We recently sat down with Lauren Freedman, the host of a new podcast, Uninvisible. If you haven’t listened to it yet, you should! Uninvisible is a podcast about invisible illnesses where Lauren interviews survivors, their loved ones, advocates, and experts.
Lauren is no stranger to invisible illness. She suffers from Hashimto’s and sleep disorders. Her podcast allows her to share information, inspiration, and comfort while advocating for greater awareness.
Lauren’s work is bringing invisible conditions out in the open which is why we wanted to sit down and talk with her.
Lauren, tell us a little about yourself and what you do!
I’m an actor, activist, and small business owner, and I started a podcast about invisible illness called UNINVISIBLE in January 2019. I’m ranked on the Alternative Health charts on iTunes and have even had press through Health magazine and other outlets. I’ve been lucky enough to interview Dr. Holtorf on the show…check out episode 15! The podcast was inspired by my own health crisis and journey to wellness, and it’s a project very close to my heart. It’s allowed me not only to raise awareness about invisible illness diagnosis, treatment, and community, but also to meet some people who have incredible stories of survival and who have inspired me to keep going.
Tell us about your diagnosis and journey with Hashimoto’s.
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 2017, and it took a few different doctors before I’d even get one to admit I had this going on. My symptoms manifested one weekend just after my 34th birthday, when I spent 40 hours in bed and my doctor subsequently ran an autoimmune panel that came back positive, along with some pretty out-there thyroid indicators. I was totally unfamiliar with thyroid autoimmune conditions, but when I began to research my symptoms and spoke to some trusted resources, everything pointed to Hashimoto’s. I found that the world of strictly western/traditional medicine didn’t respond terribly well to my needs as a patient…the way many doctors are trained, there was a lack of understanding of me as a whole person. I was just a number on a chart until I found Holtorf Medical Group and was introduced to integrative and functional medicine approaches to my healing – which for me has meant combo therapy (T3/T4), peptides (BPC-157, Thymosin Alpha, and Thymosin Beta), and supplement support. I’ve also changed up my diet, getting on AIP – which made a huge impact on my health. Extreme fatigue, muscle cramping, and weight gain were my main symptoms…now, I manage the fatigue and the other symptoms have all but dissipated. I’m very lucky to have access to the resources that I’ve been able to tap into, and I hope to bring awareness of these insidious autoimmune conditions (and other invisible illnesses) to a greater audience.
You’ve mentioned that you’ve seen your fair share of “Top Docs”. How long after you started noticing your symptoms did you get diagnosed?
It took 4 months for me to be diagnosed. Coming from NYC and the access to top-level medical care there, I was amazed at how reticent so many providers were to give me a name for my condition, when it was so obvious that I had Hashimoto’s and not just an imbalanced thyroid. I remember having to ask my endocrinologist…”can you confirm I have Hashimoto’s disease?” She didn’t want to! To her, it was – throw me some Synthroid, the numbers on the chart looks good now – you’re cured! I was quite the opposite. I had to leave my job because my fatigue was preventing me from fully functioning. I was sleeping 12-16 hours a day. It was untenable. I remember being told, “You look fine!” and having to say: “I’m not fine.” To even have to say that! I think a lot of patients struggle with being totally honest with medical providers unless they find one they can really trust. It was my first experience in understanding that not every doctor was going to be my doctor – that sometimes, it was OK to walk away from being underserved. I think especially as a woman, the idea that I had to get my head around was – this isn’t working for me, and I need to find an alternative that does. Walking away from what doesn’t work for you, when you’re socialized to believe that doctors are all there to help, is a hard lesson to learn. I’m grateful to have a support system that immediately realized this and made me aware that it was time to seek better care. Which, luckily, I did.
Would you mind sharing any treatments that have worked for you?
The treatments that have changed the game for me have been: combo therapy (T3/T4), supplement support, hormonal support, peptide therapy, and diet change. I experienced the most noticeable short-term change when I got on combo therapy and when I changed my diet to AIP (autoimmune protocol, which is similar to Paleo but with some additional restrictions – learn more about AIP here). Over the longer term, supplements, hormones, and peptides have really helped alleviate my symptoms and get me on track for success.
How did Uninvisible start? Was health always your passion?
Health was never my passion! I kinda wish it had been, but life gives us lemons and we’ve gotta make lemonade, right? Uninvisible was born out of conversations I started having with my network when I first got sick. I’m known among my friends as an oversharer (in the most endearing way!), so when I first started showing signs of chronic illness, I started asking everyone whether they’d gone through anything similar or what they’d recommend I do. It turns out most women I know (in their 30s and older) had had some kind of thyroid crisis. And nobody was talking about it!! This, I could NOT believe. So I made it my mission to keep talking, and to draw people out of the shadows. Then, of course, as these conversations developed, I realized the scope of invisible illness, and how autoimmune diseases, in particular, disproportionately affect women. Well, from that point on it snowballed; partially because I was angry – but also because I saw an opportunity for community where some people had none. I work in voiceover, so it was a natural progression to take these conversations to the airwaves. Not only am I talking to patients (male and female), but I am also talking to their loved ones and advocates, as well as health practitioners from a spectrum of potential treatment styles, medical to holistic. If it helps one person, it might help another. And as my audience grows, I see even more clearly the need to continue this dialogue and to challenge the health system as we know it. More than anything: I’m a fighter. So even though healthcare was never on my radar in a major way, I had a reason to fight – not only for myself, but also for others who are underserved and underrepresented.
How do you choose your guests for the Uninvisible podcast?
When I first started the show, I was selecting guests from within my direct network: friends, acquaintances, medical providers, etc. But as it’s grown, I’ve been able to reach out to more people through social media connections (Instagram has been great for this, and it’s my favorite social network) and as introductions have been made through contacts. I’ve also had a number of people reach out to me, either directly or through publicists. And getting fan mail has not only been gratifying, but it’s been fruitful…one of my first listeners wrote to me early on, and has become not only a guest, but also a friend! We’re all in this together, and the further I reach the more abundant my conversations become.
Any thoughts on what’s next for you?
I’m in the process of starting an online store (totally unrelated to the podcast!) in an effort to work within my means – so I can work on my terms and dictate my own schedule. In addition, I’ve got a few irons in the fire with regard to writing and tech development. I’m not one to rest on my laurels! One of the most wonderful consequences of getting sick, which came out of having to leave my full-time job, is that my creative juices have unlocked. So I’m full of ideas and inspiration and hope to continue to serve my community and others!
Where can we find your information and follow Uninvisible?
You can go to our website at uninvisiblepod.com, and follow along on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @uninvisiblepod. And feel free to reach out anytime by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I try to respond to every piece of correspondence I receive, so you may just hear back from me…watch out, I make everyone a new friend! You’ve been warned ;)