Chapter One: My History with Autoimmunity

For as long as I can remember I have had migraines. I remember, even as a young child, hiding in a dark corner during friends birthday parties (hell I even vomited in my friends moms car on the way home from one party). This happened on more than one occasion. I had doctors appointments and bloodwork. It was thought that I might be having blood sugar problems as Diabetes ( I & II) run on both sides of the family. Nothing ever seemed to curb them, once I felt it coming on the only option I had was to ride it out. I knew that the vomiting would ensue, but that was always my sign that the end was nearing. Migraines were just part of my life.

At 26 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I was living in a teeny tiny farmhouse, rebuilding my life from a nasty divorce. I had gotten remarried. I had just had my second child. I was the breadwinner and the caretaker. My second pregnancy was horrendous, filled with debilitating migraines- at least one a week- necessitating IV medications and monitoring. I had a brand new baby to care for. I also had a wicked migraine. I made an appointment to see the doctor, the same doctor that I had been seeing since high school, whom I now worked with as a nurse. I always have to laugh at his bedside manner, there were many instances over the years with other patients. That day it was my turn.  He hadn’t seen me in over a month as I was out on maternity leave; he walks in and takes one look at me and the first words out of his mouth were “How long have you had that goiter?!” It caught me so off guard the only response I could offer was “Excuse me?” Just like that I went from being a breadwinner, a nurse, a new mom…to a patient.

Despite sitting there with a migraine so bad I could barely process he told me that he was going to check some labs to check for thyroid antibodies. Within a few days he was calling me to come back in because I needed to go on thyroid medication, basically explaining that my thyroid was huge because it was under attack and still working its butt off trying to keep my hormone levels normalized. How could this all be happening? Just a couple months before I got pregnant I had seen another doctor because I had gained about 25 lbs seemingly out of nowhere.  My TSH/T4 were checked. All was normal. Doctor said it was insulin resistance and put me on metformin (it made me feel like complete shit and didn’t seem to be helping my weight issues, so I stopped taking it) How all the sudden do I have Thyroid disease? Better yet, you mean to tell me that my own body was betraying me.

I was started on a small dose of synthroid to give my thyroid a vacation. I was started on propranolol to attempt to combat the migraines. I hated the way I felt. I’ve had migraines as long as I can remember, and I can’t remember a time in my life where I had felt worse. My thyroid labs were all over the place, doctor was still trying to titrate my dose. After about a year of swinging between hypo and hyper-thyroid I stumbled upon an article that sounded much like my own story. My doc quit practicing and I was left to find a new provider. I went in search of someone who would be willing to let me trial Armour thyroid. It worked. My levels normalized and I started to feel like my old self again. Not perfect, but at least I was familiar with the way I was feeling.

At the time it was explained to me that autoimmune diseases were basically a mystery, and once you had one, you'd always have it, and it would for sure get worse. There were no options beyond symptomatic treatment. It just became another facet of my already overly complicated life. I handled it the only way I knew how, by taking my prescription and going about my life.