Hello and welcome to A Swing and a Song! I’m Amalie, the author and you’ll find that I write just
about everything and anything–sometime funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes painful, but always with candor and I hope, authenticity.
I’m a single woman with swagger, living in Pittsburgh in a renovated (with much love and sweat-equity!) house. I have a career in sales but break loose the creativity with my blog, which I launched in January of 2012. Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comments!
So my last post, The Mouths of Babes, got me thinking about men and dating. Being unemployed and all I have time to think about stuff like that — really mull it over and come to all kinds of interesting and fascinating conclusions. Such as what I want in a relationship and what I want in a man. What traits are important to me? What are the deal breakers and what can I overlook? What about leaving the seat up on the toilet? Is that okay? Then I imagine my usual middle-of-the-night-stumble to the bathroom, planting myself on the toilet without turning on the light, and that a cold wake-up splash on my backside might not be acceptable. Hmmm.
I think about all the guys I have dated over the years. I’ve dated A LOT. I’m no Carrie Bradshaw and certainly not Samantha Jones but I have explored dating relationships with different types of males. I was actually a late bloomer and really didn’t start dating until my senior year in high school — my peers had been “going steady” since grade school.
College was where I really got the opportunity to meet a lot of different types of guys: the preppies and fraternity boys, which were the boys I typically dated; the “GDI’s” or Goddamned Independents — guys who were “too cool” to be in fraternities or involved on campus; the hipsters and new wave looking guys; and the jocks. Yeah, lots of stereotyping went on in college. Just like The Breakfast Club.
I had a “Stalker Boyfriend” in college who was clean-cut, preppie, wealthy, and intelligent. He also regularly showed up at my waitressing job at the favorite “21 bar” and would get quietly drunk. Then he’d lean against the wall and stare at me, eyes boring into me, watching every move I made, flinching and glaring if any guy smiled or spoke to me. The other waitresses thought it was hysterical and the bartenders regularly offered to throw him out. I just ignored him.
What was really endearing is that he would periodically BREAK INTO MY CAR and leave roses and romantic notes on the front seat. I broke up with him over the phone. I guess I’m lucky that he wasn’t really insane or pathological, just borderline nuts. He’s now married, with two children and lives in Europe. I assume he’s happy and regularly breaking into his wife’s Fiat.
So when I think of traits that are important in a mate, I dutifully cross of “stalking”. That didn’t seem to work out so well for me.
My “serious” college relationship was with the BMOC — Big Man on Campus. Everything about him was golden: blond, beautiful, gorgeous smile, athletically-gifted, funny, smart and popular. We were quite the item. We dated for over a year. Then, on one of our last nights together, I excused myself from his bed to freshen myself up in the bathroom. When I returned, he was wearing my sheer black pantyhose…sigh.
Strike out cross-dressing.
I did give online dating a whirl a couple of years ago. Here is how I described the Man of My Dreams on my profile: You are self-assured, successful, a head-turner, on top of your game, magnetic, balanced, fit and like strong women. I’m not looking for any hotheads, not that I’m one but I am a firecracker (in an appealing way
That description still resonates with me today but I realize that I left out something very important: Character. If you can’t trust a man’s character, his integrity, and know that he has your back, then he isn’t good enough for you.
It goes without saying that I bring integrity and character to the relationship, that I have his back. I won’t resort to lies just because they’re easier than talking about what’s on my mind or what concerns me. If you have that inherent trust, and the love, and the chemistry, then everything else sort of falls into place. It really is that organic and all the movable parts fit together.
Do I sound like a hopeless romantic? I smile because in many ways I still have the awe and wonder of my childhood when it comes to romance, and hope, and the future. However, I don’t want to see that future sporting my black pantyhose…
I was working in my yard the other day when a little girl from our neighborhood, Maddie, wandered over to say hello. Maddie is a sweet and inquisitive six-year old and eagerly pounces on any opportunity to chat me up. She is terribly curious about me for some reason and follows me around the yard, pelting me with questions and cheerful chatter. I adore her.
I noticed her watching me intently, actually staring openly at my stomach. I stopped weeding and asked her what was on her mind. Maddie bluntly asked, “Are you going to have a baby?”
Ok. I tried not to take offense and assume I looked pregnant. So I responded, carefully, “Why do you ask, Maddie?”
She said, “Well, I think you should have a baby because you would be a great mom!”
“Besides, this house needs a baby and I need a babysitting job!”
I cracked up. She was savvy, I’ll give her that! I explained that there was no baby in the cards for me, not now, not ever. She fell silent. I could tell that wasn’t going to last long and that another question was brewing within her busy brain.
“Are you married?”
“Of course not, Maddie, you know I’m not married!”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
This was getting dicey.
“Um, not really.”
“Why not, don’t you see anyone you like?”
Oh, if only it was that easy.
“Why, yes, I see lots of boys that look nice.”
“Well, then just ask one!”
Dating advice from a six-year old. Apparently, hooking up was a fairly easy endeavor. At this rate, I’d have a date and probably be laid by week’s end. I had to admit, I liked her positive spin on the whole process.
“Honey, I’m kind of old-fashioned. I like the guy to pursue me. I don’t want to walk up to just anyone and ask them out. It’s called having standards. You need to have them, too.”
Again, silence. I could sense her thinking, “and how’s that working out for you?” I silently responded, “Mixed results, honey, mixed results!”
Then she asked, “What about the man in the blue shirt? He looked nice!”
I frantically searched my memory for a guy in recent memory who came to my door wearing a blue shirt. Came up blank. Surely she didn’t mean…the mailman?
“He didn’t have flowers though. If he brings you flowers next time, you should have a baby with him. That means he’s a nice one.”
I was speechless in the face of this seemingly reasonable advice. I had never quite fathomed the relevance of a bouquet of flowers before.
So I lamely said, “Don’t you worry about me, I’m just fine in the boys department and you have plenty of time before you need to be concerned about it.”
Maddie shook her head as she walked away and muttered, “I really needed that babysitting job!”
I was reading over some of my past posts and came across the one titled “Restless” from March of earlier this year. In that post, I talk about the sense of unquiet that I was feeling deep within me, that I felt like I was searching for something. I concluded that perhaps it meant I was open to new opportunities and that a bit more risk-taking would be in store for me this year—and that this would be a very good year indeed.
Since that post, I have been laid off from my job of over four years, applied to countless positions in my determined job search, only to be told that I’m over-qualified or that I made it to the final round of interviews onl y to be beat out by one other candidate. I’ve trimmed every ounce of fat off of my already tight budget, anticipating a long haul before I am gainfully employed again. I worry that, at 48, my age is becoming a factor in weeding me out as a viable prospect. So I worry and worry, and worry some more…
I find myself working out more than ever, to use up all this restless energy—running 6-10 miles a week, working out with a barbell program 4-5 times a week and one session of yoga. It’s a way to funnel this unsettled energy into something productive.
Interestingly enough, all this exercise and restive thought is igniting my libido. I feel like the perpetual crouching tiger is prowling within me, searching for release and as I lie awake in bed, my mind fills with wanton sexual fantasies. A girl could go crazy for lack of sex!
I realize that a part of me feels like it has been on hold for 20-some years–my health, my emotions, things that I want to do and experience. I want someone to ask me what I need, what will make me happy. And care about the answers.
I feel like doing something delightfully rash, like pulling out a few grand out of my meager savings and flying off to Europe and wandering the streets of Paris. Just shaking loose of Pittsburgh and these Etats-Unis. Being uninhibited, unfettered, impractical. God, I’ve been practical and reasonable for so long, about so many things.
Writing this makes me resolute: my time will come. I just need to plow through this short-lived period of unemployment and separation from what I really want, and then…and then…I am going for it. And what will be, will be.
Paris, here I come.
I’m in love. I’ve known it for some time and it has taken some getting used to. I don’t do the dance of intimacy easily. The steps are not familiar to me. At 48, I have never been married and I carefully navigate friends, acquaintances and lovers with artful dexterity, never getting too close so as to manage the dialogue of actual relationships.
Past experiences have taught me to protect myself, to hold people at arms’ length. I recognize that it is a control mechanism. I do have some insight; I realize that the bullying I experienced in my adolescence has a lot to do with this.
For years, I was unaware that I distanced myself from people. I had been told that I was standoffish in college, that boys were intimidated by me. But I had a lot of “friends”, had been very popular. So I blew off the comments. But this behavior really manifested itself during my illness when I almost completely withdrew from all but a few close family and friends.
In the past few years, I’ve consciously worked on breaking down my barriers, letting people in. It’s been met with mixed success. I can count on one hand the genuinely intimate relationships I have—the people that know me inside and out, my sister, Kathy; girlfriends, Libby, Linda, and Coletta; Alexanndra, my intrepid counselor; and finally, P., the love of my life. It is my relationship with P. that in turn astonishes, terrifies, excites, stimulates, and soothes me.
Ours is an unconventional relationship. We have known each other for over 25 years; we were lovers in our twenties, parted ways only to reconnect via social media years later. We have yet to meet again; instead we have been communicating via phone, email and text, reconnecting and rekindling our relationship through cyberspace and the sound of our voices over the past almost three years.
The question begs to be asked, why haven’t we met in person in these past three years? P’s life is…complicated, complicated in a way that I don’t need or want. He has some decisions to make and I don’t think he is remotely ready to make those decisions. That alone scares and cautions me. It gives me pause.
But I don’t think I ever fell out of love with P., all those years ago. He was my soul mate then; now he has evolved into something much deeper. I can tell him anything and everything. I can imagine what it was like to make love to him as if it was yesterday. The touch of him, the smell of him, his taste. I simply cannot imagine him not being in my life.
And yet I stumble. What would it be like to really be with someone? To share your heart and soul, willingly, with that other person? I know P. would give me my space, would respect my spirit and individuality, my independence. It’s the intimacy that is scary and lovely, all at the same time.
He’s such a strong, charismatic, yet patient man. I said his life is complicated right now, even as I wrestle with moving forward. He is wrestling with his own thoughts: is what we have real? Or is it rooted in some long ago passion? I wonder if those are the real objections and if it is more a fear of breaking away from what is known and familiar. Like me, he is not a risk-taker when it comes to his emotions and I think the virtual relationship we have is safe and comfortable for him. It doesn’t rock the boat or change the status quo.
But at some point too much time passes and you’ve lost your opportunity. I’m so very conscious of passing time, time I want to spend with P.
Even as I write this, I can mentally see me dancing from one foot to the other, indecisive. Am I ready?
I think we both need a bit more time.
P. is one of the most driven people I know and he excels at his career, athletics, and academics. You’d think that would make him insufferable. Instead, he is one of the most down-to-earth, modest, astute, and kind people I’ve ever met. And he makes me laugh, completely disarms me. I am myself with him, no barriers, no guard. I forget myself with him and am totally at ease.
And that is foreign to me. I’m used to being completely in charge, alert, in control. I know I should think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread but, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is he for real?
What am I so afraid of? To fall in love? To take a chance on maybe getting hurt? Perhaps it’s time to parlay my ability to take risks in other parts of my life to love and intimacy.
P. always teases me about over-analyzing things. I can’t approach a situation without sizing it up from every direction. Sometimes I need to mentally shake myself.
And perhaps I need to stop trying to choreograph every step of my future. Just let it happen. Loosening the reins of control, ah, that is indeed scary. But a little improvisation, a few daring high-kicks, could push me out of this solitary rut.
What possibilities could the future hold? A committed relationship? Marriage? Friendship? They all have their precious and priceless benefits. I realize that with P., we already have a deep and abiding friendship.
So maybe the steps toward intimacy aren’t so hard to learn. I’ve always shortened the learning curve with every new skill set.
I’m not naïve, I know there is give and take with every relationship. I know that you have to want to make it a priority, make what you have together important over your careers and other life distractions. I get that. But when I imagine what my life with P. could be like, it feels like it would be…effortless. I have to trust that and take my first step.
Late at night, as my body relaxes and I begin to ease into sleep, the image of P’s face drifts into my mind. And I imagine falling into his arms and murmuring softly, “Come dance with me…”
“More eyes looking means more children found and returned home.” That is the vision of the BairFind Foundation and their BringHome 100 Campaign–a challenge to bring 100 missing children home. I invite you to visit their homepage: http://www.bringhome100.org/ for more information about how you can help them in their mission to find missing children!
Click the link below to view a Public Service Announcement on YouTube with Rocky Bleier!
I remember the phone call as if it was yesterday. I was talking to the head of HR from my company who was reviewing my medical records and he was informing me of a decision he had come to regarding my disability from Graves’ Disease.
“Amalie, I’ve spoken to your endocrinologist and we just don’t believe you will ever be able to return to work. We’d like to put you on permanent disability, effective immediately.”
I was twenty-seven.
I was stunned. I knew I was sick. But I also always believed that I would get better, that my illness was transitory. Being sick, forever, could that really be my reality? I felt sick inside, and tired, so very tired, at the same time. I told him I would talk to my doctor and get back to him later that week.
A part of me was tired of fighting. It seemed like it would take a miracle to regain my past vigor and my appearance, and my internal resources were dwindling. The HR Director’s verdict seemed to be the final summation of my situation.
But another part of me protested, angrily: At myself, for giving up so easily, and at him, for writing me off. I made an appointment to see my psychiatrist, Alexanndra, and told her what happened. She had spoken to him, too, as part of the case review.
She looked at me intently and asked, “What do you want, Amalie? Do you accept this?”
And I whispered, hoarsely, “Hell, no.”
That was my first step in taking my life back.
My doctors convinced the HR people to keep me on regular disability. And while it was some time before I returned to work, (I was to have relapses and subsequent disabilities after that), eventually I was able to come back to work full-time.
After a lengthy period of time on medication to rein in my thyroid, I did have the radioactive iodine, which took almost six months to take effect. You basically drink a radioactive iodine concoction that “kills” your thyroid, or most of it. I began to have second thoughts when they brought me into a sterile, secure room and a woman in a space suit administered the dose. “Am I going to glow after I drink this?” She just smiled through her mask. For two weeks, I had to flush the toilet repeatedly after I peed and keep my distance from other people and pets because I emitted radiation (“rays”) that could effectively kill or affect their healthy thyroids.
It was a significant turning point in the early part of my recovery and signaled that I would, indeed, regain some aspect of wellness. I needed to add patience to my arsenal in fighting for my health, in addition to being tenacious and positive.
Another good sign was that the inflammation in my eyes subsided over a number of years and they no longer protruded. The double vision also went away. I no longer looked like a glaring, bug-eyed, cartoon character.
What little bit of my thyroid remains is temperamental and I need to get blood work regularly to make sure I am on the appropriate amount of Synthroid (synthetic thyroid replacement hormone). I also have a chemical imbalance caused by the thyroid storm that renders me prone to depression and panic attacks; these and the Graves’ are kept under control with a cocktail of pills that I will take for the rest of my life. They keep me, for the most part, symptom-free.
As I write this, I am overwhelmed. I realize that a part of me hadn’t finished grieving for the woman I once was before the illness. I had been gleefully unaware of how ephemeral life was, how fragile health was, and how frightening a medical test result could be.
But the woman I am now, ah, the woman I am now is ALIVE. In every sense of the word.
All in all, my journey back to health took almost twenty years. Now, I am blooming with health, fit, and working out regularly.
I don’t know how you can have an experience like this without it completely changing your perspective. I have sincere, authentic relationships, not the huge circle of what were essentially only acquaintances in my life. I am acutely aware of not frittering away borrowed time, of making each moment count.
I relish solitary, contemplative time. And writing is once again bringing joy into my life, a much-needed creative outlet.
I feel like I can breathe again. And reassess my surroundings. How do I want to live the rest of my life? What do I want to do? Who do I want in it? And how do I go about making those things happen? The answers are enticing and the future seems magical and bright to me. I deserve the fairy tale. I have so much to give and share.
So I’ve come out the other end of this rocky, scary journey and turned out to be more than ok. I’m grateful for the family and friends who held onto me throughout the ordeal, and thank god for their fortitude and love. I love you all back.
To those of you managing through your own autoimmune adventure, godspeed and good luck. Let me know how you are doing. I hope my story inspires you and brings you hope. Recovery was long in coming and awesome in its reality.
Finally, thank you to those of you following my story and lending your support. You inspire and motivate my writing. As always, I welcome and appreciate your comments.
My nephew, Jake, was questioning my sister on what it meant to be a godparent. She explained that a godparent was someone who watched out for you, who loved you, and made sure you went to church and prayed regularly. If something happened to your parents, they might even take care of you and help raise you.
Jake’s twin brother, David, eyed him and said, “You’re lucky, Jake. You have Aunt Amalie as your Godmother. She’ll always take care of you!”
Jake replied, “Don’t worry, David, Aunt Amalie will always take care of you, too!”
David said, “Oh, I know she will!”
A child knows when he or she has unconditional love. My precious nephews are all of 12 years of age and already have a pretty good bead on things.
It was a simple conversation that my sister had with her two boys but it made my eyes brim with tears and my heart swell with emotion. Just one of those unexpected, “hey, let me tell you what the boys said about you,” little stories that just made my day and reminded me again of how much love I have in my life. Lovely and sweet.
I woke up and spent a few moments savoring how deliciously cool I felt. For months, my body temperature soared and perspiration soaked my skin and clothes. My embarrassment only exacerbated the situation and the ensuing anxiety and stress made me even more sensitive to the heat.
I opened my eyes and suddenly remembered what had happened. I was in a critical bed IN A HOSPITAL. I felt the sick fingers of panic snake through my body, grasp and clench hard my roiling stomach. This was my worst nightmare. My unreasonable fear of anything medical, anything having to do with doctors or hospitals, was taking a hold of me in uncontrollable waves.
I have no idea what the genesis was for this neurotic fear. I remember as a child sobbing when I had to visit the doctor or get shots. When I was a teenager, my father was in the hospital for gall bladder surgery. I was able to muster enough courage to go to the hospital the last night he was there. I actually started having panic attacks as I walked into the hospital. Emotionally, it was like being sucked into a whirlpool with no life jacket.
In many ways, having to deal with medical personnel and the medical environment was as traumatic to me back then as being diagnosed with a serious illness. The week I was in the critical bed I think I aged 10 years. It was unreal for me. But sans life jacket, I learned how to swim, and now, I am completely comfortable with doctors, hospitals and any procedure. You could even say I’m fascinated. It’s a relief to be over that debilitating fear.
They ran a battery of tests that week—CAT Scans, blood work, stress tests, echocardiogram, X-rays, I can’t remember all of it. My thyroid was so jacked up I didn’t sleep for almost two weeks and they had me taking Valium and Restoril to try to get some rest. The lack of sleep made me emotional and sensitive and I found it hard to follow conversations and instructions. My parents were rushing in from out of town and I was completely overwhelmed. I was told I almost died. I was too fractured, both physically and mentally, to take it all in.
The doctors wanted to do either surgery to remove my thyroid or radioactive iodine. However, because my thyroid was so hyperactive, they were afraid I was not strong enough for either procedure. So they were going to try medication first.
I finally left the hospital with my parents, a sheaf of prescriptions, and embarked upon what would be a lengthy disability from my job.
I had changed overnight from a svelte, fit, vivacious young woman into a morbidly obese, trembling, perspiring, balding, seriously ill person who scarcely recognized herself in the mirror. I was devastated. The steroids I was taking distorted my features, making my face puffy and hard, almost cartoonish. A goiter, the size of a small orange, grew out of my neck. I felt like a freak. Nothing in my life had prepared me for this. It was strictly one day and a handful of pills at a time.
For a long time, friends reached out to me and tried to be supportive. But I was bereft. I didn’t know what to say and fell uncommunicative. There was a disconnect when I tried to explain the seriousness of my illness to them; they couldn’t comprehend that I could actually be that sick and I tired of trying to explain that it wasn’t simply a cold. No one understood what an autoimmune disease was. They missed the fun, outgoing Amalie; the ill, taciturn, depressed Amalie was hard to take, and the phone started to ring less and less over the ensuing months.
Those early, awful days, months, and years were rough. My circle distilled down to an elixir of friends and family who supported me through the darkest and most terrible of days.
And I held onto them for dear life, even as I struggled to sustain my own.
The lengthy, devastating illness took a toll on my body over the long months. My nails became brittle and broke down to the quick. My hair became thin and scraggly, large hanks of it falling out when I showered. I remember the first time it happened, falling on my hands and knees in the shower as handfuls of hair came out while I washed it. My lovely, thick, long hair was thin and dull and I adopted an old man’s balding comb-over to hide my bare patches. The Graves’ Disease also had affected my eyes, inflaming the eye sockets, causing them to protrude and bulge, giving me double-vision. This, combined with the steroids I was taking and the significant weight gain, drastically altered my appearance. Family and friends were shocked when they saw me and found it hard to hide their reactions. I retreated even further into the sanctity of my apartment, refusing to see people, even to talk on the phone.
My parents begged me to move home so they could care for me but I resisted. My next door neighbor was in the medical profession and she shepherded me to specialists’ appointments and tests. Other than those outings, I rarely left my home. I wanted to be alone. A large part of me also fought against what I perceived as a weakness. I saw it as a solitary battle and my home became my bunker. I’ve always been challenged by the idea of reaching out for help, for support, and the struggle to regain my health and well-being was my primary focus. I tried hard not to panic as everything I knew and recognized about myself changed seemingly overnight. I turned inward to shore up my defenses.
My endocrinologist suggested that I see a psychiatrist who specialized in working with people who had chronic and terminal illnesses. I just nodded my head, “yes.” I was fighting for my life and I needed reinforcements.
One look at Alexanndra’s kind face and I knew it was going to be ok. My stoic demeanor crumbled and I just cried. I had nothing to say, my tears said it all. I believe she helped me save my sanity and remember the strong woman I was inside.
Together, we slowly and determinedly picked up the pieces of my damaged psyche and assessed my poor, sick body. It would be a long journey. But hope is a powerful motivator and I cradled it, close.
It started with a barely discernible tremor in my right hand. I was reaching for my coffee cup and noticed my hand shaking. “Nerves,” I thought, “I have way too much stress in my life.”
I was 25 years old and had the world as my oyster. I had come off of a successful four year reign as a popular, vivacious university student, involved in campus activities, even pulling off a decent 3.4 grade point average despite having to pay my way through college by waitressing 15-20 hours a week and pulling a full-time class load. To top it off, I had interviewed with and received a job offer from a Fortune 500 company, a coveted opportunity straight out of college. The future was bright and promising and I embarked on early adulthood brimming with excitement.
It was two years into my career when the symptoms started. I had never really been sick; I was fit and active, only catching the occasional cold. Back then, I didn’t even have a primary care physician and hadn’t had a check-up since my initial physical for my assessment when I started my job. I had moved to a new city with my budding career and it hadn’t occurred to me that I might need a doctor some day. I was young and infallible.
I was managing a three state sales territory and traveling close to 80,000 miles a year by company car. My weekends were also frenetic; nights out with friends, running errands and catching up with work during the day, cramming in grueling workouts and runs. It was a hectic lifestyle and it was easy to shrug off a few odd symptoms as part of stress or lack of sleep.
A few months later, the tremor moved to my right foot. I noticed my foot trembling on the gas pedal as I was driving to a sales meeting out of town. The next day, I had to give a presentation to our entire district. As I confidently strode to the front of the room, a strange thing happened. Perspiration started pouring down my face and the back of my blouse beneath my blazer became damp. I felt my face get hot and flushed and I stumbled. I recovered and continued to the front of the room but it was the most uncomfortable and excruciating presentation I’ve ever given. I thought I was going to pass out, I was burning up, my hands were shaking and I was starting to have double-vision. It was with relief when I wrapped things up and handed the mic over to the next presenter. I mustered up as much poise as possible and walked sedately to the back of the room. My manager followed me to the ladies room.
She took one look at my face and almost called 911. We both thought I was having a heart attack. I was terrified and embarrassed. I don’t suffer weakness in myself very well and hate to be the center of attention when I am feeling vulnerable. I begged her not to call for help and she helped me to my hotel room where we applied cold compresses to my forehead and wrists. To my horror, I noticed that my ankles and eyes were swelling and becoming puffy. I was experiencing severe edema.
I told her I was fine and said I would call her if I needed anything. I just wanted her to leave me alone. I finally got her to leave, reluctantly. I drew an ice-cold bath and soaked for what seemed like hours. I couldn’t seem to cool down and the swelling was so uncomfortable.
I should add that as a child I had a hyper-neurotic fear of doctors and hospitals. I dreaded shots and physicals so the thought of calling medical personnel at that moment was as horrifying as the physical symptoms I was experiencing. Instead, I soaked in the tub and refused to deal with what was happening, telling myself it was just some weird allergic reaction and it would all go away.
And go away it did. The swelling subsided, the tremors went away and I stopped feeling flushed…for about a month. Then it all came back with a vengeance.
This time I knew I couldn’t ignore it and went to the emergency room. When they told me it was an allergic reaction, I felt immense relief, “see, I knew it!” I told myself. They told me to take Benedryl and a few days off to rest and I’d be fine.
Life Lesson #1: Do not rely on the Emergency Room for your diagnosis when something bizarre is happening to you.
I messed around with multiple emergency room visits for almost a year before I finally made an appointment with a Primary Care Physician. At that point, I was having non-stop tremors, hot flashes and profuse sweating and I had put on over 65 pounds. I was also starting to lose my hair. My District Manager called me into his office and kindly but firmly insisted that I take time off and make a doctor’s appointment as he was concerned about my health.
I’ll never forget that meeting with that doctor. I was sitting in my gown, trembling uncontrollably, when the doctor walked into the examination room. She took one look at me, took in my swollen ankles, shaking hands, and damp, flushed face and said, “Amalie, I think you have been misdiagnosed in the past year. I believe you have thyroid disease. And we are going to make you better.”
I broke down and sobbed. Then something terrifying happened. The tremors started turning into jerks and I started convulsing. I had gone into a full-blown thyroid storm.
The next few hours are a blur. I woke up in a critical bed at the local hospital. I had heart and kidney complications and found out later that normal thyroid readings are between 4-7 and mine were around 38. They had me on beta blockers, steroids, and several other medications—I was popping pills every 2-3 hours. I was in a private critical room where they had to keep the temperature at 55 degrees because I was so overheated from my overactive thyroid that I was hypersensitive to heat.
I was diagnosed with a rare form of Graves’ Disease where a small percentage of people, primarily women, gain weight uncontrollably, even though it is hyperthyroidism. The diagnosis was only the beginning, and this story will take some time, and several posts, to unfold. This is not easy writing. The road to recovery was steep, rocky and frightening, and full of many potholes. God, I was so bloody scared back then. But I have the distance and the perspective to write about this now. And feel the relief to know it is over.