When I arrived in Korea, I had my two months of the lowest dose of synthroid. I had already started to feel a bit better – my menstrual cycle normalized, my energy levels picked back up, I stopped feeling quite as dull-headed, and I started sleeping through the night and staying awake all day. When I got low, I went to the doctor at the local hospital and explained my situation – at the pharmacy, they gave me a year refill, and I assumed I should simply keep taking that dose. I figured I would return near the end of the year for another prescription.
I settled into my narrow efficiency apartment and my lackadaisical teaching schedule, and I thought I was doing all right. I was dependent on canned coffee – there are an infinite number of canned-coffee brands in Korea, and I found the most potent, cheap, and virulent brand – maize yellow and black in six-ounce cans.
Several months later, as my contract year was heading into its last heat, I started to feel lousy again. Tired all the time, slow all the time, unable to concentrate or muster any energy. And my lovely, supportive group of friends in Korea noted the mild deterioration and told me I should see a doctor.
(I had been second-guessing myself: What if I’m not sleeping well because I’m not sleeping well? What if I feel sluggish because I drink coffee all the time so I can stay awake? What if I just want more thyroid hormone so I can lose weight or something, and not because I seem to be having a recurrence of thyroid symptoms?)
I went back to the local hospital, explained that I had started to feel cruddy again, that I was tired and subtly unhappy all the time. They took a blood test, and then my doctor explained in his halting English – with frequent recourse to a pad of paper, on which he would write the same sentences he had just spoken – that I had thyroiditis. He prescribed me a higher dose of synthetic thyroid hormone, which I duly started taking.
And within a week or so I felt like a whole new person. It was the difference between being better and being well. I could remember things! I had energy! I didn’t have to swill coffee drinks all day!
I also started doing some elementary research into “thyroiditis,” which the doctor hadn’t explained in depth.