For my fellow Gravesters that are of a certain age, do you find it hard to decipher whether what you’re feeling is related to Perimenopause or Graves Disease? I’ll be 48 this year. Overall I’ve been feeling pretty good since my thyroidectomy. Except for random spells of night sweats, insomnia, mood swings, bloating and periods that leave me looking like the victim in a slasher movie. I feel like since most of my symptoms appear premenstrually (not sure if that’s a word?) that I should blame them on Perimenopause. But because they’re so intense, I feel like Graves needs to share some blame. So I’ve decided I’m definitely dealing with Perimenopause, and that Graves is aggravating it.
I’m not sure how long this phase of life lasts. I first got a period at age 9. So I feel like I’ve earned extra credit and it should all end much sooner for me. Unfortunately I don’t think Mother Nature got that memo. Right now I figure I have about two full ‘feeling good’ weeks per month. Which is actually good because I’ve felt much worse than this before without an end in site. So I’m making the best of it and in case you can use some tips, I’m here to share how I’m coping with Perimenopause and Graves Disease:
I watch my diet.
Graves and Perimenopause cause irregular periods on their own. Put them together and it’s a mess. Calendars don’t help anymore, so I tune in to signals from my body. Like I get bloaty and develop intense cravings for chocolate, sugar and salt. Preferably all at the same time and in very large quantities. This is my first sign that the launch sequence has activated, and I can expect a period in a week or so. But sugar and caffeine are huge triggers of Graves-like symptoms for me. I get really jittery, my heart races, my joints ache all over, and I feel like I just want to crawl out of my own skin. Cravings are annoying, but they aren’t worth all that.
Plus, I don’t want to gain weight during my ‘bad weeks’ because then I’ll be too annoyed with myself for eating junk, to enjoy my ‘good weeks’. So, I substitute things I like for the things I’m craving.
- I eat lots of pineapple and organic berries. The sweetness I need without the refined sugar.
- I eat organic grape tomatoes with a sprinkling of salt and Italian Seasoning. It sounds a bit odd but I love them!
- I roast and eat chickpeas. If you haven’t tried this yet, get yourself on Pinterest and look it up! There are tons of ways to make them. Here are some great ideas: Roasted Chickpeas
- I drink water infused with lemon and lime wedges, or a no calorie flavored water like Propel. It’s refreshing and helps with the bloat!
Keep your favorite craving substitutions around all the time, because you just don’t know when you’ll need them. Being strict about eating well can really make a positive difference. For me anyway, just one binge can turn a bad week into a bad month.
‘I will not feel deprived when I turn down junk food, but empowered that I made a healthy choice.’
I keep busy.
Isn’t it annoying when you tell someone you aren’t feeling well and they tell you to stop thinking about it and you’ll feel better? Well, get ready to be annoyed because that’s exactly what I’m saying. I think mind over matter is very powerful and most of the time it works for me.
I keep a little list of things I can do at work during those times when there’s a lull in the action. I’ll rearrange cabinets, go through magazines in the reception room, run a report and personally contact overdue patients. Whatever I have to do to keep from crawling under my desk and taking a nap.
If I’m at home it’s easier because I can stay busy without actually being ‘busy’. Reading is the best distraction of all for me. I escape into a book for hour or two, and then feel ready to do something more productive like, clean house or take a walk.
Even if all you do is buy yourself some fun magazines and sit on the patio reading them with a cold drink, you’re keeping busy. You’re re-directing your focus from how you’re feeling, to what you’re doing. It helps me and I hope it works for you too.
‘It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.’
I accept it.
It isn’t easy. We all like to think we’re in charge of our own destiny and if we just do A and B, we’ll get to C. But the fact is, stuff happens. Stuff that we have absolutely no control over. Our bodies are a mystery and a miracle. And most of the time no one has any idea what’s really going on in there. That’s why doctors ‘practice’ medicine.
Acceptance isn’t the same as giving in though. I own what’s happening to me because nothing I do will make it go away. But I work hard at taking care of myself, staying positive and being grateful for when I’m feeling good.
‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.’
I feel like once we accept what’s happening, we’re more open to taking advice and finding ways to live (as much as possible) in peace with it. There are a lot of great resources online, in Facebook groups, Blogs and Forums. They’re perfect for reaching out in the middle of the night when you just can’t get back to sleep. When you can though, get together with friends who are the same age and dealing with the same things. It’s very uplifting! Even on those days when we don’t really feel like being social, it’s comforting to know that our tribe is nearby.
Are you living with Graves, Perimenopause, or both at the same time? Please feel free to share your questions, tips and experiences right here.