Writing on the Wall
The first thing I noticed was the swelling under my eyes. I was in a bathroom in a random McDonald’s somewhere in the middle of Iowa. It was the Monday of Labor Day weekend. I was exhausted after traveling so much and spending time with family. I yawned and stared in the mirror at this reflection I did not recognize. I traced the bags under my eyes with my fingers. My skin felt lumpy and foreign. They weren’t there yesterday or the day before that. I leaned closer to make sure this was real and I wasn’t hallucinating. I wasn’t.
When I got back in the car, I grabbed my phone and opened the camera app. Turning the camera to front-facing mode, I admired the newfound bags under my eyes. I was shocked and confused by this sudden change in my appearance. I told myself this was nothing and it would go away once I got home.
The swelling under my eyes remained
The puffy eyes didn’t go away. I was getting my regular amount of sleep and my stress levels were only a little higher than normal due to a presentation I was preparing for school. The puffy eyes stuck around and slowly swelled up as the weeks went on. My eyes looked like little squished beans stuck in between two over-inflated balloons.
A week or two later, I told someone in one of my classes about the concerns I had with bags under my eyes. They responded with, “that’s what happens when you get old and you get no sleep! Wait until you have kids, they’ll only get worse!” I was confused by their nonchalant response. Sure, some of the older people I knew had bags under their eyes. But no one I knew, from what I could tell, had under-eye bags like this. Nor did they appear within a matter of days.
My eye swelling really came into focus when I started experiencing double vision in early October. I woke up and there were two smoke detectors on my ceiling. An unsettling feeling washed over me. I rolled over and tried to block it out. Surely, this is all in my head, I thought. A few moments later, I looked again. At some angles, the double vision was less intense but there were still two smoke detectors on the ceiling no matter which way I looked.
Two hours later, I was in an exam chair at the eye doctor and was unable to move my left eye up. I could feel my brain telling my eye to move up and my eye was unable to complete the request. The eye doctor examining me looked very confused and slightly horrified at my situation. She said she had never seen anything like this and ordered an MRI. The MRI results showed swelling around both of my eyes. I was referred to a specialty eye doctor for answers.
A new path
In February, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. I called my thyroid doctor to see if there could be any correlation between my current eye problems and my thyroid. She didn’t think it would be related because I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. The specialty eye doctor, on the other hand, was very curious about my thyroid diagnosis. He asked me lots of questions about my journey with Hashimotos. I told him that I had been put on Synthroid to help regulate my thyroid and I was still in the process of finding the correct dosage. He asked me if I have ever heard of Thyroid Eye Disease. I said no. He ordered a blood draw. He said wanted to rule out the possibility of TED by checking for Grave’s antibodies. I reluctantly accepted the blood draw (I hate needles). The results of the blood test confirmed that I had Grave’s antibodies in my system. While it was a relief to know what I had, it sent me on a whole other path that took me years to understand.
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