Last Updated on September 24, 2023 by Anna Baumann
Graves Disease and Stress
Autoimmune Disease occurs when our immune system produces antibodies that attack our body’s tissue. It’s not always clear what causes the immune system to misfire. But there seems to be a direct correlation between Graves Disease and stress.
When I look back over the five or so years before noticing my symptoms of Graves Disease, I can see a pattern of stressful events that may have triggered it.
When I was in my early twenties, we ‘tried’ to get pregnant for about three years before we figured something might be wrong. Then I had every test that my OBGYN and my Reproductive Endocrinologist could think of. Neither of them was able to find anything wrong with me, so we didn’t do any medical intervention.
When I was 28 I got pregnant. Unfortunately, I had a miscarriage when I was almost 4 months along. I was told that isn’t uncommon for first pregnancies, and there was no reason why I wouldn’t do just fine with the next one. By the time the next one finally happened, I had already resolved myself to a life without children. I was almost 40 so it came as more of a shock than anything else. Then, just as the shock wore off and I started believing I’d be a Mom, I had another miscarriage.
So we didn’t get children, but we did get a great marriage. We always wanted a big family. But we both agree that even though things didn’t work out the way we planned, we’ve had a wonderful life together. For better or worse, I’m a lucky lady because I married my best friend.
A car accident
About a year after that last miscarriage I was at my desk at the dental office. I was just about to clock out for lunch when the phone rang. The person calling asked for me by my first and last name. That was odd because our patients would only know me by my first name. But the caller wasn’t a patient. It was a chaplain at a nearby hospital, telling me that I needed to get to the ER right away because my husband was in a car accident.
I was told that Jim (my husband) had fainted while driving on the highway. He was going about 55 MPH in the right lane. Once he passed out, he crossed three lanes of traffic and hit the cement median wall. His main injury was a fractured lower back. His car was totaled.
After a full week in the Critical Care Unit, they were unable to determine why he temporarily lost consciousness on the day of the accident. But they suspected it had something to do with his heart. Before releasing him, they implanted a small loop recorder to monitor it and made him a brace for his back.
At our first follow-up visit, his Cardiologist interrogated the device and found a significant period of Atrial Fibrillation. This is most likely what happened on the day of the accident, and definitely what caused Jim’s loss of consciousness. The Cardiologist gave him several medications and said he couldn’t drive for at least six months. Which was okay because the Neurosurgeon kept him in his back brace for nine months. Then there was physical therapy to get him moving without the brace. Overall he was home healing for about a year and a half.
It’s a miracle that Jim survived this. What he went through while he was healing was hard and horrible. But we got through it and he’s doing well! I’m just so thankful it’s behind us and that he made it through.
The death of a family member
Lucy was my Sister’s puppy. They got her when her boys were 1 year old and 3 years old. From the day I met her, I felt an instant connection with her. I’ve always loved dogs. But with Lucy it was almost like we recognized each other. I can’t describe it any other way, but I know she felt it too.
Having a puppy plus two toddlers was way more than my Sister and Brother-in-law bargained for. Plus, Lucy was having trouble with potty training and anxiety. It wasn’t long before they felt they had to give her up. Since I adored her, I was the first person they asked about taking her. Jim wasn’t keen on having a dog. Mainly because we both work full time and aren’t home enough to care for one. But I couldn’t stomach her leaving my life completely, so he agreed that we could take her.
In her first week with us, we found out she had a Urinary Tract Infection. She was treated for it and was OK for a couple of weeks. But then she got another one and another. Eventually, our Vet diagnosed her with Kidney Dysplasia. Her kidneys never fully developed and this affected her whole body. Throughout her short life, she was prone to UTIs and Pancreatitis.
We managed her symptoms fairly well. She took several medications regularly and had a very strict diet, and going out routine. Her Vet bills were ever-present but she was the most loving, silly, adorable pup in the world, and Jim and I both fell completely in love with her.
Then one day her back legs stopped working and she wasn’t able to get food into her mouth or swallow. It was like muscles were just freezing up. I rushed her to our vet and was sent to see a specialist. They told us she had Myesthenia Gravis and Megaesophagus. After three months of giving her Mestinon and trying to keep food and water down her, we lost her. She was just 2 1/2 years old.
Lucy’s death broke my heart. But even though I lost her, I wouldn’t trade one second of the time I got to spend with her. I was so blessed to get to have her in my life.
Help for Graves Disease and Stress
Each of those situations on its own was stressful. But since they all happened within the same three-year time span, I feel justified in saying that stress may have been a factor in triggering my Graves Disease. We can only handle so much emotion before it affects us physically. The amazing thing is I didn’t realize how stressful it all was until I took the time to reflect back on it. While it happened, I just plowed right through.
I try to do things differently now so I don’t unknowingly build up stress that will resurface later in another way.
- Drink tea
- Do yoga
- Take walks
- Eat healthily
Take care of your body so it has an easier time taking care of you.
- Organizes our thoughts
- Gives us something to reflect back on
- A private place to vent and purge
And you reap all of the benefits of journaling even if you only write a few bullet points a day.
- Gives your brain a rest by re-directing your thoughts
- Offers an escape from where you are when you can’t physically leave
- Sparks new ideas that help us in our real lives
- Can be incredibly entertaining or an opportunity to learn something new
- Forces us to sit and be quiet
Books are an amazing stress reducer. Even if you’ve never been big on reading, give it a try. Look for things you think you’ll enjoy and give yourself a half-hour a day to get started. It’s a very worthwhile hobby!
Think back to the years just before your first Graves Disease symptoms started and see what you can remember. Do you think a stressful event, or a series of stressful events, added to the onset of your disease? Feel free to comment here so we can chat about it.
If you’d like to learn more about how chronic stress affects the thyroid, this is a great site to visit: Natural Endocrine Solutions
You can also join my FACEBOOK GROUP to chat with fellow Gravesters.
Disclaimer: This post is based on my own personal experience. It is not intended as medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or medical condition.
Combination Journal and Symptom Trackers for Graves Disease.