Exactly one year ago, I was driving the long stretch of road down Highway 5 from Sacramento to Los Angeles. At about the half-way point (near Harris Ranch), I got an attack which almost caused me to lose consciousness. The back of my throat closed up, my muscles started spasming, and I couldn’t breath. I pulled over to the shoulder, gasping for air, feeling like my lips were turning blue. As soon as it started, it stopped. Not sure what to make of it, I pulled back onto the highway and continued on my way. Thirty seconds later, the same thing happened, but with more of a vengeance, and I stayed huddled in the fetal position for a few minutes before chugging water and being able to stay conscious enough to turn around. I hadn’t eaten in a long time, only snacks here and there within a few days. I had this overwhelming, innate feeling that I needed a power bar and water.
Before I could make it to a gas station, I third attack took over, the worst one yet. I was incapacitated in the fetal position for thirty minutes, trying to gather up the energy to pick up my phone and call 911. Finally, thankfully, luckily, the episode subsided, and I was able to make it a gas station. The power bar and water helped immensely, and I was able to make it all the way back up to Sacramento without needing to pull over again. When I got home, I went straight to sleep, and could’t get out of bed for the next three weeks, aside from a visit to the doctor’s office the next morning. After my tests came back, and weeks of dizzy spells, splitting headaches, and a growing feeling of fear for not knowing what was happening to me, I had an answer: Highly elevated TSH hormones indicating a loss of function of the thyroid gland—hypothyroidism. Within a week of starting medication (Levothyroxine) my dizzy spells ceased, my energy returned, and I actually began to feel normal.
This diagnosis turned my world upside down and drastically changed my life. I had just spent a year in Australia, and had a flight and visa confirmed for a year in New Zealand. I was only in Sacramento to visit family after coming home for Christmas. My flight was scheduled to depart on March 17th. One week before departure, I made the decision to cancel my trip. I was still having an onslaught of medical issues, my blood had to be rechecked in six weeks to monitor my dosage, and I did not feel moving out of the country was the best course of action for my current state. Before this, my plan was to live in New Zealand doing odd jobs, just as I had in Australia. Then from there, travel and work in Europe. I didn’t need to return to the states for ten more years (to renew my passport), and I was fully planning on accepting that challenge.
Now, I couldn’t even get in the driver’s seat because of PTSD from my attacks. I was a 30 year old who had just left her career in Hollywood as an actress in pursuit of long term travel, and now that was taken away. Who was I now? What was I going to do?
I’m doing much better, physically and mentally. My dosage has been changed for the fourth time, but I’m still encountering issues with exerting physical energy (maybe adrenals?). I was playing basketball a few weeks ago, when another attack occurred. Not even a full game, just shooting hoops. My body began violently shivering and this continued for 30 minutes. I drank three full bottles of water before the shaking subsided, leaving me absolutely exhausted in its wake. I went from avid trail running and weight lifting, to not being able to run even a few minutes. Still figuring this symptom out (any suggestions?).
Currently in the process of finding answers while forcing myself to venture out and test my new limits. I refuse to sit on the couch. Even if I have to stop every 10 minutes, I will be out on the trails again and venturing to other countries.