Tag Archives: anxiety

I Have An Autoimmune Disease…Here’s What You Don’t See

In 2016, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease–an autoimmune disease that leads to overactivity of the thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).  While there are other diseases much worse than my diagnosis, I still deal with a lot of frustrating and annoying symptoms.

I look just like everyone else when you look at me, and like many people with autoimmune diseases, you wouldn’t know I have Graves Disease. My thyroid levels are controlled through medication, and I meet with an endocrinologist every few months to talk about symptoms and monitor thyroid levels.

While I usually look perfectly fine on the outside, there’s a lot going on with me that you might not see or notice.

I have many days that I am completely fatigued. While I love working out, some more strenuous workout activities can wear me out for a few days. In the past, I could run many miles, work out with weights, push myself hard during exercise and just deal with some sore muscles the next day while continuing with work outs. These days, it takes me longer to recover from a hard workout.  Workouts leave me exhausted and I need to nap or rest for a day or two before participating in another strenuous workout.

In addition to fatigue, I often have heart flutters and heart palpitations.  The palpitations can make me feel light-headed or breathless. On days where my heart rate is higher than average, I have a difficult time working out, and I have to slow down and partake in exercise that doesn’t raise my heart rate too high, like yoga or walking.

My hands tremor often. It’s usually slight and not very noticeable to others unless I hold my hand out to show them. But some days it’s difficult for me to draw straight lines, to hold my toothbrush steady while I’m brushing my teeth, or to put my coffee cup up to my mouth without it jiggling around. It can be frustrating.

Joint pain seems to be one of my biggest problems. When I do have flare-ups, the pain seems to be in my ribs, ankles, or knees. Over-the-counter pain killers are somewhat helpful, but the aches and pains can make things like sleeping difficult.

Graves disease can affect eyes (known as TED or Thyroid Eye Disease). Many days, one of my eyes will appear larger than the other. I deal with dry, red, burning or irritated eyes occasionally, most likely related to Graves Disease. Eye issues and bulging eyes are a symptom of Graves Disease…this symptom is noticed often in pictures  taken of me–one of my eyes will appear to be a different size than the other.

I also have days where my anxiety and irritability are more pronounced than normal. The anxiety will affect my ability to sleep, and I’ll have many nights that I only get four or five hours of shut-eye if I’m lucky. My mind races often, thinking about a million things at once.  It’s hard for me to chill out and relax. In addition to these issues, brain fog is a constant. I have a hard time remembering conversations or details all the time.

Yes, you might look at me or spend time with me and think there’s nothing wrong with me at all. You might think I look “normal” today and I must be better, or that I’m having a great day. I do have good days; but often, I am dealing with symptoms that I am hiding well and muddling through because I have to. Unfortunately, even with medication, I can’t control how I’m going to feel from day to day.

So if I have to decline joining you for a workout,  if I cancel our plans to go out because I’m feeling anxious, or if I hide behind sunglasses all day, forgive me. If I seem tired or irritable, forgive me. If I can’t remember what we talked about yesterday, forgive me.  Often, my autoimmune disease is to blame.

Even though you can’t see my autoimmune disease, it’s there.

Dear Friend, Sometimes I Can’t Deal With Your Anxiety

My dear friend. I love you. I think the world of you, and I enjoy talking with you. But I need to be honest with you.

Sometimes I cannot deal with your anxiety….because I have a lot of anxiety of my own.

I don’t mind getting texts or phone calls from you. I love our conversations. But when you send five, ten or twenty texts one right after the other about the same issue that’s bugging you out, sometimes I can’t deal.

I know you need someone to talk to, someone to listen to your fears or concerns. Sometimes, you just need to vent or talk the issue(s) out with a friend so you can get reassurance or advice. But when I give you reassurance and you keep going on and on and on, some days I have to walk away and tune out for a bit. I either don’t respond to you anymore, I change the subject, or I text you with, “Hang in there! Got to go–one of the kids needs me. Talk soon!” or something similarly generic.

I am here for you, really I am. But please know that I have a ton of anxieties of my own that I’m dealing with on a daily basis. I worry about whether my husband’s plane landed OK this morning. I worry if I’m a good enough mother and wife (and friend). I freak out because I’m sure I’m not going to get to an appointment on time.  I get nervous when I haven’t heard from my mom for a week because I’m sure I must have said or done something wrong.

We all have crap we are dealing with. As much as I want to be there for you as a friend, my crap needs to take priority.

When you send me text after text worrying about why your sister hasn’t called you, or your voice message freaking out over whether or not your son made the soccer team, or the after-work calls asking me over and over if I think your boss is mad at you because you got to work late again…and I don’t respond or I change the subject, it’s not that I don’t care about you.

It’s that my plate is pretty full of anxiety-producing problems today and I can’t really spend the day listening to and focusing my energy on all of what’s on your plate.

When I have cleared a little bit of space on my plate, of course I’ll take you out for lunch, go for a walk with you, or grab a glass of wine one evening so you can throw all your anxieties out there. We are friends, and I care about you. Just know that today, I might have to many of my own issues to be able to handle yours too.

What I Learned When I Tried To Be A Super Mom

A few years ago, when my twins were babies and my oldest was still in grade school, I wanted to do it all. I wanted to prove I could help and be one of those moms that could accomplish a million things. Everything.. You need a room mom? Of course I’ll do it! A coach for the team? Sure, I will fit that in.  Looking for a teacher to work part-time at your school? I’m your woman! There’s an opening on the PTO board? Yes, I’ll take it.

I was sure I could juggle every task, do it well, and take care of my family duties with ease. I saw other Super Moms in my neighborhood, and I knew I could do what they were doing too. They made their lives look so easy, and how they loved to talk about all their accomplishments! I was jealous of all they were achieving, and I wanted to be able to talk about accomplishments too. I wanted other moms to look at me and see how much I could do and how amazing I was. I could be a Super Mom just like them.

That year, I helped coach my oldest’s fall and spring running groups while dragging my little ones with me. I rearranged my schedule to make it to all the class events and parties with two year-old twins in tow. I attended all the monthly PTO meetings and spent hours at my computer putting together PTO newsletters and updating website material. I started a job as a new preschool teacher and had to create lesson plans, communicate with parents and learn the procedures of a new job. Along with all those duties, I still had to find time to help with homework, make dinner, and tend to my girls’ needs each day..

To say I was exhausted was an understatement. I burned out–fast. But I’m not a quitter, so I did finish up all my duties I had agreed to for that busy year. Here’s what I learned trying to be Super Mom:

  1. No one really cared about all that I was doing except for me.
    I don’t think anyone really gave a crap about how many “titles” I rattled off to them when I’d attempt to tell them how busy I was as a mom. Been there, done that moms probably wanted to tell me that I was on the crazy train and at some point I’d realize I needed to jump off.  In the end, I was attempting to do it all and really didn’t get any accolades from anyone for it. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I guess I was hoping I’d outdo some of the Super Moms in my town, and that I’d hear lots of compliments about how amazing I was as a mom to work, volunteer, and raise three little children. I don’t remember hearing much of that.
  2. I yelled a whole lot more.
    I took on way too much (totally my fault) and I ended up being a super-stressed mom who constantly had to work or volunteer. I had a husband who was always on the road for work and late most nights he was in town, and I was trying to raise three little girls and give them everything they needed. Trying to get anything done became stressful. I was anxious all the time, and on a tight schedule each day. If the kids grumbled or cried about having to come along to any of my Super Mom duties, it would just add to the anxiety and I’d yell a lot more. My over-full plate was what was causing all the stress at home, not the kids.
  3. I had absolutely no time to do things I loved.
    While trying to prove myself as an amazing mom, I missed out on most things I enjoyed. I had no time to read books I had purchased and had on my list to enjoy. I had to say no to lunch dates after work and evening events with friends because I was too busy trying to be Super Mom. Get a manicure? When the heck would I have time for one of those? Go to the movies with the kids? Sorry, kids, you’ll have to ask your dad because mommy’s too busy getting all her lessons ready for school this week. I missed out on a ton of fun with family and friends because I took on too much.
  4. I was completely exhausted, and so were my kids.
    How greedy I was to try to do it all! As I look back now, my poor girls were exhausted and didn’t have much fun being pulled to all my meetings and scheduled events. I’m so lucky they were so patient and well-behaved through that year. I am sure it was an and even more exhausting and rough year for all three girls than it was for me. I was nuts thinking that I could do it all, and that they could do it all with me too.  It was unfair and greedy of me to put myself first.

As that school year ended, I realized I needed to lessen my load. I decided to drop some of my volunteer duties so my kids had more time to hang at home and wind down. I made plans with friends I had neglected from being so busy. My girls and I had time to go to the movies or the playground after school.  My stress and anxiety went way down. I remember my oldest daughter telling me one evening, “Mommy, I’m so glad you aren’t doing all that stuff anymore. You yell way less than you used to.”

I tried hard to be Super Mom, but it was something I couldn’t do. It simply wasn’t worth it for me. This simple life is way more my style.  And we are all happier.