After the beginning of this new year (2012), I crashed and burned. Throughout much of January and the first half of February, I was exhausted. Since it started around the beginning of the new year, I’d thought perhaps it was simply post-holiday fallout, the natural anti-climactic crash after expending all that wild holiday energy and eating all that crazy holiday food.
The feeling was similar to how I’d felt right after the birth of each of my children. But back then of course, having been postpartum, I’d had good reason to be spent. Dark circles under my eyes, and sleep deficit, were par for the course following pregnancy(ies) and childbirth(s).
When the babies arrived, most of my friends & family understood the exhaustion, empathized, and told me comfortingly that it was normal. It would pass. Thankfully, it did. But this year, having had no new baby and no major life changes in recent history, there was no obvious explanation as to why I was feeling so chronically fatigued. January came and went and when I saw Valentine’s day approaching with no improvement, I began to worry a little bit.
I was baffled. It wasn’t depression; I know what that feels like. This was different. This was a deep, physical, unrelenting Tired with a capital T. I realized one day early in February that I’d slept for 17 hours in a 24 hour period. I was laying in my bed, eyes open, staring at the ceiling- because my body physically couldn’t sleep any longer. And yet, I felt completely unrested at the same time.
I let my blogging fall by the wayside. I was barely managing to keep up with school dropoffs and pickups, the design work I do from home, the housekeeping. Even the basics were becoming a challenge. I started calling people. I called my sister, my mom and my dad, just letting them know that something wasn’t right with me. Mom said she was worried I might have leukemia. My dad and sister thought it was just the fact that I have 3 kids, wearing me down. I discussed it with my husband, but he didn’t seem too worried- perhaps because he knows I’ve always really liked my sleep and he’s aware of my propensity to occasionally be depressed, so in his mind it wasn’t all that odd.
Still, I really felt that this was a different kind of tired, and not acceptable for me personally because I actually know the true kernel potential of myself as having consistent and abundant energy. Also, I felt I was failing my kids a little bit. Although I was loving and attentive when awake, those waking moments were suddenly fewer and farther between. I knew something had to change, and fast. Because we are self-employed and without health insurance, I decided to try and take responsibility for my own health before pursuing a solution via Western medicine. I am not advising this for you or for anyone else. It is just what I did.
I went online for a few hours each day researching chronic fatigue syndrome. I talked to people. What kept coming up was the possibility of a thyroid imbalance. I had many of the symptoms of slow and sluggish thyroid. That combined with family history (my aunt was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s syndrome), I began to suspect strongly that this was very possibly the case with me.
My energy level continued to drag, most days. As I stood in line at the grocery store one evening, a headline jumped out at me from a magazine, about avoiding some foods that can sap the thyroid. I bought the rag basically just for that article. It explained how there had been a groundbreaking study in Italy, which showed that several people suffering from thyroid issues had experienced remarkable improvement once gluten was removed from their diets. The science behind it actually made sense. Basically, it said that there seems to be causal link between gluten sensitivity and thyroid issues.
Of course, there was also the possibility (however slight) of Celiac disease, which would obviously make one feel tired and malnourished. My curiosity was piqued enough to at least give a gluten-free diet a try. Despite my former skepticism and inward eye-rolling at a friend who in previous years had claimed to have “gluten sensitivity”, thinking she was just looking for attention, and/or a need to feel special and different from everybody else, (I know. What kind of friend am I? In that instance, I’ll admit I was wrong.) I decided to give it a go…