Social events and activities are great for everyone. Spending time with friends, family or even meeting new people is good for our mental health and promotes a good work-life balance for those of us who work. It’s easy to stay home all day or become a recluse, but it takes extra effort for many hypothyroid patients, to muster up the energy and enthusiasm to socialise.
For many of us, social events drain us in several ways and can leave us with a ‘hangover’ effect.
Mentally, we can feel exhausted from trying to maintain enthusiasm for discussions, a smile on our face and the ability to follow a lot of stories and updates from several different people, due to hypothyroidism affecting how our brain functions. Thyroid hormone is needed to ensure our brain works right, and when this is low, we can seem forgetful, withdrawn, confused and strained. Focusing on making sure we pay as much attention as possible, when you have thyroid brain fog which can block concentration and the ability to process information, is very mentally draining. After a social event, often we get home and sit in silence for a good while, whilst our mind is still buzzing and trying to process the day! This can have a knock on effect where we feel physically tired, achey and withdrawn and so we often need a day or two to recuperate afterwards. It’s like being overstimulated. Even loud noises or a disruptive party at the next table in a restaurant can worsen our hypothyroid symptoms and drain us even more so.
For those of us who are quite sensitive to how others around us feel or project themselves, this can add another layer to the draining qualities of social events. I’m particularly sensitive to negative emotions and tend to suck them up. If my other half comes home after a bad day and is feeling pants, I soon do, too. If I’m with someone who complains a lot and moans about everything, I soon find myself doing it and become rather cynical, too. For happiness-suckers, those people we all know who, when we spend time with them, leave us wondering why we even still bother with them, they can be especially draining on our energy and raise stress levels. They’re not good for us to hang around with too often, if at all.
And then there is the physical fatigue. People living with a chronic illness such as hypothyroidism are often known as ‘Spoonies’, meaning we have a limited amount of energy, and need to plan our energy use wisely so as to make it through the day. This can result in a shower becoming exhausting, getting dressed or brushing our hair, so before we even arrive to meet a friend, we could already be exhausted! It might sound silly or even pathetic, but when you’re that limited in energy, it’s a real issue. Having to stand at an event can be debilitating, too, let alone if we’re walking from bar to bar or doing some other form of physical activity. Drinking can also worsen hypothyroid symptoms.
If a social event is in an unfamiliar place, then this can also be tiring for a few reasons. If applicable, the anxiety and worry we feel over an unusual environment (anxiety seems common with hypothyroid patients) is tiring and can be overwhelming. It can be concerning to be in an environment where, if we suddenly feel really ill, we have nowhere to escape to, or we feel unsure if they cater to our dietary needs (many underactive thyroid patients follow gluten free diets, AIP, Paleo etc. to help with symptoms). We may have also had to travel or walk a certain distance to reach the location of the event, which uses up more of our ‘spoons’.
If the event is at ours, we’ve got the hosting to worry about – cleaning the house beforehand, going food shopping (don’t even get me started on how energy-draining that is), preparing food and generally being the host, looking after guests and their needs. For the average person this might be a bit draining or stressful, but it soon wears us down.
So as you can see, we can easily become depleted; emotionally, mentally and of course physically. Many of us have to plan to have a day or two to recuperate afterwards, and if it’s a longer event, say a weekend-long wedding affair, we’ll need double the recovery time!
I often find myself weighing up whether a certain social event or situation is worth the recovery time afterwards or if I can afford to spend days recuperating at all.
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I also run a group for the spouses, partners and other halves of hypothyroid patients, called Hypothyroid Patients Other Halves – Support & Advice Group. This is for the other halves only and not patients.