A while back we post an article from Jen Wittman, whose work centers around helping people overcome the symptoms of thyroid disease. That article focused on brain fog, which is just one of many symptoms that people with thyroid disease may experience.
Jen's passion and expertise in helping people heal themselves is incredible. When we talked about posting another article from her on the blog she explained that mindset is a really important aspect of the healing process. She sees it with her clients with thyroid disease, but it's important no matter what you're trying to heal from.
So today's article centers around the negative thought patterns that keep us from healing.
To find out more about Jen Wittman's work, click here.
How many times have you heard, “But, you’re always ‘sick’”?
From your partner, your coworkers, or worst, your children.
It’s tough to hear because there’s an undercurrent of accusation — like they’re accusing you of doing it on purpose — like they think you’re malingering or making it up. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to hear.
The guilt that grows from that statement is like a sharpshooter pointed at your heart. It hurts. And, unfortunately, many of us with thyroid disease deal with guilt from disappointing family, friends and especially our kids way too often.
I remember how guilty I felt when I had to turn friends down time and time again for an evening out, or to go on a hike, or to go dancing. Eventually, they got so fed up with my lack of energy that the invites stopped coming. Thyroid disease, especially when undiagnosed, is an isolating beast.
And mommy guilt is just the worst. There’s nothing harder than seeing your child’s excited face wanting to share time with you or play with you when you can barely move yourself from the couch. Nothing breaks your heart more than a child who needs and wants you when you have so little energy to give.
When you can’t lift your body out of bed from the fatigue, when you feel so overwhelmed and panicked from anxiety, when you’re dealing with an assault from too many symptoms, it is impossible to give others what they need. It affects every part of your daily life from how you can contribute at work, at school, with your community and especially with your family and friends. It feels awful.
You feel alone.
What can be even worse is that sometimes you’ll have a string of really great days, where you feel like you might just be getting yourself back… And your friends and family notice it too. And then it just confuses everything when the following week you’re back to feeling awful and canceling plans or telling your kids you need a nap or that “mommy is sick” and can’t play… again.
Habits of People With Thyroid and Autoimmune Disease
Nothing is more frustrating and devastating than your friends, family, or boss(!) not believing that you’re sick and not understanding your suffering.
Part of the problem is that most of us aren’t very good at asking for help. Almost all of the clients I see for thyroid and autoimmune disease have very similar characteristics. (I am including myself in this group!)
- We are type-A people who put pressure on ourselves to do it all.
- We are nurturers who take care of everyone else; often putting our own needs on the back burner.
- Most of us are self-admitted control freaks. (I’m raising my hand here!)
- Although type-A, we may really be shy, timid, or insecure. We tend to worry about what others think of us.
- We tend to avoid conflict at all costs. We don't feel safe or comfortable in arguments and can feel easily overpowered by others.
- We often feel isolated from others, even family. We often feel that there are things they cannot share about ourselves, such as our beliefs or life choices, and we have to hide who we really are because we want the love and approval of others.
- We tend to be Chatty Cathy’s and drain our energetic reserves when in contact with others.
- Because we have challenges in expressing ourselves directly, we tend to feel angry or resentful towards others because we cannot confront them and feel like we don't have a voice.
Do you see yourself in any of those statements? It’s not a coincidence. We feel guilty because we desperately want to be the person in control, taking care of others — the person that others can rely on, but our symptoms can make that impossible.
The most important thing you can do to help yourself and your friends and family cope with your disease is to talk about it.
How many of you just felt a cold chill go down your back?
It’s true that most of us would rather show up to work in our underwear than talk about thyroid dysfunction and our symptoms, but it’s the one thing that will help people understand, and combat some of the most common misconceptions about thyroid disease.
Common Misconceptions About Thyroid Disease
I polled my TLC community before writing, The Partner’s Guide to Thyroid & Autoimmune Disease, and these are some of the things that well-meaning people in their lives have told them:
- I have been told that “you need to just push through.” I need them to realize that every day I am out of bed, I HAVE pushed through. –C
- I truly wish they would understand that it is a medical disorder not just in my head. I hurt every day, have fatigue, can’t sleep, am gaining weight, sore throat all of the time, cold/allergies every day, swelling, and so much more. I am a very hyper person that could multitask like Wonder Woman; now I am lucky to vacuum the house without having to lay down. –M
- I would like it if my significant other believed I actually have a chronic autoimmune illness, not hypochondria. –A
- Ugh…I wish they wouldn’t tell me it’s easily fixed so get over it! –J
- It amazes when well-meaning people just can’t believe that ALL of my symptoms are related to thyroid. Without ever really reading about or researching Hashimoto’s, they want to suggest all these other ailments that they just heard about on TV news. –B
- They think my anxiety is a choice. I can be cool as a cucumber and my insides feel like they’re shaking. It leaves me frustrated. –H
So how do you combat these misconceptions? How do you overcome those people who think you’re making it up or just looking for attention? How do you get past the massive guilt you feel that you can’t live up to expectations?
5 Steps to Dealing with Thyroid Guilt
It all starts with you.
- Define the source of your guilt. Guilt is fear at its root, so what are you afraid of? Are you afraid that you’re not pulling your weight at home or at work? That you’re not a good parent? That you’re not a good friend? Try journaling as a way to examine these feelings and where they’re coming from. If you start writing a lot of “should” statements (I should be able to clean the house. I should be more involved with my kids.) remember that “should” is somebody else talking! (My dear friend Rory Green gives some amazing journaling suggestions for dealing with your inner critic in the Your BEST Thyroid Life video series.)
- Forgive yourself. Once you’ve identified your fears, ask yourself, are they founded? Are they logical? My guess is that they’re not. You have a disease, a medical condition. It’s important not to blame yourself for that! Or for the “symptoms” of having that disease, like not being the “perfect” mom, partner, or friend.
- Stop the negative self-talk. You can only truly forgive yourself when you’re not actively blaming and putting yourself down. Pay attention to the voices inside your head. What are you saying to yourself? Take some time to write down the negative things you tell yourself. Would you say any of those things to your best friend? Your partner? Your child? If the answer is no, then why on earth is it OK to say them to yourself? (Here’s a hint: IT’S NOT!) Make a commitment to try to recognize and stop the negative self-talk.
- Take action to heal. Healing your thyroid is a choice. You didn’t choose to be sick, but you can choose to get well. The catch is that you have to make the commitment to take action and actually take the steps necessary to heal. To get started, take this free workshop: Common Thyroid Myths That Keep You From Healing
- Be open about your experience. Now is the perfect time to make a commitment to also be open with your family and friends about your experience with the disease. In the bonus video that comes with the workshop, I tell you exactly what to say so your friends and family will understand. Discuss what the disease is, how it feels physically, how their comments have made you feel, what steps you’re taking to get better so you can be more present as a friend, mother, professional, etc., and what support you need from that person so you can have the time and resources to heal. Ask that they accept where you are and what you’re going through and that they are compassionate as you work to get better.
These are just a few practical strategies to get you through the guilt phase and into a more productive phase of healing while managing your thyroid condition so you can feel your best…dare I say, like yourself again!
For more tips, join my workshop!
Jen Wittman is a Certified Holistic Health Expert, Chef, Author & Vitality Coach, who teaches women how to reverse thyroid and autoimmune conditions naturally. She’s helped hundreds of women reduce (or even eliminate) their need for thyroid medications and has helped others stay off thyroid medication entirely.
Through her free Thyroid Healing Type Assessment, Jen teaches easy and simple steps to thyroid healing that can fit into your busy day. She also provides a list of tests to get + print outs to make diagnosis and treatment easier for your doctor.
Kevin Gianni is co-founder and CEO of Annmarie Skin Care, an award winning skin care company that produces organic and wildcrafted facial oils, serums, and cleansers. Annmarie Skin Care has been one of Inc500’s Fastest Growing Companies and also was recognized as one of Inc500’s Best Workplaces. The company and products have been featured by many media outlets including The New York Times, Huffington Post, Forbes, and Organic Spa Magazine. He is also the author of Kale and Coffee: A Renegade's Guide to Health, Happiness, and Longevity published in 2015 by Hay House.