|Stress — the second part of a promised two-part piece. Last week we talked about autoimmune diseases and gluten-free diets.
The other day, I stumbled across a peer-reviewed medical study from 2008. It was about STRESS. And honestly, it knocked the wind out of me.
Because it spoke to so many (mainly) women and me. I thought I’d share the findings with you so you can slyly watch over your daughters, sisters, granddaughters and the rest of the women in your life.
When I was forty years old, I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. (That’s a fancy term for ‘your thyroid, that thing that controls your metabolism, is slowing down to a bare crawl’) There was no understanding of why it occurred. Just that it did, and here’s a pill. That daily pill thing worked beautifully. Until it didn’t.
I was lucky(!) to be hit by the viral infection called streptococcal meningitis, which began a chain reaction of things that took nearly eight years to figure out. This past January, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
It is an autoimmune disease where cells attack the thyroid protein rendering the metabolism severely effed up. It seems to be an automatic next step in the thyroid world as soon as we are hit with a viral inflection. (Flu, pneumonia, herpes, HIV and COVID are all very common viral infections.)
And as mentioned last week, a gluten-free diet has halted most of the fallout symptoms from the autoimmune disease.
Back to the peer-reviewed medical paper
Seems some research was finally done into why women appear to be the ones who get the messed-up thyroids and have the lion’s share of autoimmune problems. News flash: most of us experienced some (major for kids) trauma when we were younger.
Things like parents getting divorced, violence in the household, one or more parents with a drug or alcohol problem, the death of a friend or relative, rape, and even siblings being arrested, jailed, or tossed out of the home.
Now, these kinds of events mess with the internal hormones of ALL kids.
However, when a girl is on the receiving end of several of these issues, it does damage that takes years to come to light. According to the study, those of us who experience these kinds of things in childhood all had and have the same reaction. “It was nothing. I toughed it out. I survived, so really, it was nothing.” Even for those of us with multiples of these nastier stresses!
Now let’s add on the real things that happen in our adult lives.
Women continue to jump into the happy stresses of higher education and then put up with the usual BS for outperforming so many of their male counterparts. Throw those same women in the workplace. A workplace that, for the most part, still caters to the privileges of the white male, blithely ignoring the equality of the female.
Add the responsibility of balancing a household and children and then maybe an alcoholic spouse, a child or two with significant medical issues, the death of a child or spouse and then especially, if she is the eldest daughter – a turn at caregiving for at least one parent, and what have you got? A no-win situation for a once brilliant and ambitious talent. Something has to give.
No wonder there is a huge uptick in thyroid and auto-immune issues!
Here are a few downsides of thyroid imbalances for a woman.
She loses her self-confidence because she can’t keep her weight under control, she is constantly cold, her hair thins dramatically, and often clumps of hair appear in the brush, and the drain; her brain is foggy, and she struggles to get her thoughts into a coherent logic, her ability to control her emotions drastically declines.
And if she does not have a family doctor with at least a bit of experience with women’s propensity for thyroid issues (and there are way too many still in practice), she won’t get a good diagnosis for up to twenty years.
I am not ignoring you guys. You, too, have been plagued by way more stress these days. MOST of you are not bothered with autoimmune issues because, in my humble opinion, you have mastered something that we women have yet even to understand.
Tuning out what you really don’t want to deal with.
That is the one good thing you have that you can turn to at any time. It is your escape hatch. Women are exceptionally slow learners about that whole tuning-out thing. To us, it is a very foreign concept.
We only know how to suck it up, keep on going, keep giving, and handle yet another load of stress. It’s nothing; we’ve done it all our lives, and we can keep on keeping on. The fact that our bodies are screaming at us in a language we rarely understand doesn’t register. Until it is too late.
Please, the next time the women in your world seem headed to another meltdown, sit with them. They need you, and they probably have no idea just how much. Ask them what is going on and listen. Don’t try to solve anything. Listen.
Speaking from first-hand experience, believe me. You will be giving them more than you can imagine.