Hi, my name is Dr. Cassie Wilder and I worked myself into thyroid imbalance.
Yep. Even doctors can get sick. And I want to share my story with you because it’s an important reminder that, spoiler alert, no one person is immune to the physiological effects of stress. Because the modalities that I teach and prescribe have worked for me, it’s also important for me to share that they can work for you too. I believe in transparency, vulnerability, and authenticity. So here’s my confession: I let myself get to a depleted place, a place I know many of my patients have experienced. The happy ending? There IS a way to come back and feel whole again. Here’s how I did it.
The Beginning of My Journey
I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when I started medical school, but naive to the next level of academics. It wasn’t just keeping pace with a syllabus—it was fire hydrants of information being sprayed in my face from every which way.
I developed anxiety in that first year. My type A, overachieving, ambitious (all things I love and value about myself) personality was failing me, and I got my first C. So I stayed up later, pushed harder, studied more, drank more and more coffee, and started to question myself and my abilities. I wondered if all these things I loved about myself were a lie.
Fast forward to year four and I was dragging myself to class, practically taping my eyes open to see patients, guzzling up to 64 ounces of coffee a day, and so wired at the end of the night (because anxiety doesn’t really get better if you just ignore it, and too much caffeine is a real thing) that I could feel the crash coming. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel: graduation, moving to Minnesota (!), and not having to study for any more exams. So, I kept on pushing.
But the hustle didn’t stop like I thought it would and by June of this year (just three months ago), I was at a breaking point. I hadn’t rested, relaxed, and taken it easy on myself. Instead, I’d started a business, and all I could think about was sharing my new job with as many people as possible, and helping to transform their lives.
- I was exhausted: This was my biggest concern. I couldn’t wake up by 7 a.m. It was impossible. I’d set my alarm for 5:30 and snooze until 7 and I would want to cry because I was still so exhausted, even though I was getting 10 or more hours of sleep per night.
- My hair was falling out: My hair is ultra thin, and I don’t have very much so when I started to notice that I was emptying out a full brush weekly, you bet your bum I freaked out. I noticed thinning patch around my temples (on both sides), and the outside half of my eyebrows were barely there anymore.
- I was constipated: I was going the the bathroom maybe every 2 to 3 days. I was eating clean, with plenty of fiber and not a lot of processed foods. Sure, I could have used something like magnesium to get me going regularly, but why would I just force myself to go to the bathroom when I should probably figure out why? Remember the 64 ounces of coffee per day? Yup, still constipated.
- I was anxious: Just about every emotion I had felt like it was going to kill me. I rotated between feelings of overwhelm, I can’t do this, and I’m-just-so-exhausted-how-the-heck-am-I-going-to-get-my-work-done. I’d get excited and happy—and I’d cry. I’d get anxious—and the adrenaline rush would last hours and my blood sugar would crash. I’d get frustrated—and the feelings of overwhelm would consume my brain power.
- I had mental struggle: The brain fog was real. When I was ‘on,’ I was ‘on,’ meaning if I could get myself into a rhythm, it was no problem. But after I was done with the rhythm, man, my brain was toast.
My First Steps to Recovery
If you’ve been following along here, I bet you’re thinking, she knows that these symptoms sound like low thyroid, and she knows all the natural therapies that would help, why not just DIY it? I could have. But there are some times in life where you need direction and a plan that you don’t create. Where you need another expert to validate what you’re feeling, one who can make you a plan you can stick to.
So, though I could have treated myself, I recruited a doctor friend to help me create a plan I could actually implement. And that started by running my bloodwork.
My labs in June 2018:
- TSH: 2.891
- Free T4: 1.04
- Free T3: 3.8
- Reverse T3: 26.6
- Anti-thyroglobulin and anti-TPO antibodies: Negative
And here’s how we interpret them, given my symptoms: My brain is starting to notice that my thyroid function is a little off, and my TSH is starting to bump up. I’m making okay amounts of T4, and converting it to good amounts of T3. My thyroid output is still good because I’ve continued to eat a varied diet and am likely not deficient in key nutrients such as iron, selenium, or iodine, and I have low levels of inflammation.
But here’s the kicker: My reverse T3, the inactive storage form of T3, is sky high. Why? Stress, stress, stress, and more stress. So whatever T3 I am making is getting shunted into the inactive form and not able to be used by the body.
Bottom line: My stress was causing a lot of stress on my thyroid.
My Plan to Take Back My Health
I knew the solution wasn’t to keep going the route I was going, and eventually crash even harder. So, I whipped up a plan that was easy to execute but took into account all my symptoms:
- I made a plan to get better: I asked for help from my doctor, and then received it. Being supported by someone else through this was exactly what I needed.
- I organized my day better: I amped up my time management, started using a planner, synced my online calendar up with my husband’s, and started assigning him tasks to help out more!
- I hired help: This isn’t feasible for everyone, but I had to figure out what I could outsource. Whether it’s a cleaning service every other week, signing up for a delivery grocery service, asking friends for help, or adding an assistant to your business, it’s important to take some things off your plate.
- I started to do active meditation: I write out everything that’s on my mind and then embrace the focus. Now, I’m up to about five minutes of silent meditation through my Headspace App.
- I started on a thyroid glandular: It’s the step up from thyroid nutrient support, but with my energy levels tanking, I needed the extra boost of support.
- I started on a potent adrenal support: I also ran my morning cortisol test, which was 9.5 (I like to see between 16 to 24 in the a.m.), so managing stress better, and supporting my adrenals with a supplement was a necessity.
- I continued to eat a varied diet: High in vegetables, protein, fat, and fiber!
It’s been about four months and things are just now starting to shift back to normal. It’s taken four months?! you might be thinking. Yep. I was exhausted, anxious, and not sleeping well, and I WANTED it to be over, for these pills to rejuvenate me within a couple weeks—but that’s just not the case. I was desperate for relief, but patience and consistency have led me to about 80 percent recovery. I get up with only one snooze. 😉 My anxiety is no longer daily, and I don’t feel overwhelmed by little tasks. My bowel movements are coming back to almost daily.
The first things I noticed improvement in were my energy, mood, and ability to focus—those started to come back within two to three weeks. All my other symptoms have taken the whole four months to get back on track, and things are still progressing positively!
If you find yourself where I was, or on your way to where I was, don’t give up. Don’t tell yourself it’s not working, or that you’re not seeing results fast enough. I spend nearly five years breaking down my body, so I can’t expect to put it all back together in just a few short weeks, with a couple of pills per day. Integrative medicine is the absolute best way to go, but it takes time, work, patience, and perseverance to truly heal.
Want to learn more about how Dr. Cassie’s journey can help you on your health journey? Check out how our health plans support you at every phase of your journey.