Hello and welcome to Breakfast with Sussi.
This is the story of my journey, diagnosis of hypothyroidism and Adrenal insufficiency, treatment and coming back to health, though a greatly revised version of what I wanted and expected. My hope is that my story may offer YOU hope. You may be angry, frustrated, depressed, searching for answers as I was and still am. I’ve learned some things and it’s time to give back… but first, here’s my story..
I was on my fourth career when things started falling apart. For 27 years, I’d worked with children and families, developing programs, implementing national disability legislation and programs, advocating for better legislation for children’s programs, training and supervising teachers and aides, collaborating with developmental research projects, and advocating for any individual who needed help navigating the legal, medical healthcare or educational system, mentoring young teachers, serving on child advocacy and various boards. For fun I gardened, sewed, sang with an a capella Anglican chorale and restored two historic homes.
My second career lasted for two years, when I and eight others -a life lesson I’ll share later- owned a lovely bookstore focusing on personal development, spiritual growth and health. Our juried art gallery was always full. We carried local artisan and handcrafted works, as well as items from third world sustainable economy programs. Our workshops and classes in yoga, tai chi, aromatherapy, meditation, were well attended. Our mailing list was extensive and our newsletters packed with new items, book reviews, lectures and classes. I loved it. It was hard work. Some of the relationships were painful, some supportive. I lost my shirt and got a graduate degree in life.
Several months after closing the store, I began working in my Episcopal parish — a small, liberal church with 250 members. During my four years there, I blossomed as never before, facilitating local and regional programs on music, yoga, the labyrinth, Carl Jung, spirituality and the arts; recruiting a large team of volunteers who served as administrative assistants to answer phones, manage monthly newsletters, facilitated development of committees and liaisons with priest and vestry; created marketing and publicity campaigns for workshops, conferences, special events; developed a facility rental program that paid the mortgage by providing space to children’s theatre, music groups, play writer reading groups, AA, NA and other support groups. It was a wonderful, busy time… then my marriage began to fall apart, and I had my first episode of symptoms. Foot drop, eye droop, fatigue and foggy thinking. One doc said MS. Another said ‘stress’. No one said… ‘Hey, you’ve had 8 miscarriages, are hypo-glycemic, you were hyper-active but always needed to lose 10-15 lbs. These symptoms look like thyroid issues’. No one.
During the divorce, I changed jobs and began working with a small locally owned company that markets the cities and beaches of coastal North Carolina. I’ve always been a networker and loved the area so much that I stayed after moving here in 1980, so this was a good fit. I’m also anal with details, and quickly learned the business and technology. Over time, we developed an online business management system that automated some processes, then changed the business plan from printing travel guides to 16 online city/beach guides. I was having a blast- but then I’ve loved all of my jobs. I was working out, doing yoga five days a week; dancing with an African Dance and Drum Troupe through a NC Arts Council grant, volunteering with Lower Cape Fear Hospice to build an outdoor labyrinth, taking ballroom dance, dating again…..life was good.
Then, in 2006, chronic health issues slammed the brakes on most of my activities; dancing, singing, volunteering…. and the joy slowly seeped out of my life as I sat at home being ‘good’, following the rules, resting, or trying to; feeling bored, lonely and frustrated that no amount of research, doctors, medicines, supplements, exercise/no exercise, dietary changes, therapies, seemed to make a significant difference. Sound familiar? I now knew that I’d been hypothyroid since my 20’s, had other endocrine issues, eight miscarriages, and after 30 years of insufficient thyroid hormones, my hypothalmus, pituitary, liver, kidneys and adrenals were all involved. I was a mess.
Six years later….August 2012, I was as low as I’ve been, wondering what quality of life I had left, still fighting ‘being sick’ after 6 years. One day, I realized that I was seeing the light on a far away rim of what felt like a very deep, dark, cold well, and I was at the bottom. It was the first time I realized how cold, lonely and helpless I felt. Then, the rim seemed a little closer, and I could see myself climbing up, very, very slowly. Maybe I could stop fighting, stop grieving, and learn to live with my limitations with grace and beauty. Rather than focus on my chronic illness, I decided to being thinking about my ‘chronic wellness’.
The grief was there, for a life lost, dreams buried, burning below the surface, then my son-in-law’s mother died suddenly. Two weeks later my mother died and two weeks later my daughter delivered two weeks early. So much pain and joy, mingled together… so much letting go of the past, of who I had been, of my definitions and expectations of what my life would be like. I couldn’t attend either funeral, certainly not travel out-of-state to Mom’s, to be with my siblings and family. That was a huge blow, not to be present, especially as the oldest. Traveling and helping my daughter and son in law with the baby would have put me in bed for weeks.
What a helpless, useless feeling… then…. I understood that I’d been fighting, so much time and energy resisting what was happening… rather than looking at my situation with eyes of love and acceptance. No one was telling me that I had to continue living as I had in the past. No one was saying that if I couldn’t do 90 minutes of flow, Ashtanga or Bikram yoga, that I wasn’t worthy. As a social worker and therapist, I had often helped others with their grief process of denial, anger, grief, acceptance. I hadn’t realized now much I was denying that I might never ‘get well’. ‘Physician Heal Thyself’ was tattooed on my forehead, but I hadn’t seen it….
Just before the New Year 2013, something started changing. Was it a new yoga program I’d started? Perhaps it was the teacher’s assessment of me, acknowledging my strengths and gifts, or the loving, patient wisdom of a new friend. Sometimes, we need to be seen with new eyes, and seen in all of our glory, even when we’re ill and feeling badly. I’ve found that when my body is out of balance and I’m not doing the things I love, simple things such as cooking, taking a walk in the early morning, yoga, gardening, art, simple housekeeping tasks, I begin to sink into that shadowy place of not feeling good about myself, not remembering the wholeness and beauty of who I am, and my light begins to fade.
Healing means many things and how we get there is often a complex, circuitous and mysterious process. Medicine is only one of many Healing Arts that we can use to improve our quality of life and health. I’m thankful for the many friends, family members, health care, alternative health care and healing arts professionals, for the strangers who’ve often unknowing offered some gift of hope and vision for a new life. Thankful for those who’ve listened to me recite research articles, biochemistry, medical and nutritional theories, mind/body techniques, shared strange meals with me, wondered if I’d abandoned family and friends when I disappeared for weeks at a time, listened to me complain, explain, and finally, refuse to talk about it, as I’ve struggled to understand the ‘why’ of my inability to do the things I did so easily for all of my adult life. For seven years, I’ve been apologizing for not being my formerly perfect self. I’m done.
Now, I’m looking at what I AM able to do, what feeds me, energizes me, refreshes me and allows me to continue to live a life that is still rich and full. I’m ready to give back, again.
That’s why I’ve started Breakfast with Sussi. I needed a fresh start, a new day. You may need that, too. I’m offering a new beginning each day, with thoughtful gentleness, humor, and information, with the intention of cultivating a deep sense of honor and respect for ourselves, with peace and gratitude to carry us into Chronic Wellness. Even if you’re mad as hell, as I was, there’s a place and time for that in the process.
I’m interested in knowing how you’re living with health issues, whether yours or someone close to you. Please comment or write and let me know how you’re doing.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding some free downloads, more articles, and will schedule Google video chats on various topics. What would you like to see here?