IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Was Diagnosed with Graves' Disease and I Quit My Prescription Drugs to Try Alternative Medicine

My doctor started me on medication for my heart and thyroid, and I felt better, but I didn't want to be on medication forever.
Publish date:
September 6, 2016
alternative medicine, autoimmune disease, Graves Disease, Prescription Drugs

Growing up, I knew there was something different about me. I always had this feeling that I wasn't 100 percent healthy. I was constantly tired, no matter how many hours of sleep I got the night before, and I somehow knew my body wasn't working to its full potential.

When serious symptoms first started developing, I lost more than 15 pounds in a month despite being hungry all the time and eating more more than usual. I had eye pain, and my migraines were the worst, up to the point where I couldn't look at any screens without feeling nauseous. At my lowest point, I thought I had a brain tumor.

A few days after my first appointment to address my symptoms almost a year ago, my doctor called me with my blood test results. She made me come in person to hear them, which only made me panic. However, my doctor confirmed what I already knew: that some part of my body was not normal.

She told me I have Graves' Disease, an autoimmune disease associated with hyperthyroidism, which gives me endless migraines, panic attacks, and insomnia, followed by sleep paralysis. I broke down in tears because I finally had an answer after months of confusion and physical pain.

My doctor started me on medication for my heart and thyroid, and within days, I felt better. My migraines even ceased. However, my eye pain didn't go away. It feels like a lot of pressure behind the eye — like something is pushing my eyeball forward and out of my skull.

A few months later, I had to change my insurance, and when I saw my new doctor, he advised me to continue taking the medicine my previous doctor prescribed for a few more years and see if there was any progress, or, he said, I could get surgery to remove my thyroid. If I went along with the procedure, I'd still have to take medicine for the rest of my life.

The options seemed bleak to me. I told him I didn't want to the surgery, nor did I want to take prescription medication forever. However, neither he nor my first doctor wanted to listen to me. I explained that I couldn't see myself taking drugs for the rest of my life — not to mention it's expensive to get regular checkups and monthly medicine, even with insurance.

I grew up in a Taiwanese household that used traditional Chinese medicine to cure ailments, from rubbing Tiger Balm on my bruises to drinking cups of oolong tea when we had stomach aches. My grandmother also used to massage pressure points in my feet to help me relax before bed, because I've dealt with sleep paralysis my whole life.

I knew there was something out there I hadn't discovered yet, so I embarked on journey of alternative healing.

I know you're not supposed to go off any medication without weaning off it slowly or discussing it with your doctor, but I felt like I was slowly killing myself with the drugs. Even though there was no more physical pain, I felt drained of energy. I had constant brain fog, and with my heart condition, it wasn't wise to drink coffee to try to stay alert. I'd forget things I needed to do at work and even mundane chores, and it was making my personal and professional life stressful. My liver was also inflamed from the medication, and I walked around with pain in my stomach for months. I was also irritable, and taking my anger out on everyone around me.

So I read all I could about alternative medicine and purchased a plethora of alternative healing books.

The first month, I started eating a raw vegan diet, which consisted of mainly fruits and vegetables, and a cooked dinner at night. Since I'm already vegan, it wasn't hard to transition to eating more raw foods.

During this time, I started meditating daily — forced myself to sit down and meditate for at least 10 minutes each morning — and using essential oils, which I put on the sides of my head and neck. I also learned how to give myself Reiki.

During the second month, I tried different kinds of massage and acupuncture. I took my time experimenting with these new modalities of healing mainly because they cost around $100 per hour, and I couldn't afford spending that kind of money often.

By the end of the third month, I had experimented with sound healing and energy healing. During this time, I felt like I was truly treating my body with the respect it deserves.

Alternative medicine has taught me how to remove stress from my life. It has reconnected me with my body after feeling like I'd lost complete control over my health. It has made me appreciate my body for what it is: a functional mechanism sustaining my life and working hard to keep me alive. And eating raw foods has made me appreciate fruits and vegetables, which will always be healthy and trendy.

Whether you prefer mainstream or alternative medicine, you have the power to embark on a healthy lifestyle and change your life. My belief in the power of healing oneself has helped me witness firsthand the calmness and relaxation one can experience through alternative medicine. I know many are skeptical because it's different and there aren't many accredited programs for these modalities, but not every alternative-medicine practitioner is a charlatan. Some genuinely want to help you get better and feel better.

I'm not saying alternative medicine is the cure, but I do think mainstream medicine is complicated and suspicious. I don't think mainstream or alternative medicine will ever cure my disease, but throughout my months of alternative healing, I've learned having faith and tenacity has led me to where I am today: a happier, healthier place.