My medical history follows what I understand to be a relatively well-documented path.  I was diagnosed as overactive in March 2013, and although medication provided some relief and periods of stability, the next three years were increasingly punctuated by relapses requiring multiple resets.  Eventually, the ups and downs became too much and I opted for the longer-term solution of radioactive iodine.  That was late 2016 and, fingers crossed, all has been reasonably good since.

So, why write this article? Well, the endocrinologists looked after me really well from a physical point of view but the emotional turmoil I experienced before diagnosis and throughout treatment put great pressure on me and my family and is not something that I feel is well documented. I look back on some of the crazy, irrational moments when I felt overwhelmed, anxious and desperate and wish I could erase those memories, almost embarrassed to acknowledge that I behaved in such a way.

To provide more colour, we have to go back almost a decade.

 'Wow, look how slim you look!' said the parents I knew well in the playground. 'Oh thank you!' I would say, momentarily flattered, but ultimately worried as I realised I hadn’t been trying to lose weight.

'I must be starting with an early menopause' I said to my husband having once again woken up dripping with sweat in the middle of the night and my heart racing.

The weight loss, night sweats and scary racing heart symptoms, plus general irritableness eventually led to a doctor’s appointment, blood test and diagnosis. I was genuinely shocked to find out that something significant had gone wrong with my body and knowing nothing more than where the thyroid gland is located, I was immediately scared about what was happening - not helpful when your heart is already racing!

The coming months and years were a huge challenge both physically and emotionally. The emotional impact on me and my family was huge. No longer could I tolerate last-minute decisions to visit family at the weekend or to take a holiday. I was even overwhelmed by simple requests to help with homework, something I had always previously enjoyed. My attention span was that of a gnat and I jumped from one job to another without finishing anything. Looking back, I suspect I must have been challenging to live with.

As I began to recognise the emotional side effects of having an overactive thyroid, I would try and override the seemingly bizarre reactions I would have to certain situations but to little avail. It felt like an out of body experience, with the real me looking in on this almost unrecognisable personality of the person I had become.

As the periods of time between relapses became shorter and shorter, eventually the medics advised a choice of surgery or radioactive iodine treatment. Having been steered towards radioactive iodine treatment I then had to get my head around having a substance in my body that as a chemistry student, I had always been taught to treat with the greatest respect.  So, radioactive iodine it was and the enforced isolation which temporarily provided a welcome relief from the daily chores of family life, soon became a deeply reflective, isolated period. Finally, I was able to re-engage with society and plough on with life. I had been warned that a period of overactivity was to come but hadn’t realised I had to just ride it out with beta-blockers as my only defence.

The scariest bit was to come! I started to feel really withdrawn, as if I was down a tunnel, cold and sleepy. Laid out on the sofa barely able to communicate I realised that the radioactive iodine had worked, the cells had died, released the last of their thyroxine and suddenly I was left with a much-reduced thyroxine producing capacity. The relatively sudden change in levels had shocked my body and I needed to get replacement thyroxine quick sharp.

Those little white tablets (my new best friends) worked like magic and before long I was back on my feet and on the road to recovery. Seven years on from my original diagnosis I now no longer have swinging differences in thyroxine levels which is better for me physically and emotionally. From time to time my thyroxine dose needs to be adjusted to keep me on the straight and narrow but apart from the looming menopause my hormones seem to be in check for the time being!

In summing up, thyroid disease is not just a physical illness; it also has a huge impact on mental health, something that is not always obvious to us as patients or those around us. Erasing the past is not possible but I hope by speaking out about my own emotional experience of thyroid disease I may be able to help others to acknowledge these symptoms and seek additional support.

For more information, please see our patient resources on hyperthyroidism

and patient leaflet on hypothyroidism 

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