My childhood wish to have an overactive thyroid finally came true. Fifty-two years late, I do remember wishing for it. How would I not?
In my mind I looked like Ginger Rogers
Sometime in first grade I changed from a cute little girl to look like a pie eating contestant. I’ve yet to compete in such a contest. I wouldn’t have any trouble finishing; my challenge is to stop at one piece. Or one pie.
I had fractured my skull that summer, the result of colliding with a car and flying over it like a field goal on the football field. I landed on my head. After leaving the hospital from a prolonged stay, I had to restrain myself from most activities. Bicycling, dancing, running, skating, acrobatics, rough-housing and duck-duck-goose were off the itinerary for close to a year. I could walk, sit and lay down. I spent a good deal of time sitting at the table exercising the acts of chewing and swallowing. Not long after I was released from the hospital, my uncle on my mom’s side died of lung cancer, no doubt the result of chain-smoking. My mom dumped her Pall Mall cigarettes into the trash and to my knowledge never picked up another. She was depressed and more than a little bit cranky. To add insult to injury, my grandmother on my dad’s side died about six months later. A heavy sadness hung over our household. We ate to cover up the pain of our losses. With all the eating and no activity I was starting to get hassled about my weight.
Everywhere I went I was made fun of. I’d walk to school wishing I were invisible. Each day at grade school was a nightmare. My bully always sat close to me, seated by the teachers with blinders on. They tormented me daily. I was a pretty blue kid back then. Offered as a pain killer for humiliation was cake (Eat this! It’ll make you feel better!).
My mother made it her mission to trim me down. She enrolled me in swimming lessons and I got to get out of school early twice a week (even though I was swimming in Lake Erie by age 3). Yes, we had Phys-Ed, most of which I stood on the sidelines unpicked to be on a team. “If only you were thin,” Mom would sigh from the sewing machine. She made my clothing or let out the hand-me-downs from older sisters. As I approached the seventh grade she drove me clear across the Metropolitan Detroit area to see a diet doctor specializing in hypnotherapy to get me to lose weight. He never did hypnotize me. I saw the cash Mom handed over for each session and pretended the black and white swirling disk the doctor put before me had put me out. I memorized the mantras he repeated, always relieved I didn’t have to fake strutting around his office like a chicken. I lost weight for a while and I did it for mom.
Pretending to be asleep eventually became boring. My mind wandered, drifting ever further from the chants for the chubby. Mom grew weary of the long drive in freeway traffic to hand over cash to a fat diet doctor. The pounds came back fully packed, just like old times. Nearly all the girls I knew were normal weight or skinny. A girl who didn’t have to shop at Lane Bryant’s was lucky. They may have been anorexic, but they had that in their good fortune; no one ever called a starving child fatty.
Mom was convinced there had to be a magic bullet to cure me of my excess pounds. After all the diets and pills forced on me, my thyroid became the focus. It had to be under active. The thyroid tests always came back on the low side of normal and she was ecstatic. All I knew was that the thyroid was solely responsible for burning up the food I ate. If it could be kicked up a few notches I would miraculously be home free, out of the half sizes. Everyone would see me as witty and fun. I would be popular beyond imagination. I’d get invited to more birthday parties than just my own. I had an equation: Parties = friends + cake. Another one: Overactive thyroid + overactive appetite = no worries, just eat. So I wished for an overactive thyroid. Math is not my forte.
Yup, I got my wish recently. Along with my dream come true came anxiety, depression, over dry skin, brittle nails, and menopausal symptoms. I lived through hot flashes and night sweats for fifteen years, now those are back, every girl’s dream. The only part of me which is thinning out is my hair. I’ve gained eight pounds in 3 months.My blue jeans are tight. My overactive thyroid encouraged an overactive appetite. I feel like 20 pounds of extra Janet in a 5 pound can. Never mind being cranky.
My overactive thyroid has worked out a deal with my pituitary gland. They think they are working in my best interest. My thyroid kicks out an excess of T3 and T4 hormones. These hormones help to control several bodily functions including temperature, heart rate and of course metabolism. To smooth things out, my pituitary gland spits out extra TSH, slowing down the process in a balancing act, as I understand it. I’m not a health professional, so please excuse my encapsulated explanation. Fantastic news.
The thyroid can really mess a person up, as can desperate wishes. If I could offer anyone a tidbit of advice: Do research before you make a wish. Avoid the cake, no matter how high your T3 & T4 levels. And please don’t tolerate bullies.
Since I’m such a sucker for sweets, I posted a cake and frosting recipe in a post named Birthday Cake.
Thank you for reading.
© Janet Radtke Stockton December 2013