Thyroid update 2
Although not the most compelling subject to write about, I've decided to post regular updates about my dealings with Graves Disease, both for my own reference for others who lead active lifestyles and struggle with thyroid issues. I've found similar accounts to be helpful.
Since being diagnosed in mid-February, I've taken a daily dose of 30mg methimazole — a drug that suppresses thyroid function. For about two weeks in April, I experienced what seemed like symptoms of an underactive thyroid — I'd become sleepy by noon and stay that way, even if I took a nap. I lost more hair than usual; knotted clumps would come out when I brushed my hair after a shower. My fingernails flaked off, down to nubbins. They've only now started to grow back. None of these symptoms were alarming enough to warrant a trip to the doctor, so I decided to wait for my May 12 blood test to see what was happening.
May came around and I hit another upswing. By May 12, I was feeling downright perky — that was the day before Quadrock. I even had an allergy shot in the afternoon — something that usually leaves me feeling more downtrodden — and it didn't make a dent. But the labs ultimately revealed that I had dipped into the hypothyroid range. My thyroxine levels were below normal, even though TSH was just about normal (last month, my endocrinologist told me it takes "many months" to bring TSH up. But it's been fewer than three.)
So my dose has been lowered with expectation that it will be reduced further next month. Interestingly, this week I've felt what I've come to recognize as "hyper" symptoms again — some jitteriness, the weird itching on my shins. These symptoms are very mild if they're anything at all (beyond psychosomatic.) I now have several new questions to ask my doctor when I see her in June, including whether the rollercoaster is real — do I really swing between hyper and hypo in a given day or week? And if so, how do I manage this?
Lifestyle and diet may play a role, but in this short time period, I haven't yet found a pattern or correlation in my personal experiences. I'm just as likely to feel fantastic after a long run as I am to succumb to "extreme sleepiness" at 9 p.m. on a rest day. As a side note, the sleepiness is an interesting experience. I expect it isn't extreme at all; this is just how normal 37-year-olds feel. But for the past six-plus years I've become increasingly more restless at night, with periods of true insomnia. Even during what I considered good sleeps, it wasn't abnormal to get up four or five times in the night to use the restroom. My father has sleep issues, so I figured this was just my lot in life. Then I went on thyroid meds, and now I have slept through the entirety of nearly every night since April. And I wake up just after sunrise, on my own. It's all so strange.
So I'm a sleepy morning person now. But this doesn't seem to affect my active energy levels. Because my breathing is so much better and my heart is stronger, *all* of my workouts feel significantly better than they did during the months prior to March. Regardless of how many miles I have on my legs that week, or how sleepy I was at home, it always feels like I can run and not be weary. Of course I know this isn't the case. Contrary to what my blog posts might portray, I am making efforts to tread lightly.
However, as the recent blood tests show, I am now a person with normal thyroid levels — actually mildly hypothyroid levels. Thus, I am not in the immediate danger that I was always in, without knowing it, when I was hyperthyroid. The goal is to never go back there again, obviously. Since my body has been so responsive to medication, I intend to stick with it indefinitely.
I'm thrilled about how significantly three little pills have improved my life. Although I mostly write here about my outdoor exercise and related struggles, easy breathing is almost a secondary perk. The most encouraging improvement has been a sharp reduction in "brain fog." Even when I'm sleepy, I'm usually still clear-headed enough to work, write, terrify myself with newspaper reading, etc. The brain fogs were nerve-racking. For a time, I wondered if I was developing early-onset dementia. I never said anything to anyone about these spells of listlessness and confusion — as much as I griped about my breathing — because they were truly terrifying. Even thinking about them directly made the possibility all too real. If anti-thyroid drugs are a cure for brain fog, they're worth any other negative symptom.