Disability Story – Graves’ Disease

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In 2012 I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease.

All throughout my teenage years I suffered from mood swings, irrational behaviour, panic/anxiety attacks, intense compulsive behaviours and bouts of depression. When I finally had the courage to speak to a medical professional about how I was feeling, the issues were disregarded and seen as a part of my teenage development.

When I entered my 20’s the symptoms that were once explained away with teenage development grew worse.

I had a hard time being active, I was lethargic, I was underweight, I couldn’t handle intense light, I shook constantly, and I was extremely sensitive to any kind of stimulation.

I was run completely by my emotions, would go into rages over nothing and would have panic attacks at any show of confrontation.

My shaking at this point had grown so violent and uncontrolled that when I went to see my family doctor his first diagnosis had been early onset Parkinson’s.

My friendships had started to diminish.

I couldn’t go anywhere too loud; anywhere I couldn’t control the situation, anywhere with too many people.

I yelled at people I cared about, couldn’t think outside my own survival, and was difficult to get along with.

By the time I ended up in an endocrinologist’s office my symptoms were becoming dangerous. Most people with thyroid issues sit outside of the healthy range of thyroid production. My production was so excessive my endocrinologist couldn’t track my thyroid hormones.

I was sweating excessively, I was confused, had a racing heart rate, and when I was panicked would become dizzy.

When I was diagnosed I felt relief.

I think it’s a pretty common feeling when you’re diagnosed to think the next step is being cured.

What came next wasn’t as simple.

Graves is a form of hyperthyroidism.

My body produces antibodies that attack my thyroid, causing my thyroid to produce dangerous levels of thyroid hormone in response.

Though when I became medicated it began to swing the other way.

I was gaining weight like crazy, I was still lethargic, and I was dealing with a vast personality change.

People that I had known for years had to get to know a new person.

Things that interested me before held no interest now.

Though there were positives: No more shaking, mood swings, excessive sweating or eye pain.

I had realized pretty quickly that because this is a disease that is cured and regulated with medication that it isn’t really seen as a serious illness.  My mental, emotional, and physical well-being is controlled by medication and it isn’t seen as serious.

Healthy eating, and exercise in combination with medication may regulate me but my day to day issues are mitigated with coping mechanisms I learned through therapy.

If it’s too loud or busy I know to give the person I’m with a heads up that I might become angry or upset.

I leave social situations without warning because I become overwhelmed.

If I’m in a situation where I have little to no control or there is a confrontation I find a task to keep me busy.

Sometimes these habits and mechanisms I use to regulate my behaviour is misconstrued as rude, but it’s my way of managing compulsive behaviours that are often seem unmanageable.

One thing that I feel connects most people with disabilities is this:

We have an idea that there is some sort of magical scale. That one day we will find a perfect combination of whatever it is we are doing or using that will cure us, or make our life balanced.

Even though in some instances that seems impossible I take pride in the fact that we keep trying.






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