Status Update

by Tom Swift

It has been nearly a month since I stopped taking levothyroxine. There’s no question now that, among other symptoms, my energy is lower. I take longer to get going in the morning and I lose my breath more quickly during the day when, say, climbing stairs or running with my dog. I have not posted to this blog in some days at least partly for this reason. I get tired.

This lessened energy stands to reason. While on the medication my thyroid would not have fully engaged. It would not have needed to. My body would have instead depended on — would have become dependent upon — the artificial hormone.

The thyroid, a butterfly shaped gland found at the front of the neck under the voice box, plays a significant role in the body’s metabolism. It helps to regulate many bodily functions by releasing thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. When the body needs more energy to, say, grow or move or warm itself or, in the case of a pregnant woman, feed a fetus, the thyroid gland responds to produce the hormones needed for that function. While the average person thinks not at all about their thyroid, it is an important little organ. You certainly notice it when it’s not doing its job.

I think now of how reflexively I was put on the medication, all those years ago. And how long I took that medication without seriously questioning the diagnosis. I think of how many times I was told by one medical professional or another that I would need to take levothyroxine for the rest of my life. (Those medical professionals may ultimately be correct; after fifteen years I may be so dependent upon the artificial hormone that I need to go back on it.) It strikes now what they didn’t say then — that, hey, maybe you should have a consult with an endocrinologist. It is important for people who are not experts in something to admit that this is so. Especially when the matter at hand is a person’s health.

That in my case they did not do more than would today be reasonable to expect makes me angry — but, I must admit, only a little. More so, I am grateful for this challenge. I am grateful even for the energy drop. I feel strongly in the body’s ability to heal itself and I am more prepared than I ever could have been before to surf a low tide.

The body is so wise. We all know that to slow down can sometimes be a gift. So I shall rest my thyroid and continue to feed my body with the fuel it needs to rev this little engine. It might take awhile just to know what is possible, longer still to know if i can, in this way, heal. It will, in other words, take more than a month — like anything else that is deeply satisfying.