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The stress from my divorce made me sick with Hashimoto's disease

Julie Hryniewicz is a former police officer who shares her personal and professional stories about overcoming adversity, healing, wellness and living fully. She has been speaking and writing since 2004.

My divorce was so stressful it gave me a thyroid disorder

The day I knew I hit an all time low, a coworker found me lying on the floor of my office. As a plainclothes police officer, I was still wearing my gun fully loaded under my blazer. I had been feeling hot, dizzy, lethargic and about to faint.  I knew there was something wrong.

At that time, my divorce was the most emotionally draining experience of my life. I had gained over 20 pounds in a couple of short months. My hair was falling out. I was either too hot or too cold. I was clinically depressed, and I was beyond tired, all the time. Divorce was awful, it practically killed me; and I was the one who left.

It took Sept. 11, 2001, for me to make the final decision to leave. It was such a catastrophic shift for me when I contemplated the terror of 9/11 turning into a third world war. That day, I decided that I needed to live authentically and could no longer deny what was in my heart to do, in case the world ended.

More: Why we should all start seizing the moment with our love lives

Although I waited a bit longer, until after a family wedding, I set off on my pursuit of what I envisioned as true happiness. My confidence, determination and strength quickly turned to overwhelming guilt, gut wrenching tears and day after day of watching everything we had built over a 12-year relationship crumble before my eyes.

I left the family home and bought a $38,000 rental house to live in temporarily. I took my clothing, my car, all of the family debt, and a dresser and china cabinet that my mom refinished for me. We agreed on joint and shared custody of our daughter, and I was off on my merry way.

Merry, it was not. Within months, I wanted to die. With a reluctant visit to my doctor and some swift medical tests, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease — a fancy name for an autoimmune thyroid disorder. I asked what antibiotics I would need to get rid of it and then learned that I would require medication every single day for the rest of my life.

Since our body quickly goes to work under stress to combat our ailments, my body was producing extra antibodies, which acted like soldiers going to work on my behalf. It turns out, my internal army of soldiers ended up eating away at my own thyroid gland, preventing it from ever producing enough of the hormone called TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). My antibodies measured at off-the-chart levels and a thyroid test came back abnormal.

This hormone regulates everything from hair growth, temperature control, metabolism and emotions. It took over two and a half years, numerous doctors, tests, medication changes, specialists, antidepressants, counselling, sick leave from work, moving out of town, eventually leaving my career as a police officer and declaring bankruptcy, before my life began to settle.

Divorce exposes every raw emotion that we have. It breaks us down, lower than the most grueling drill sergeant in a boot camp, and turns your world upside down, especially when it is complicated, estranged or involves children, property or investments.

Despite the devastation financially, physically, psychologically, geographically and emotionally, I have been happily remarried for over a decade now and divorce turned out to be only one of the downs of life’s perpetual roller coaster. We all survived our divorce catastrophes and my relationship with my former husband, as co-parents and grandparents, is as strong as it has ever been.

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It took forgiveness, doing an autopsy of our past, our decisions and our twists and turns along the way and finally learning how to communicate in order to be able to find peace again, over 14 years later.

I have learned that our issues follow us into every relationship until we deal with them. Trust issues, jealousy issues, toxic beliefs and insecurity issues will continue to rear their ugly heads over and over again until we acknowledge the root, recognize the triggers and learn to express our feelings and needs in a healthy and productive way.

Divorce was one of the worst and best experiences of my life. It made me discover the real me and taught me how to forgive. The need to forgive runs like a life line through all of our relationships and it begins with taking responsibility for our choices and actions and then forgiving ourselves.

If there is any way to work on your marriage and if there is even a drop of hope, I would suggest that divorce is the very, very last possible resort. The grief is overwhelming. If you are in the middle of dealing with the fall out of divorce, you will get through it. If you are looking to move forward after divorce, believe that you will find love and peace again — or perhaps for the first time.

More: 5 relationship habits of the happiest couples on the planet

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