This young teacher has been dubbed “sleeping beauty”.
In 2013 Kristen Devanna, from New York, US, was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s
syndrome – a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid –after
experiencing cracked skin and a constant need for sleep.
“There’s very little awareness regarding Hashimoto’s [syndrome],
even doctors who I encountered knew very little about it,” said Kristen.
“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’ 27-year-old and I needed to realise that my body has limitations.”
Although Kristen noticed changes in her appearances, she
only became concerned after she started sleeping more than usual.
“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
“My skin became flaky and easily irritated, my extremities
would [be] freezing cold even in warm weather, to the point where they were
“I’d 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’d feel sick after just going to the shop
or taking a shower, and I cried making the bed.”
After learning to cope with her diagnosis and managing her
symptoms for the past few years, the literacy teacher is now building her strength and increasing her energy
level by pushing herself to workout.
“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
“I’m proud to say I’m much stronger than I look. Endorphins
are key and help me get a boost of energy,” she said.
Despite seeing many doctors and specialists, Kristen hasn’t had
any treatment to help with her condition.
She now hopes to bring light to her disease by documenting her journey on Instagram.
“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 on their appearance,” said Kristen.
“If I can continue to build awareness and help 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’s 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’re meant to impact the world with so much more.”