Ten years ago I ran around in short-sleeve shirts in 30 degree, 12 degree windchill weather and was sweating.

I noticed the frame of my body was sickly skinny. At night, sleep was impossible because I could feel my heart racing and beating out of chest or my back, depending on how I was laying in bed.

What was wrong, I did not feel like myself at all?

Doctor said, resting heart rate was 120 beats per minute and blood pressure was 189/90. That was just the beginning of being  diagnosed with Graves’ Disease. At the time eight out of nine people who were diagnosed with the disease were women.

Let me honest, I remember the relief to finally put a name to the crazy symptoms but then there are so many more questions that leave a person lost and confused.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that leads to over activity of the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).

Now, I may have let my symptoms go a little longer than I should. However, in a process of diagnoses, I was initially told a little stress to my life was contributing to weight loss and fatigue.

Eventually, my fatigue turned into falling asleep with my eyes open in front of my young children and a 37 year old man losing 30 pounds in a short period time without exercise at the time. I ate a lot of food because my furnace was burning at a super high rate.

Graves’ disease is a common type of hyperthyroidism that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland in the neck, causing it to produce excess amounts of the hormone thyroxine. High levels of thyroxine lead to an increased metabolic rate, which can affect everything from your mood to how you look.

The disease is found more often in women than in men and although Graves’ can develop at any point in life, it usually begins after age twenty.

Graves’ disease is rarely life-threatening but an early diagnosis is important, as the symptoms of the disease can interfere with a person’s everyday life. There is no cure for Graves’, but treatment will alleviate symptoms and decrease the thyroid’s production of thyroxine.

Grave’s disease causes the thyroid gland to overproduce certain hormones, often resulting in such symptoms as anxiety, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, and the swelling of the thyroid to twice its normal size. It is generally not life-threatening.

Doctors urged me to undergo radioactive iodine treatment, which basically destroys the thyroid. I decided to take a radioactive iodine pill rather than doctors surgically removing my thyroid. So I have to take a thyroid hormone replacement pill for the rest of my life. It took about six months to figure out the right dose of thyroid hormone, to bring me back to normal. I’m not sure what normal feels like anymore, I get more tired than others I believe, but try to be smart throughout my workday.

I went from hyper to hypothyroid, a slow thyroid and packed those 30 pounds back and much more.

Today I have a resting pulse of 72 and a blood pressure of 120/74. I deal with eye issues and fatigue.

God is the Great Healer. I am very grateful for the life he has given me and I believe that attitude is the key. Anytime we have an opportunity to complain, let that be a reminder to give God praise.

Womenshealth.gov does a good job of answering questions about the disease.

Diet and exercise are a key to handling the day-to-day with this disease too.

“I am two months in with a dairy, gluten and sugar free diet. (And avoiding as many processed foods as possible). Best thing I’ve ever done for myself,” said Lisa Marie on Surviving Graves’ Disease Facebook page. ” Not easy, but I am now off of the thyroid drugs and feel the best I’ve felt in a long time!!! I still have a ways to go to eliminate some other symptoms but it is so worth it. I recommend it to anyone who is feeling the effects of graves or other health issues.”    

I’m 19, and I was just diagnosed with Grave’s Disease a week ago. I lost 60 pounds in college while not trying to, always felt tired, shake nonstop, hot all the time, and my thyroid is visible (so I look like an alien),” said Amanda Jenkins. “I don’t really know how to cope with this.”

By the time a person is diagnosed, chances are very good the person has suffered some loss of friendship, job and/or estranged from family not understanding why or what is happening. You feel like your life has spun out of control.

Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. You have a real medical condition.

It’s so important to simplify your life. Don’t be afraid to say “No.” If you are someone who goes all out decorating for Christmas and attend numerous parties – it’s a really good idea to cut back significantly.

The hyper stage is really rough but it will pass in time. Many people have treatment and then do wonderful. Then there are some who take more time to heal and do suffer from long term symptoms but to a much lesser degree and very manageable.

Be kind to yourself and treat yourself. You are a beautiful person! Don’t hide yourself away but instead take every opportunity to educate others about Graves’ Disease and Thyroid Awareness.

Photo: Flickr

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