My mom and I recently got into a debate about pain. It’s something I tend to avoid because I deal with it on some level almost every day. It wasn’t until I read this article that I realized what she was trying to say when she urged me not to avoid pain.
It took me years after I was initially diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in my early 20s to verbally identify with it. “I have an autoimmune condition called Hashimotos,” is something I have only in recent years become comfortable saying out loud. In fact, this will be news to a lot of my own family members.
I can say I don’t know why, but deep down I know that fear, ignorance, denial, avoidance and shame has driven most of my decision making surrounding this chronic illness. And even now, I’m careful not to claim it as my own because I believe, or at least secretly wish that one day, I won’t have it anymore.
Most of that belief comes from my faith in God and His ability to heal. I’ve seen it before with my own eyes. And I’m believing for it in my own body. So I don’t claim it. But I don’t know if this is also some form of denial.
It wasn’t until I read this article today that I realized exactly how powerful sharing your story can be. It’s kind of ironic though since my livelihood as a journalist hinges on telling people’s stories, and this question that drives my life’s work: what if we were all brave enough to tell our story?
"It’s always easier to tell someone else’s story than it is to tell your own."
At least for me.
But reading Chelsea’s story today, being able to connect with her as a journalist and as a chronic illness and chronic pain survivor was exactly what I needed on a “bad day.” (*A day where your body reminds you that you are just a special breed that needs extra loving care sometimes – well, a lot of times).
“Pain is what connects us,” my mother said. I found this so morbid and off-putting at the time. That somehow, I would be asked to glorify pain instead of wishing it away or trying to ignore it altogether, something I had become an expert at. (The “fake it ‘till you make it” motto is real).
“I will not glorify pain like this sick world has come to do,” I snapped back. “There’s nothing cute or attractive about pain.”
I hadn’t realized but even a conversation about pain was on my top five things to avoid list. Clearly. I couldn’t even talk about it without having an emotional flare up. And in this moment, I now realize, that my mother was right (as is often the case). As uncomfortable and unfair pain seems to be, it doesn’t have to be all bad, all of the time.
Because for me, knowing that I, like Chelsea - and the one in five adult Americans dealing with chronic pain – and the six in ten Americans living with a chronic disease – and the four in ten Americans dealing with two or more chronic illnesses – and the more than 200,000 people who are diagnosed with Hashimoto’s per year - have good and bad days somehow makes my bad days not so bad. Because I’m no longer alone in my suffering. And to come to that reality, well, there are few things more powerful and life changing than that.
Hashimoto’s disease, or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis is an autoimmune that causes white blood cells and antibodies to mistakenly attack your thyroid. Large numbers of white blood cells called lymphocytes build up in the thyroid and make the antibodies that start the autoimmune process. The thyroid becomes damaged and can’t make enough thyroid hormones leading to hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid.
Causes are unknown but are believed to be a combination of genes and an outside trigger such as a virus. You are more likely to develop Hashimoto’s if you have another autoimmune condition, and having Hashimoto’s puts you at risk for developing another autoimmune condition. Hashimoto’s is the most common thyroid disease in the United States and affects five in 100 people. It’s at least eight times more common in women than in men.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. Thyroid hormones control how your body uses energy, so they affect nearly every organ in your body—even the way your heart beats. Without enough thyroid hormones, many of your body’s functions slow down.