I’m back in Michigan, and I can’t sleep because it’s five in the evening in South Korea and three in the afternoon in Cambodia.
While I was living abroad, I had especial difficulty with time zones – when I first arrived in South Korea, I had a world clock on my desktop, and all it did was make me forget whether it was the middle of the day or the middle of the night where I was. I thought this was just the consequence of living in so very many countries. A feeling of dislocation.
And to be fair, I have lived in quite a few places – and moved back and forth across hemispheres between foreign gigs. So it would make sense that my sense of place would loosen, and that I would eventually forget whether I was meant to be in daylight or not.
To be fair, my life has been extremely stressful. To be fair, I didn’t earn a living wage until last year. To be fair, I have been exhausted. To be fair.
When I was in Argentina, and I first found out that I might have a thyroid problem, I was relieved. It meant that I had an excuse for all my exhaustion. I didn’t feel terrible because my life was terrible. I felt terrible because my body was ruining my life. And when I found out that my levels were apparently normal – depending on the standard you use – I was demoralized all over again: I couldn’t sustain my own life. And when I found out that ameliorating stress did not take away my symptoms, I was ashamed: I couldn’t sustain normal life.
And when I found out that I was hypothyroid after all, I was relieved all over again. It meant that I wasn’t crazy, that I didn’t have a mental illness, that I wasn’t mentally ill. I had a physical problem, one as easy to correct as anemia. One supplement, once a day – your body will never resist it or fail to respond to it, and your symptoms will disappear.
And when I found out that I may have had a thyroid problem for a lot longer than I thought, I was extremely relieved. Like I’ve said here, this means that a great many personality traits – a large portion of the negative ones – are symptoms. They’re not me. They’re my thyroid, little endocrine earthquakes.
Having a physiological rather than a mental illness doesn’t only mean less stigma. It means more control. As I’ve talked about this with friends, I’ve said again and again that it is so wonderful to be spared the constant titration and re-titration of doses, the new medications when the older ones cease to be effective, balancing medications and side effects and supplementary medications. Thyroid deficiency is easy to correct. My health is under my control again, and I never have to worry about a lapsing brain again.
And this too is a huge relief.
I’m writing this because my body and brain are being disobedient, and because they’re obeying their marching orders to South Korea. This diagnosis has allowed me to stop feeling so ashamed of my own brain, but it’s also allowed me to continue treating exhaustion like a pathology. Not a trait, not a response, a symptom.