As many of my readers know I’ve been struggling with chronic illness for years, which did not get a proper diagnosis until Christmas of last year. This long term issue leveled my work and personal life, made it almost impossible for me to make a living, and destroyed my finances. Since I didn’t even know for sure what was wrong and every time I turned around I got a different answer and treatment, the ups and downs year after year made my clients think I was an utter flake.

I thought so, too.

I assumed my down days were signs of laziness or some other character flaw. And I could not figure out how I could be so productive at times and such a limp waffle at others. Sometimes I was in terrible pain and non functioning. Any stress sent me into a complete tailspin. I was almost constantly dizzy, felt completely disconnected from the world, and had serious anxiety issues. I spent more time on the internet rolling around searching for distractions than I did drawing.

Many people pathologized my migraines, dizziness, and chronic pain, like for sure, I must be neurotic, yeah, thanks Heidi. If you were in constant pain and felt like you were going to fall over 27 times a day, you’d be stressed, too.

When my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Disease finally came in and I started getting treatment, I was both elated and frustrated: angry it had taken so long to figure it out, thrilled I had a name to put on it, upset after reading 100 blog posts about it that made me paranoid, and really annoyed to find out there was no cure and I’d be dealing with it forever.

I immediately set up a game plan to try to deal with the fact that I would simply never have my energy and whole brain function again. I wrote these posts, Brain Fog Life Hacks on living with the effects, which many readers told me were of great use to them in dealing with their issues. Scroll down to the links at the bottom of the post for more of my tips.

And after posting all that, I wondered if I hadn’t made a huge mistake going public. No one wants to be seen as “damaged goods”. Clients dump people for being slow, for being late, for being a problem. I kept making mistakes, blowing deadlines. Several clients threatened to pull the plug on gigs. Major ones. I can’t really blame them, but that is another ‘nother level of stress to add to the mix. Everybody gotta make a living. But I’d just put a target on my back, right? I felt disposable.

At AwesomeCon this summer, a woman came up to me to thank me for my posts. She said she’d been getting improper treatment for Hashimoto’s for years. While she was taking thyroid medication, her doctor did not seek to get her thyroid levels within optimal range. She was having all the symptoms I was having, yet her readings were high normal. As I’d written on my blog and as others have pointed out, high normal is not good for everyone, and it isn’t even considered a safe range in some countries. She read my posts, went to her doctor, had her meds adjusted, and she was feeling fine! Brain fog gone! I got a big hug.

Another friend of mine wrote this (posted with permission):

Like my friend, I lived a healthy lifestyle and assumed if I was down it must be something I was doing wrong, some sign of failure. Laziness. A character flaw.

And it wasn’t.

I knew I’d done the right thing by going public after all.

Two more of my pro friends turned out to have Hashimoto’s Disease. One of them had been treated for years for depression which she does not have, and which treatment was actually making her worse. Within months of changing her diet to auto-immune protocol, her thyroid readings became optimal, and her symptoms abated.

I also tried auto-immune protocol. Alas, I did not have the same results. And after six months, my readings began to get worse. I’ve had to have my thyroid medication increased every six weeks. There’s been no easy fix for me, and that’s just the way it is. We’re all different and my fix may not be yours.

After I began treatment and still felt brain fog, I figured that was never going away either, I was going to have to live with it. So I wrote a bunch of posts about dealing with it. Eight months later, my symptoms are probably 10% of what they once were. I can remember passwords, names, appointments. Some old stuff is still a blur. I still have trouble with dates and numbers. But maybe that’s just normal for me now.

I’m back at work. Working regularly. I have my hiccups. I can feel great for a few weeks and then down for awhile. Then I get my medication tweaked, and the roller coaster starts. It could take another year of tweaking to get it right. And then tweaking every year after.

I have lost nearly 30 pounds. I never thought I would be this slim again. I am down to almost 120 lbs, which was my goal weight. I have not been able to shift my weight in years, and now I’m wearing my designer clothes. That’s shallow, but that makes me feel great.

My posture has improved. My energy levels are much better. My anxiety is almost completely gone.

I worked all night after giving a long lecture last week. I worked on three assignments in one day last week. I pulled things off the back burner and focused on them. Really focused.

I’ve had a very bad last two days. Personal and professional stuff. It’s been very stressful. In the past, it would have flattened me. I would have crawled into a hole. I would have been unable to produce.

However, for the first time in years I did something that used to be normal for me: I sat down and went right back to work. I felt bad about the things, but I was all, “Well, I’ll deal with it.”

And then I worked. I worked until 2 AM. I got art turned in.

I did my thing.

I have been completely unable to function at this level since 2006.

I’m back.

Or close to it.

I’ll take that.

My Patreon is here.

See you at Wizard World Oklahoma City.