Updated: Oct 22, 2021
Let me paint the picture. I was an athlete for the majority of my life. I was a competitive cheerleader from the age of 5 to 18 and then went to The University of South Carolina and cheered there for my freshman year. When that came to an end I discovered CrossFit and dove head first into that style of working out.
When cheerleading ended I had a brief identity crisis. If I wasn’t competing, or practicing, who was/am I? Thoughts crept in. The timing of things is always, on time. I was introduced to CrossFit the summer going into my Sophomore year of college. Like I mentioned, I was instantly hooked. It felt the same, yet different from cheerleading. I felt like an athlete again, whereas with collegiate cheerleading I felt more judged on my appearance versus my skill. With CrossFit, I instantly felt strong and athletic, I knew this was where I wanted to be. It was also brought to my attention that there were local competitions and opportunities to compete in regional and worldwide events, so my brain heard, practice and compete… which is what I had been doing for the last 13 years, it felt beyond natural to dive into.
I started CrossFit in Fortmill, SC and took it back to college, working out at Carolina CrossFit in Columbia, SC. For the next 5 years I competed locally and at a regional level in 2017 representing Carolina CrossFit on a 6 person team. With each year, I got more dialed into my training—making lifestyle and nutritional changes to help support my goals within CrossFit.
Reflecting back on those years, I address them as “on auto-pilot”. A strength of mine is discipline. I am able to work hard, be okay with being different from the crowd, and essentially settle into discomfort. I love that about me, and it also came with a cost.
In 2018, I made a physical move across the country, to San Diego, CA. I have always dreamed of living on the West coast and had an opportunity to transfer with my job at Lululemon. This was a big move, yet at the time, I didn't think it was that big of a deal. I remember telling friends and family. They were excited and shocked that I was going all the way across the country. In my head, I was “just moving”. Reminiscing now, I had no idea what I was getting into.
Moving to San Diego was one of the most challenging endeavors I embarked upon. Three months in, it truly hit me: I was facing a big fear of mine - being alone. I knew no one in San Diego, or the West Coast, and I made the conscious choice to be there. Within the first 6 months my health started to decline for the first time in my life. Doctor visits were not a frequent thing for me prior to California.
The first change was my sleep. I was getting 3.5-4 hours of sleep, when I used to brag about needing 8-9 hours to function. I also started having stomach discomfort, things I ate didn’t settle well, I was experiencing more bloat and gas, and again, I also used to say “I have an iron stomach!” Oh boy, things were CHANGING! I did not understand what was happening. It felt like my body was shutting down. I had dark circles under my eyes, was incredibly tired and anxious, had restless sleep, and digestion issues.
It seemed like everything around me was changing, so naturally, I was looking for things that I could control. To my detriment, I was trying to hold on to CrossFit, meaning, training as hard as I used to in South Carolina, along with controlling my food and what I was eating, and spending a lot of time at work. These were all familiar things, so I did my best to hold tightly to them, but they were adding gasoline to the stress fire that I didn’t consciously know was building.
It was about 8 months into the move when the symptoms I mentioned above got worse. The pain in my stomach grew, my fatigue increased, and I started to feel a block in my throat - like I always had to clear my throat before speaking. I didn’t feel right, yet didn’t know what or who to go to. I was weary of the doctor due to not wanting to be on medication and my own preconceived notions of doctors offices. But, things got bad enough and I was connected with a holistic MD practitioner in San Diego. I felt seen in our appointment because it lasted over an hour and she asked so many questions to truly understand and get to know my history.
We did some blood tests, one of which was a Thyroid panel. I didn’t know what the Thyroid was or the importance it played in the proper functioning of other organ systems. What I learned is that to understand your Thyroid fully, you need much more than your TSH levels (which is common for traditional MD’s to solely pull). You need to dive deeper into your T3, T4, free-T3, free-T4, and antibody numbers.
When the results came back, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, or hypothyroidism. I felt broken. My body was breaking down and screaming to me, "STOP." But I wasn’t listening. I was continuing to try and work, workout, compete, eat the same, live the same as I did before, all the while, my body was asking for rest, space, time to adjust to moving across the country!
I was placed on medication, a low dosage of Natur-Throid. I was also adamant on not wanting to take this medication for life, which the doctor mentioned might be the case, but I wanted to work on the behaviors that caused this.
Stress in my life is what I had to face. Step one for me was sleep. Addressing my sleep patterns and building a healthier bedtime routine that allowed me to down regulate and encourage a restful night of sleep. Step two was pulling back from the gym. I had to find other ways to move my body that would not add fuel to the fire. This looked like: more walks, slow yoga classes, deep stretching, breath work, and meditation. These are all habits I picked up in order to get my body in more of a parasympathetic state (rest and digest). It was incredibly hard for me not to go to the gym. But I knew the big picture, this is what my body was asking for in this season, and it won’t be forever… although some days felt like it would be.
After addressing these two factors along with being on medication, I was seeing improvement in sleep and fatigue...though still struggling with digestion, some skin issues, and my throat. This led me to exploring massage and bodywork. I was introduced to some reiki practitioners who work with energy. This opened my eyes to “getting into my body.” Learning to feel and name what it is I am feeling within my body.
This work challenged and hooked me. I got more in tune with my body’s needs, and at that time, it was asking me to be still and recover. I found a bodyworker in San Diego, and began addressing the sensations in my stomach which were radiating into my right hip, groin, and lower leg. It was causing me pain and discomfort. I was finally ready to start addressing the pain. We worked on belly breathing, abdominal work, and overall deep tissue massages to again help my body get into a relaxed parasympathetic space. For 6 months I committed to the process and gained comfort in my body again. My digestion, sleep, fatigue, and skin all improved during this time period. I even stopped using the medication and replaced it with a natural thyroid support which included vitamins like selenium, D, and K, to aid in my recovery process.
The lifestyle changes paired with hands on manual therapy all brought me back to myself. They brought me back within, tapping into my own body—getting quiet enough, by minimizing stressors, to trust that my body wants AND can heal, one just has to be willing to listen.
I am now in a space where I get to facilitate healing. I get to aid patients on their journey of becoming more in-tune with themselves, their needs, and their healing. Bodywork works with the body, involving you, the client, in the work to be able to live a more functional and healthy lifestyle. If you are struggling with hypothyroid, this is not me telling you to get off medication, or do the exact steps I did to regain health. This journey is specific to me. My hope is for this to provide tools for you to explore in order to heal on your personal journey.
For interests in working with me 1:1 you can find my available appointments at
https://www.ivyintegrative.com/team/megan-leskody . I look forward to meeting you on your healing journey.
Megan Leskody, LMBT