood clinic (so as not to undo all my hard work fixing my feet), I got that blood test.

When my doctor didn’t get back to me after the first few days, I went back to assuming the dizziness was barometric pressure. But then I got the call from the clinic informing me he wanted to talk.

As I feared, it was time for medication designed to make my thyroid behave properly. I always knew this would come sooner or later, but I wasn’t ready. Suddenly, my condition was frightening again. My body was back to behaving in a way it shouldn’t, and I was powerless to do much about it.

The idea of taking medication to regulate my body didn’t bother me when it was hypothetical. But as soon as it was actual, there were side effects and the risks involved in them to consider.

I resolved to do whatever it took to feel like me again

I thought about my promise to get healthy and stay healthy. We could wait and see if my thyroid got better on its own like it did before. Or I could bite the bullet and do the inevitable treatment.

I doubled down on taking care of myself. I discussed the risks with my doctor and he was unconcerned. So I agreed to move ahead.

But I didn’t wait for my pills to come in before I started taking better care of myself. I did some research and started snacking on fruits and vegetables again. I hit the yoga mat and resumed my mindfulness exercises. As soon as I thought my feet could handle it, I broke out the exercise bike.

It was a slow process. Struggling with things that used to be simple and easy for me reminded me how much I had let my health fall by the way side.

But little by little, I felt more like myself. And when my new medication cut straight through my dizzy spells, I knew I’d made the right decision.

Driving these meat sacks is tough. The rules change randomly, and it can be hard to pin down the cause of trouble. I got lucky; I do have a chronic illness but my doctor found it quickly and, so far, my treatment has been simple.

But if I take one thing away from the last few months, I want it to be that no matter what’s going on in my life at any given time, my health is important. I can’t do anything if I feel like crap. So I need to take care of myself enough to keep going for a long while, because I have a lot left I want to do.

And that applies to you too. So if you’re feeling guilty over taking self-care time – don’t! Work will always be there tomorrow. Devote some time to your health today!

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