I am a 59-year-old woman, excited about feeling well! Since early teens I suffered constantly from migraine headaches - there seemed to be no relief. Then in my mid 20s, after the birth of my daughter (1967), I lost a lot of weight - I looked like a scarecrow. As well, I started to experience periods of depression that grew in intensity and length over the years, until I was finally admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Eventually I was diagnosed as a Manic-Depressive. I was prescribed lithium. It helped in reducing my emotional highs a little, but I still often felt suicidal.
In 1993 I felt ill in a way I couldn't describe - I wondered if I was going to die - it felt as if my whole body was rotting. And I was running a temperature of 37.8 constantly, as well as having constant panic attacks at night and spasms of intense (illogical) fear during the day. Arthritis was so bad that I could barely use one arm. My GP had no answer, so I decided to seek another opinion.
My new GP immediately suspected an overactive thyroid - which proved to be right - and I was diagnosed with Graves' Disease. I was treated for about 12 months for this with antithyroid medication. How I soon felt was unbelievable - I wasn't depressed and my headaches had become infrequent and my arthritis gradually disappeared (never to return). Unfortunately, over the following months and years, my headaches and depression slowly returned. My 'good' GP had retired, and my new doctor said my thyroid hormones levels were normal. She recommended I still take lithium to control depression.
Over the next 6 years, my health gradually deteriorated, until I became almost completely debilitated with extreme fatigue, chronic headache, inability to concentrate or think, aching stiff muscles, sleepless nights, palpitations, and constant infections. My gums were so sore I could hardly bear to eat. These were just some of the things that were constantly there - covered by a thick blanket of depression. Eventually I was diagnosed as having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was told it was nothing to do with my thyroid, as my thyroid hormone levels were 'normal'. However, they had only tested my TSH.
In 1998, my daughter was diagnosed as having Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Her thyroid hormone levels weren't much different to my last test results. So she decided to do further research to help us both, and at the same time, found a doctor who specialised in thyroid disorders and CFS, and was willing to investigate further. So I had another thyroid function test, which included T4 and T3, and this time my test results showed that my thyroid gland was now underactive.
I can't explain the technical terms very well that I am writing about. But when having your thyroid tested, you need to have all three different levels tested - TSH, T4 and T3. My TSH and T4 were normal but my T3 was too low. Many doctors think that if the TSH level is O.K. then the others will be also. But this isn't always true. Here are my test results – 1998 – with the normal ranges in brackets: TSH 3.69 (0.30 - 5.00), T4 14 (11 - 23) T3 3.2 (3.5 - 6.7)
Even though my T3 was only slightly low, my doctor put me on a combination of T4 + T3 hormones, in a natural form, to bring my level of T3 into the acceptable range. I needed only a small dose of thyroid hormone, and to my amazement, my depression lifted, and my headaches almost disappeared. At the same time my other body systems started to function better. My lithium medication had to be substantially reduced, as I only required a small dose. I also discovered that lithium is known to hinder the conversion of T4 hormone into T3 hormone, but simply taking me off the Lithium did not resolve my problems. My thyroid hormones needed to be corrected to keep my migraines and depression at bay. Although my hormone levels are not completely stable, I can now read my body signs well, and so adjust my medication slightly when necessary.
Don't hesitate to query your doctor, even if you are only a little on the low side of a hormone, as I was. Having your hormone levels adjusted slightly could make a world of difference!
How do I feel now? Alive! Enjoying life as it's meant to be lived. And despite my age, I can still outrun my granddaughters (6 and 4).
- HMW 2001.