Living with an underactive thyroid

What’s it like living with an underactive thyroid? (hypothyroidism)

Of course I can only speak from my own experience but here’s my story. I finally got diagnosed with an underactive thyroid back in the Summer of 1997.

I’d been struggling to get pregnant and had erratic periods, often going for months at a time without one. I couldn’t understand it, I felt sick, I felt tired the whole time, I had all the symptoms of pregnancy without actually being pregnant. Month after month my hopes were dashed with yet another negative pregnancy test.

Eventually I went to the doctors and thankfully saw a lovely lady doctor who happened to be married to an endocrinologist. She sharply dispatched me off to see him. He ran some tests which were a bit inconclusive.

The following session we saw one of his colleagues. I had taken my mum with me to the appointment. Mum had an underactive thyroid, as had her mum before her (there can be a family element to having an underactive thyroid, often passing down the female line)

She said to him ‘do you think it could be an underactive thyroid?’ He looked at her as if she had just fallen out of the sky and said ‘Of course it isn’t that but I’ll do a test just to prove you wrong’ (you can see where this is going, can’t you?!)

His theatrical finger-pointing at my mother added an extra layer of drama to the situation, emphasising each individual word with an air prod with his pointy finger!

Anyway, scroll on a couple of weeks and we go back to the clinic to receive the results of the tests. This time he looked a bit subdued… A bit like he had his tail between his legs.

A meek and mild demeanour had replaced his previous rather surly attitude. ‘Oh!’ He said. ‘Your levels are so bad I’m surprised you were well enough to come to the hospital! I can only apologise!’

We left the hospital with a prescription for a low dose of levothyroxine which was the start of me beginning to feel a bit more ‘normal’

living with an underactive thyroid - image of woman with cold hands wearing a wooly hat

Clues that I was living with an underactive thyroid

Looking back, there were loads of clues that I was living with an underactive thyroid. I had permanently cold hands and feet. Even through the heat of summer, my hands were icy cold the whole time. I’d be cold the whole time. I’d be wearing two jumpers even in July!

I was tired the whole time. I literally embodied the phrase ‘permanently exhausted pigeon’ I was just so tired. I found it hard to do daily stuff.

Shopping was a nightmare. If I had  a choice of shopping at a shop on this side of the street or crossing over to the one on the other side I would have to shop at the one on this side as I didn’t have the energy to cross the road! I’d have to park the car as close to where I was going as I didn’t have energy to walk across town.

Cooking used to tire me out. I remember back in those days potatoes used to come with the soil still on them and I didn’t have energy to scrub them or peel them so we ended up living on easy foods like rice or pasta just because I wasn’t able to peel vegetables.

And as for cleaning the house! No chance. I was too tired and my brain was so foggy I found it hard to know where to start.

living with an underactive thyroid brain fog. Image of woman with cotton wool for a brain

Brain Fog/ Impaired Concentration

When I was first diagnosed with an underactive thyroid my brain was so foggy. It was like the thoughts were there but the connections between them were missing. Brain fog and poor concentration are another well known symptom of an underactive thyroid.

I’d struggled at school for years, my teachers could never understand why I didn’t do as well as I was expected to and I suspect that has a lot to do with having brain fog.

Exams and tests were always a bit of a nightmare as it was like someone had literally wiped the thoughts from my head and I found it impossible to make connections between different pieces of information or write things in a logical way.

I could never remember who my favourite pop group was, so used to stab in the dark and say ‘Phil Collins’ then I used to get bullied for that! I probably should have said something cooler like AC/DC or something!

moon face

Moon Face/ Facial Puffiness

Another big clue to the fact I had an underactive thyroid was that my face was rounded. I used to get bullied at school for this too! Why no one (other than my mother!) saw this as a sign that I was living with an underactive thyroid is beyond me! 

7 great ways to reduce your stress levels. Image of stressed woman lying on bed holding her hands over her face

Low mood, Low Self-Esteem, Weight Gain, Anxiety

Having an underactive thyroid left me feeling very low. I couldn’t keep up with things other people my age were doing. I was anxious a lot of the time.

Hypothyroidism often makes you prone to gaining weight and losing weight can be tricky.

Seeing images in the media of other women with their gorgeous slim bodies and me being too tired to do anything particularly useful left me feeling low and with very little self-esteem. I was often called ‘lazy’ which didn’t help much either as you can imagine!

living with an underactive thyroid feet in grass

How life is now my thyroid medication is at the right level

After many years of tweaking and adjusting my medication, I’m feeling much better!

I can drive long distances without needing an overnight stop to recover. I can walk around town without needing an afternoon nap when I get back. I have the energy to peel potatoes and chop vegetables. I can remember which musicians I like. My face is less puffy. My self-esteem is much better than it was. I often consider that I can do things now that I couldn’t have done 20 years ago.

Whilst I don’t necessarily think that I feel ‘normal’ exactly, I feel so much better than I did do.

What about you? Are you living with an underactive thyroid?

What’s your story? How do you find it? When were you diagnosed. How do you feel now? Please let me know in the comments below!


Sarah Cooper

Sarah Cooper

I am a Reflexologist, Reiki Master Practitioner and Writer from Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire. I love writing about Health and Wellbeing, Mind Body Spirit and Reflexology. When I’m not at work, you can find me in the kitchen cooking up a storm!

If you’d like to book a treatment please go to

Sarah Cooper

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