By Alyce Collins
THIS teacher is rebuilding her life as she learns to cope with the autoimmune disease doctors didn’t even understand, which left her needing to sleep for NINETEEN hours a day.
Literacy teacher, Kristen Devanna (27) from Long Island, New York, USA, suddenly saw her body changing without understanding why her skin has cracking, why she was constantly cold and why she needed to sleep within an hour of waking up, before doctors diagnosed her with a genetic autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s syndrome.
Kristen has suffered with symptoms of Hashimoto’s syndrome for the last six years, but her diagnosis only came in 2013 when doctors traced her symptoms to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a genetic disease which attacks the thyroid gland until ultimately destroying it.
Although she noticed many subtle changes in her appearance, Kristen only became seriously concerned after she began needing more sleep than usual, even sleeping for nineteen hours a day.
After learning to cope with her diagnosis and managing her symptoms for the last few years, Kristen is now building her strength and increasing her energy by pushing herself to work out in the gym and defy the crippling disease.
“There were many subtle changes throughout my body, but the symptom that affected me the most was that I was sleeping a lot more,” said Kristen.
“My skin became flaky and easily irritated, my extremities would feel freezing cold even in warm weather, to the point where they were completely numb.
“I would wake up in the morning and have to go back to sleep an hour into the day and struggled to stay awake.
“There were many days where this disease had complete control over me and my body ached. I would feel sick after just going to the shop or taking a shower, and I cried making the bed.
“There is very little awareness regarding Hashimoto’s, even doctors who I encountered knew very little about it. When the world around you can’t understand your struggles or how to help you, it becomes a very daunting and lonely place.
“Having an autoimmune disease is frustrating because the world around you sees you differently on the outside than how you feel on the inside. People just assume I’m tired and they can’t wrap their head around it.
“I had to stop visualising myself as a ‘normal’ twenty-seven-year-old and I needed to realise that my body has limitations.”
The last year was a tough battle for Kristen as she saw her symptoms worsen and she would sleep for longer and longer whenever she had the chance and she couldn’t do menial tasks due to her fatigue. Despite seeing many doctors and specialists, Kristen hasn’t been able to have any treatment to help with her condition.
Some people can have their thyroid removed to manage their disease, this is only in the most severe of cases however. Others are able to monitor their diet to make a difference. Instead, Kristen decided to take back control of her own body and her health by getting stronger and keeping her body going by working out in the gym.
“I love having control over how I can take care of it and build my strength,” Kristen added.
“I limit myself to between two and four workouts a week, either at home or in the gym. I enjoy running, HIIT workouts and lifting some weights.
“I’m proud to say that I’m much stronger than I look. Endorphins are key and help me get a boost of energy.
“My goal is to show others that not everything is as it seems and not all disabilities are visible. You should never judge someone’s capabilities based off their appearance.
“If I can continue to build awareness and allow other people with chronic illness feel less alone, then my diagnosis is more than just a disease but the gift to spread hope and educate others.
“Life has its ups and downs and although it is easy to view any disease as negative, you’ve been dealt these cards for a reason – it’s because you can handle it and you are meant to impact the world with so much more.”
You can follow Kristen’s autoimmune and fitness journey on her Instagram @tendra_liftss
For more information see www.mediadrumworld.com