Once I could walk from one side of town to the other without issue. I worked on my own car, I carried my children with ease. These days a simple task such as folding laundry can wear me down. Half way through the day I can feel exhausted and the only thing I’ve done is shower and cook a meal. I spend every day living with Graves` Disease. I don’t believe that most people realize that. I feel when they see me in my wheelchair or with my walker they judge me harshly. I notice the sideways glances and in some ways, I have grown used to them, but it is always in the back of my mind. I want to help them understand what it is like to live with the invisible Graves` Disease.
I was first diagnosed with Graves` Disease when I was 31 years old. For years I had been misdiagnosed with having bi-polar disorder and was told that it was the reason for my mood swings. At the time there was no Affordable Care Act, and I had no health insurance. My husband’s job did not provide dependent insurance and I was working in fast food which provided health insurance, but it was very expensive and not very good. Because of these factors I wasn’t seeing a doctor on a regular basis and went undiagnosed for a very long time. I was miserable and always complaining about various ailments, so much so that my husband regularly told me that he thought I was a hypochondriac. To hear my long list of complaints, I’m sure most people would have agreed with him. Even I questioned whether I was being over dramatic.
We were still living in our first little apartment. It was a one bedroom on the second floor of a small complex. I noticed that over time climbing the single flight of stairs to our apartment became more difficult instead of easier, this was very frustrating as I couldn’t understand why. I also couldn’t understand why I a 31-year-old female was losing hair? This made no sense to me. Hair loss only happened to men, or so I thought. I also noticed that any time I received a small wound such as a scratch it would take an unusually long time to heal. My hands constantly shook and were unsteady, something I originally attributed to drinking too much caffeine. I had trouble sleeping and I was either burning up hot or freezing cold. There was no middle ground. I had developed a goiter which is a large lump on the neck. I had lost a lot of weight, that was the one thing I was happy about. I had spent most of my life being chubby and somewhat over weight, so to finally be thin had me thrilled. However, the longest running symptom I dealt with were the emotional problems. The mood swings I had made me believe there was something horribly wrong with me. Sometimes at night I would lay awake for hours trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Why was I so depressed that I couldn’t get out of bed? This had been going on for so long, that I was desperate to get any kind of help. I no longer wanted to feel worthless. Put plainly, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.