On Being a Guinea Pig, a Student, Slightly Bonkers, and Healing: A 2013 Retrospective

A year ago, I started this blog with the intention of sharing my Hashimoto’s healing journey in the hope that it might help others. I knew I wasn’t well for a couple years. Then when I collapsed, I realized I needed to pay attention (go ahead, say it: Duh!). I credit my dog and my Naturopath with saving my life. I was so sick, I could barely function for a couple of years. I found out I had Hashimoto’s early during that time, but didn’t realize what that really meant.

A bit later, I was lucky to find some great resources that helped me get on track with improving my health. The first resource, and one I still refer to regularly, is Datis Kharazzian’s book, Why Do I Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Labs Are Normal. A mouthful of title, but apropos. My labs were far from normal, but for many with thyroid issues, the title applies. It’s chock-full of valuable information, and though it may take a while for the brain fogged Hashi to get through, every bit is worth it. Kharazzian’s work has been fundamental to the positive changes we’re seeing in thyroid treatment, and without it we would be far, far behind where we are today. My gratitude goes out to him for sharing his knowledge with us mere mortals. (My links to his work are not affiliate links.)

One day, while perusing his blog, I saw a link and clicked it. That led me to two more great resources: The facebook groups Hashimoto’s 411 and Elimination/Provocation Diet: Hashimoto’s 411. They are volunteer-run groups focused on patient advocacy and information sharing. The group members come from all medical backgrounds, most with some connection to autoimmunity. Some don’t even have Hashi’s, but come to the group for valuable information on living with autoimmunity. The moderators are regular people, all with Hashi’s, and some have more than one AI condition. I am now one of the 411 and 411 Elim/Prov group moderators. I feel a great appreciation for my fellow moderators; our time on the page is entirely a volunteer gig, and happens on top of busy lives. In one year, the main 411 group membership has grown from about 2,000 to nearly 14,000 members – clearly a sign that autoimmunity is a problem! Being asked onto the mod team early in my Hashi’s journey lit a fire under my butt to start learning a lot more about autoimmunity. The 411 groups have helped save my life, and I want to share the goodness.

Among many great resources, three blogs stand at the top of my 2013 list: Autoimmune Paleo by my friend Mickey Trescott; The Paleo Mom by Sarah Ballantyne; and Chris Kresser. There are more great sources, many of which I will reference as I continue to blog. This year, Dr. K came out with his book on brain health, and it has become one of my favorite go-to resources for understanding the complex issues I have had with cognition and mood.

My other most useful tool this year has been a penchant for online ‘research.’ I spend a lot of my spare time digging through websites, blogs, and technical papers, looking for ways to learn about my condition. I believe that self-education is a Hashi’s best tool for healing; the more we know, the better able we are to talk with our doctors, advocate for proper treatment protocol, understand our bodies, and see the path forward. Having well-honed internet search skills is a bonus: Here’s a nice infographic on the how-to of Google-Fu – it makes a huge difference in what kind of rocks you can turn over in your search!

Autoimmunity (AI) is at epidemic levels in the United States. As many of you know, the medical community is still somewhat in the dark ages in treating Hashimoto’s – it’s still being treated as primary hypothyroidism, not as an autoimmune condition. Big difference there. Because of this, for many patients, the best or only source of information is a select few books and a great deal of online information, which takes a certain level of skill (and a keen eye for b.s.) to filter through. The worldwide community of autoimmune patients and their families is really coming together to advocate for widespread improvements in Hashi’s/AI treatment, and it’s been really great over the past year to see the growth in resources available online and in print. Many bloggers and some great functional doctors are writing about their experience, offering a wealth of information from personal reflections on living with autoimmunity to technical details on how to treat it. Because no autoimmune condition happens exactly the same way for everyone, each person’s roadmap to healing is unique. Having increased access to great websites and books means each of us can find resources to guide us on our individual journey.

Last spring, I took a long break from blogging to put my focus onto my own health, and now I feel ready to share what I have learned with others. Right now I am writing mainly on brain issues and how my own journey has been shaped by it, and I will write on various other topics over time. My healing has been supported greatly by the following factors: I have followed a strict Autoimmune Protocol diet (AIP), as well as using specific dietary supplementation to support adrenals, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, neurotransmitter balance and methylation pathways (I’m “MTHFR challenged”). To make things more fun (wink), I put my addled brain back in school, to study web design. Learning to write code after a couple decades out of school was a crash-course in improving neural connections in my brain. This came on top of having been in a disabling brain fog for the previous two years. Since I started studying, the progress I’ve seen in my ability to absorb and remember information has been amazing. I am literally smarter than I was two years ago. In addition, returning to regular exercise is a blessing, now that my healed adrenals allow me to. Finally, returning to doing things I love, like climbing and hiking, has helped me greatly. In a nice little nutshell, I have come a zillion miles from where I was one year ago.

Another year begins. We take our lessons and move forward. I’m happy to be part of this community of inspirational, devoted, nutty, challenged, strong, smart, and perseverant people. We encourage, support, educate, and inspire each other every day. I am grateful for all of you, and I’m happy to be on this healing journey with you! Thanks for showing up.