What my auto-immune disorder has taught me about privilege

A few months after my son was born I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Disease.  While Hashimoto’s might sound like it would be associated with cool Asian ninjas or something like that, it’s not.  It’s an auto-immune disorder in which my body fights against my thyroid gland so it doesn’t produce enough of it’s thyroid junk (I know super medically technical here) which causes a range of random issues.  I mean really, the list of symptoms for low thyroid is long and random.  I experience everything from sluggishness to increased cold sensitivity to depression.  Other symptoms I’ve been lucky enough to skip over include hair loss and infertility, however I have a good friend who experiences these struggles.

The most obvious symptom for me, and perhaps my favorite (not) is unexplained weight gain.  Quick crash course in Hashimoto’s, one of the major associated problems is low metabolic rate, and digestive issues that prevent your body from absorbing nutrients properly.  When your body doesn’t receive enough nutrients it thinks it’s starving, so it goes into this like hibernation mode and starts hoarding everything it DOES get, in case the apocalypse comes tomorrow.  Seeing how the apocalypse keeps not coming all it does is make me gain weight, or prevent me from losing weight.

Now, I know what you may be thinking because before I was diagnosed, and frankly before I started seeing a specialist, doctors kept telling me the same thing.  Losing weight isn’t that hard, it’s just a matter of eating less and exercising more.  Hahahaha, shut up.  It’s not actually that simple.  I typically eat less than 1500 calories, I exercise regularly, and I’m on my feet either cleaning or chasing children for a decent portion of the day.  So if it was a simple math equation I would be pretty darn skinny.  But it’s not that simple and I’m not that skinny.

Now here comes all the but it’s the type of calories you eat, and you need to try this work out, and have you done this cleanse.  You need to be Vegan.  You need to be Keto.  Go dairy and gluten free.  Sugar is a tool of Satan.  Eat this super food and try this shake.

And I’m sure all of those things would probably help, but here’s where we start talking about privilege.

It has come to my attention that there is a decent amount of the population who eats normal foods in moderation (including dessert) and exercises moderately who stay at a pretty normal weight.  I’m not talking about body builders and fitness fanatics, I completely recognize that they work really hard to keep their bodies at peak performance.  I’m talking about your run of the mill human beings who have normal lives with normal sized bodies who can shop in the normal section of a clothing store.  They might have 5-10 pounds they’d like to lose, but overall they look fine and feel fine.

Now don’t tell me these people don’t exist, because I know some of them.  I see slender people post pictures out getting ice cream with their spouse or friends.  A few months back I walked past a room full of thin ladies sharing a box of doughnuts, they are all still thin.

Here’s the thing, I spent a lot of time meticulously counting calories consumed and expended.  I’d be so good for several weeks and lose a couple pounds, just to have one moment of weakness, eat two cookies, and gain 3 pounds.  It’s a vicious cycle and those cookies didn’t weigh three pounds.

It’s excessively frustrating to be putting in extra effort and achieve no results while watching others put in normal effort and achieve normal results.

That’s a privilege, that normalcy.

That doesn’t mean that I think naturally slender people should have to share some of my fat to be fair.  No one owes me their healthy thyroid.  And I’m not going to sit around whining about my crappy thyroid (ok, I take that back, sometimes I do).

So when someone brings up other aspects of privilege- race/ethnicity, socio-economic level, upbringing, gender, etc. please don’t take it as an insult or a threat to what you have.  Don’t assume that they think it should be taken away or that you didn’t work for what you do have.

But…please be aware that there are unseen forces that can cause different groups a unique set of challenges.  And as Margot Lee Shetterly put it in her book Hidden Figures they may “need to be twice as good to get half as far.”

If you can’t do anything else, just respect the challenge.

When the boy from the inner-city school who was raised by a single mom with a GED ends up in a low paying job; rather than pointing out the obvious that his life might have turned out better had he gone to college, respect the challenge!

When the child of immigrants didn’t complete their homework because they were translating for their parents; rather than assume they were lazy, respect the challenge!

When a woman is passed over for a potential promotion for which she was well qualified, rather than pointing out that she took time off for her children when the man did not, respect the challenge!

Once you’ve got that down, then we can start to look at potential changes to level the playing field.

Last summer I finally reached a point where I had to see a specialist for my thyroid.  Literally the first thing he said when he walked in was, “Let me guess, they keep telling you that you are low side of normal.”  I nodded my head.  Then he said what I had been thinking for YEARS.  “Well if you’re developing nodules and can’t lose weight then obviously that’s not enough thyroid.”  Over the next several months and under close monitoring he more than doubled my dose of medication.

And guess what…I lost 40 pounds.  And I didn’t even have to do anything crazy.  Suddenly with a normal amount of effort I began achieving normal results.  I didn’t even have to force my fat on innocent skinny people.  With a small change that just evened the playing field, I was suddenly able to succeed.  I didn’t have to be twice as good to get nowhere, I could be normal and get somewhere.

There are many programs and groups that attempt to level the playing field with varying results.  I’m not here to debate each approach, but I do think we need to start being aware and considering what can be done as far as supporting ways to level the playing field.  This will be different for everyone but it may come in the form of voting in favor of certain programs, donating time or money, or just starting by changing your heart and attitude.

One last lesson I learned.  Don’t use your challenge as an excuse to make it worse.  Like I said, it’s very frustrating to put in effort and not see real results so at certain points I ended up using that as an excuse to self sabotage.  While losing weight was extremely difficult before my doctor fixed my meds, sitting around eating ice cream definitely did not help the situation.

I read this great blog post comparing privilege to cars sharing the road with bikes, “What my bike taught me about white privilege.”  The basic analogy is that being white or otherwise privileged is like driving a car and being underprivileged is like riding a bike.  While it’s legal and gets you where you need to go, the road is not designed with bikes in mind and favors cars a great deal, even if not by law by social practice.  You really should read the post.

However, after I read it, I thought about the times I’ve been driving when a bicyclist has put themselves in a very dangerous situation by not obeying the laws.  Most often by riding against traffic and not wearing a helmet.  Everyone retains their personal responsibility to do what is in their power to make their situation better.

So while it is so important for those with privilege to respect the challenges of others and reasonably attempt to level the playing field, it’s also so important not to make the situation worse by eating all the ice cream or riding against traffic.

 

 

 

 

Audiobooks: So that talking to myself isn’t my only adult interaction of the day

I love having the opportunity to be home with my kids.  We do our best to get out of the house, have play dates, go to museums, etc.  They require a lot of brain power sometimes, especially when figuring out discipline.  But it’s a different kind of brain power than I used while working and going to school.  They are a little less intellectually stimulating.

I see women, especially stay at home moms, commenting regularly on the internet about feeling like they are losing themselves.  Me too.  I’ve been there, still there sometimes.  I mean we all love our kids, and for many of us the staying home thing is a CHOICE we made.  But if you’re not careful, kids and basic child and home care can suck the life out of you.

As I mentioned in my birth stories post, I started suffering from depression while I was pregnant with my second.  I then faced a very traumatic birth experience which left me with Post Traumatic Stress on top of PPD and a predisposition to anxiety.  When I say a predisposition to anxiety I mean that when I am at my typical baseline I can cope fine without the help of medication, certain situations and circumstances can put me over the edge, but overall I’m fine and functional.  That wasn’t the case during the pregnancy or after.  I ended up being treated with medication after, which I am so glad I did, but I also didn’t want to be on it forever.

I found a really great primary care doctor who wanted to help me with my goals, we set up a plan for me to take the meds for 6 months and in the meantime work on building up my ability to cope so that I could wean off the meds and be fine.

So she asked me what I could do for ME, something that had nothing to do with kids or home or even my husband, just ME.  I was pretty stumped.  I sing in a community choir once a week, which is awesome and a great outlet, but it’s once a week.  She wanted me to figure something out daily.  She asked me what I used to do before kids that was for me….uh…..this shouldn’t be that hard to think of, but I mean back then everything was for me because I didn’t have kids.  So that was my homework assignment, to take some time to figure something out that could be just for ME.

I did some soul searching.  I mean whatever it was going to be it couldn’t really take up much time because then you have to find babysitters which can end up just adding extra stress and anxiety because then you have to find someone that’s available and hope that you aren’t causing them extra stress, and do you pay them or trade because too much of both would just add more stress and then there’s the financial commitment of going to something like Yoga which is everyone’s first idea of what you should do if you struggle with anxiety, but I’m not flexible so yoga might just be frustrating and add to my anxiety anyway…. and now you probably feel anxious as well as you realize how much my brain over thinks and can’t just do something for me.

So needless to say, yoga was out.  I started thinking about what I felt like I was missing that I used to have.  The two things that came to me were intellectual stimulation and frequent adult interaction.  I have awesome friends, but we’re not together all day like you are with coworkers.

Then the little light bulb went off in my brain.  When I have light bulb moments all the crazy racing thoughts calm down.  For me, that’s how I know that the Spirit is telling me something, the storm of thoughts calms down and I can think clearly through a plan.  Audiobooks that little voice said.  They take no extra time away from my family so I don’t have to worry about babysitters or the mom guilt of leaving them.  I can listen to them while I drive which also fixed the annoyance I was starting to feel at every song on the radio (I think I got old, I can’t stand what the kids are listening to these days).  I can listen while I do housework which makes housework more fun because I try not to think of it as chore time as much as audiobook time.  I pick books that are intellectually stimulating and there’s an adult voice talking at me.  So it doesn’t remove my need for actual adult interaction, but it’s way better than the little voices on Umi Zoomi and Bubble Guppies (although of the kids shows out there I do find these ones less annoying).

Pause- why not just actually read?  For me I struggle with taking the time to sit down and read when there are so many things I feel like I should be getting done.  Also, nothing puts me to sleep faster than reading.  In high school my mom legit read the entirety of Jane Eyre out loud to me because when I sat down to read it within ten minutes I would be asleep.  This also might sound silly, but holding a book hurts my neck and arms- pathetic right, like I should probably do some arm exercises so I can hold the weight of a book up.  Finally, you can’t read and drive so it would cut out a significant amount of my “reading” time.

I’ve been listening to books basically constantly now since January and I’m loving it.  It’s been a great way to use my phone as a tool instead of a trap.  I’ve been very inspired by a lot of the books and also feel like I can have more meaningful conversations.  I was struggling a lot when people asked what I was up to in life, well….kids.  And again, I love my kids and I will tell people about my kids, but now I also have something for ME to add in to conversations.

Side note- I was able to successfully get off my meds a few months ago.  Now, I’m not suggesting that audiobooks are a CURE for depression and anxiety.  But for me, finding something that is fun, stimulating, and focused solely on my interests instead of the interests of my family has helped me feel like me again which in turn has helped me be a better mom and wife.  You’ve gotta take care of yourself before you can really take care of others.

So without much further ado…what have I been listening to and how I access them?  Here comes some unsponsored reviews.

First off, how I access them.  I primarily use the app Overdrive, but also sometimes use Audible.

Overdrive:

Pros:  It’s FREE!!!  You sign in to your library using your library card and then you can access a bunch of audiobooks (or e-books if that’s your thing).

Cons:  It’s free…which means that there are frequently wait lists for more popular books.  Once a book is checked out you have 2 weeks before it disappears on you (but hey, you never have to worry about late fees).  I’ve run into issues before where I’ve been on a few wait lists and suddenly 2 books are checked out to me at the same time, I think if you are watching your place in the lineup and you realize that might happen you can let someone go ahead of you in line, but I don’t pay enough attention and haven’t tried it, so then I have 2 books to finish in only 2 weeks.  You’re also limited to what they have available, you can suggest books for them to buy, but you are left to them to decide if they will or not and on their timetable.

Audible:

Pros: Lots more books, no time constraints because you own it.

Cons: Not free.  Audiobooks can be a little pricey but you can subscribe and then use credits to buy books typically at a discount (except some books cost less than a credit is worth to buy them outright).

I use Overdrive most of the time because I enjoy free, but periodically we subscribe to Audible for a month or 2 to get credits and my husband and I buy a few books at a time.  We have very different book interests so we share an account, but for the most part don’t share books, every now and then we find something for a road trip that we both find interesting.

Now for some book reviews!

I am Malala by Christina Lamb, Malala Yousafzai, and Patricia McCormick:  I kinda feel like this should be mandatory reading for our country right now.  This really helped me understand what has been going on in the Middle East.  It also helped me learn so much more about different groups within the Islamic faith.  I felt empowered as a woman and an educator, I felt my heart grow and develop greater charity, and I felt sad that so many people judge Muslims based on a such a small group of extremists.  If you only read one book from my list, make it this one.

My Story by Elizabeth Smart: very inspiring and well presented.  It’ll make you think twice about leaving windows open or picking up a hitch hiker.  She is very honest and straightforward about what happened to her without being uncomfortably graphic.

Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielsen: this is about the LDS blogger who was in a plane crash and burned over 80% of her body.  This was really powerful.  I loved how real and open she was about the struggles, both physical and emotional, that she went through in her healing process.  It was really inspiring.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: Holy Cow!  This is the story of Louis Zamperini an Olympic track star turned second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps during World War II.  He survived 47 days floating on a raft (which is a crazy enough story as it is) only to then be captured and spend the next 3 years in various Japanese prisoner of war camps, only to have to come home and figure out how on earth to piece a life back together.  His story is a beautiful example of endurance, love, and faith.  I learned a lot of things about the Pacific Theater that I didn’t know previously.  I feel like the main focus in my schooling about World War II was on the European Theater, which is really important to know and understand, and there’s only so much time that can be devoted to it, but it was really interesting to learn more about what was going on on the other side of the world.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Another World War II story, this one is a work of fiction.  This is book is beautiful.  He is really able to paint an amazing picture with words.  The book jumps back and forth following a blind French girl and a German orphan whose talent with radios lands him a high ranking place in the German army.  The story is very touching and really makes you think through difficult topics.  I loved every minute of it.

Animal Farm by George Orwell:  Not sure how I got through High School and then college without ever reading this, but I did.  So glad I finally took the chance to read it.  It’s pretty short.  I listened to it on the way to and from Tucson in a single day.  It’s scary how much it reminded me of our present political situations.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo:  Some really awesome ideas, and I’m trying to implement things.  Mostly I wish I could afford to have her come over and fix my house because I’m not sure how I would ever find large enough blocks of time to do it on my own.  A lot of the ideas sounded amazing if you live by yourself, but living with a husband and children a lot of things didn’t feel super practical.  So, unfortunately it didn’t completely change my life like I hoped, but I do get rid of stuff and have found some better ways to keep things organized.  I also really liked her thought that we should say thank you to our possessions for what they do for us but once they are no longer serving a purpose it is time to put them to rest.

Rising Strong and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown: These were life changing.  I can’t say enough about how much I love Brene Brown, her work, her ideas, and her delivery.  I feel like we’re kindred spirits.  She explains her ideas using stories and personal experiences.  If you need help with parenting, leadership, marriage, or just general being a good person then her writing is for you.  I am excited to keep reading more of her stuff in the future.

The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle: Mind blown- which might have been the point.  There were a lot of things I wholeheartedly agreed with, a lot of things I am still attempting to process, and some things I outright disagreed with.  Which is probably the mark of a good book because it really made me think.  Except his whole point was to stop thinking so hard, so I’m still not really sure how I felt about it.

Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller:  I loved this book.  I felt like in many ways she was writing my story of struggling with body image issues since an all too young age.  It made me cry, made me laugh, made me angry, and left me feeling empowered.  I could go on and on about this topic, but that probably needs to be its own post at some point.  Warning, there is a little bit of adult language and subject matter.  But seriously if you have ever struggled with body image or know someone who does, or you want to help prevent body image issues in your children then this book is for you.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly: I saw the movie first.  The movie was very compelling, interesting, and entertaining, but also stretched the truth a lot and added in story elements that aren’t in the book.  I’m assuming they did this to make it more interesting, because unfortunately while the book has a very interesting topic, I didn’t find the presentation very interesting.  I’m still glad I gave it a listen because I think it is really important to bring out the “Hidden Figures” of history across the board.

Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines, Joanna Gaines, and Mark Dagostino: This one I actually physically read, crazy right!  I had the opportunity to go visit Waco back in February and wanted to read it before I went so a beautiful friend loaned me her copy.  I couldn’t put it down.  They are some really inspiring people.  In fact, this book is part of what gave me the kick to get serious about getting this blog started (it still took me a few months after I finished the book, but here we are so obviously it worked).  I feel like Joanna and I have a lot in common with big dreams, but when she would share those dreams with Chip he would make them a reality.  While I’m still not as willing to take as many risks as Chip takes, in fact if my husband did half the things Chip did/does I would have pretty regular and major freak outs, but it really inspired me to realize that I did need to stop just dreaming, take some risks, and just get moving on things.

Past General Conferences:  These I listen to through the Gospel Library App, not Overdrive or Audible.  This is may be the best of both worlds because they are free and I can listen at my leisure.  Twice a year the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints holds a worldwide General Conference in which the General leaders address us on pertinent topics effecting us in these times.  In many ways its a great opportunity to consider how the scriptures of old apply to us in modern times.  I started listening “backwards” starting with the most recent and then I’m moving backwards through the conferences.  I’m back to 2013.  I’m really enjoying re-listening, there’s been several talks that I had forgotten about that maybe didn’t apply to me in great deal at the time that are really hitting me now.  While this definitely doesn’t replace sitting down and studying, it’s a great way to get a little bit of inspiration in during the day.  And General Conference is coming up again next week!  You can stream it and watch from home or find a meetinghouse near you.

 

Thanks for reading!  I hope you’ve found some ideas for “me time” whether that’s going to be books or not, and if it is books, then I hope you give some of these a gander.

What have you been reading lately???  I’m always looking for more!