Pay attention to your health while grieving.
After Ed died, I was struggling physically. I thought it was grief. What I didn’t realize was that I was really sick, and so I didn’t advocate for myself, and so I got worse, and I was sick for a little over a year. Really sick.
I was shaky. My heart was racing. I was tired, and my vision was funny. Also, a former dancer, I had no balance. I could not stand on one leg.
I assumed I was in a grief stupor; that seemed plausible to me because emotionally, I was also a train wreck.
Ed died in September 2010, and for the first few months, I coped by taking Ativan around the clock. The medication made almost all of my symptoms go away. Because Ativan is a muscle relaxant, and because my symptoms disappeared when I took it, I figured my body was under stress, and that’s why the Ativan worked.
Over the course of six months, I called my doctor three or four times. She, and the shrink who was prescribing the Ativan, just kept telling me to take more. But I refused. And so every day, I shook. My heart raced. I was exhausted. It was awful.
After a while, it became clear to me that something besides grief was going on.
I continued to get worse, and after I joined a business networking group in January 2011, I started seeing the nutritional therapist from the group, and the diet changes he recommended helped – but only a little.
So, a few months later, I went to see the physical therapist in the group because I had decided I wasn’t strong enough and needed to lift weights or otherwise get stronger. He asked me to stand on one leg and balance. No can do. He told me to see a doctor.
I went in for testing, and my blood work came back saying that I had hypothyroidism. Hearing the specialist tell me that after they radioactively killed my thyroid, I will feel better made me feel exuberantly hopeful. He told me grief triggered the disease.
Six months later, I was back to normal.
The point is: Be on the lookout where your health is concerned. Don’t assume your symptoms are related to your grief journey. If a doctor tells you nothing is wrong, advocate for yourself. Ask for action.
I wish I had asked my doctor, “What health conditions could cause these symptoms?”
I wish I hadn’t been so accepting.
I also wish I had listened to my mother. She noticed my shaking, and she told me three or four times, “Check your thyroid.” I kept telling her, “Mom, you don’t understand.”
Now I know, she was the only one who did.