Friday, March 22, 2013

Adrenal Fatigue: Part 1

I'm not exactly sure when I started to notice a decrease in my energy levels. As many of you know I became an avid biker over this last summer. I usually spent two hours biking a day, which was anywhere from 18 to 24 miles each day. I often went with a friend. It was like my body craved it, and my bike called my name each day. I sometimes would go out two times a day. It was also a great way for me to cope with my anxiety and help me get to sleep since I still struggled with getting a full night's worth of sleep.

At some point biking became a chore. I would often get dressed and ready and find myself sitting on the floor staring at my bike for hours. Sometimes I would force myself to eventually get outside and bike hard, while other times I just couldn't find enough motivation. Eventually I had to pick between bike riding and accomplishing something else during the day. I couldn't do both. The days I picked something else I felt guilty. The choice was then taken from me and I was lucky if I got much of anything done during the day. The days that I got on my bike became history. I haven't biked in months.

The beginning of October I know for sure that I started to notice other changes in my body because I asked my friend what happened to her when she ate wheat (she had celiacs). My symptoms didn't match up. I didn't know what was wrong but took peanuts out of my diet since that is a very common sensitivity or allergy to develop. I think I may have noticed a small difference.

Towards the end of October my energy levels started to decrease even more. Tom was getting stressed out with his research, so I went to spend almost the entire month of November with my parents. I took up plenty of things to work on. Tom warned my parents that I would probably hibernate in my room quite often. This visit home I chose a different room to stay in than "my" old room since I associated it with negative memories from earlier in the year.

My stay at home in November was mostly positive. All of a sudden I had a huge desire to make cards. It was my first time wanting to do one of my old hobbies. I got my friend to drive me to my favorite craft store in Vancouver (Craft Warehouse), and I went a little crazy. My last visit to that store I had left empty handed. I'm not sure that had ever happened before. Since I usually woke up really early I would head downstairs and work on cards. But as Thanksgiving drew closer I just started to make card kits to put together later. I felt that I finally was finding something that helped to bring happiness into my life. Well, those kits never even got put together.

The day of Thanksgiving I found myself feeling sick just at the smell of meat cooking. I couldn't even imagine eating it. I spent the meal up in my bedroom. I also was beginning to notice that I could only spend so much time doing something or being around people before I had to retreat into my own little space. I believe my mom was disappointed that I didn't join my family and friends for the meal. She didn't fully understand why and neither did I. I thought I was going crazy!

My therapist always starts off asking me how I'm doing (I sometimes try to beat her to it first...catches her off guard a little. Ha!). I guess I had been answering tired for quite sometime. She asked if she could go get something and she came back with a book titled: "Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome" by James L. Wilson, N.D., D.C., PhD. I had never heard of adrenal fatigue before. There are two tests that you can do at home to see if you have it and since she had a blood pressure cuff she had me lay on her couch. I found it ironic because just the night before I was thinking it was a good length couch for some Freudian therapy.

As I laid there for five minutes she read off some of the symptoms. Many of them she didn't even need me to reply...she already knew the answer. Some of them applied to me some of them did not. Some of the symptoms are:
  • Difficulty getting up in the morning. (Nope. Total opposite.)
  • Continuing fatigue not relieved by sleep. (Big YES!)
  • Craving for salt or salty foods. (Nope- craving for refreshing foods.)
  • Lethargy (lack of energy). (YES!)
  • Increased effort to do every day tasks. (YES! So annoying!)
  • Decreased ability to handle stress. (Yeppers!)
  • Increased time to recover from illness, injury, or trauma. (Oh yeah! Caught a simple bug from Josalyn and it took me forever to get over it.)
  • Light-headed when standing up quickly. (Light-headed and tingly often.)
  • Mild depression. (Well this one was a no brainer. More than mild.)
  • Less enjoyment or happiness with life. (Yes though depression also plays a big part in this.)
  • Increased PMS. (I don't remember how I answered this one.)
  • Symptoms increase if meals are skipped or inadequate. (Yeah. And at the time I was eating the same three meals every single day.)
  • Thoughts less focused, more fuzzy. (For sure and so frustrating!)
  • Memory less accurate. (Yes. Though long-term is mostly fine. I struggle with talking and getting the word order right and the tenses. I notice it and repeat it right but get very frustrated.)
  • Decreased tolerance. (Poor Tom! My mom also thought it was becoming a new trait to be rude and abrupt. Or if you put a twist on it I was letting my feelings out more which is good right?)
  • Don't really wake up until 10am. (I didn't find the next three to be true. I have since learned why.)
  • Afternoon low between 3:00pm and 4:00pm.
  • Feel better after evening meal.
  • Decreased productivity. (Yes. Do I get anything done besides resting and laying on the couch? Sometimes it feels like I never do.)
After the five minutes my therapist took my blood pressure while I was still on the couch and then once again after I stood up. Everything was normal but she still wasn't convinced. She copied the questionnaire/test out of the book to have me take over the Christmas vacation.

Tom, Chris and I spent close to two weeks at home. I would say it felt like the majority of that time I spent in my room alone. Tom & Chris shared a room so that I had my space and my sister ended up sleeping in my parent's bedroom. I sometimes asked myself "why did I even bother going home?" Once again I skipped the big family meal. I decided I wanted to become a vegetarian. Just the thought of meat made me sick. I procrastinated in taking the questionnaire but eventually pulled it out. As I took it I felt that I was going to come out mild. Some areas I scored mostly zeroes but guess what? It showed that I had a severe case of adrenal fatigue. I let my therapist know and she wasn't surprised.

Now that my behavior had a name it seemed that everyone was a little more understanding of my behavior. There was something to blame that wasn't "my" fault. Did any of us know what exactly adrenal fatigue even was? No not really. I've been assigned by my therapist and the nurse practionaner that I'm presently seeing to read the book and try to implement the lifestyle it suggests. The idea is that under certain circumstances you can deal with adrenal fatigue on your own without seeing a doctor.

I'm still not reading. *sigh* I only have read the forward and since buying the book I have only cracked it open once (today to type out the symptoms). But from the 1930's to the 1960's an extremely safe remedy was approved by the FDA called adrenal cortical extract (ACE) and was very safe. Since the 1970's the FDA has "outlawed" and persecuted this remedy. Reasons? Money and politics. What used to be known as a widely accepted syndrome is now pretty much unknown. I even asked my brother-in-law who is about to graduate from medical school if he knew what it was. His response was: "Your adrenal glands are worn out?".

Even though it is now March there is still much for me to learn and so many of my other health concerns are interwined with adrenal fatigue. That is why I'm splitting up this topic into parts. As my therapist has read bits and pieces of this book she has recognized many around her struggling with adrenal fatigue on some level including her oldest son (we have a couple of things in common). We both are seeking medical help (from the same nurse practioner) because of the severity of some of the symptoms we are experiencing. But I will leave that for another day.

But I most definitly have learned the difficult way that because of the way we treat our bodies, may it be through poor nutrition, lack of exercise, accumulating stress or reasons out of our control, our bodies begin to shut down to preserve what funcitions and body parts it deems most important. My lifestyle has been changed for months partly because of adrenal fatigue, but there is hope. And I try my best to hold onto that hope for healing in so many different areas of my life.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Priceless Gift

When I first moved into my present ward I did NOT want a calling in primary. I hadn't really been in primary much since I was a child. It was a foreign land and I was intimidated. I also hadn't interacted with children very much over the past seven years while going to school. I kept my fingers crossed that I would be passed over.

I was called to be on what was then called the Enrichment Committee. I could handle that. I felt a sigh of relief that I had gotten away with not being put in primary. But then Tom was extended a second calling, and it became apparent that in our ward if you didn't hold a leadership position you usually had more than one calling. I didn't feel so "safe" then.

The dreaded day came. I was asked to team teach what was then CTR 6 (now CTR 5). What a huge blessing it was to have someone to follow and observe for a couple of weeks. I started to learn the names of the children in our class and even other children in Jr. primary. I began to teach every other week. We had a large class with a couple of children with special needs, so at times it would get to be pretty crazy. But I loved every single one of them. I loved watching how they grew so much in that second half of the year. Because I joined them late I moved up to CTR 7 (CTR 6) with them as their teacher. I was excited to be able to spend more time with them.

There was always the intention of calling another teacher to help me out. On a typical Sunday I would have probably about seven children. I was down to one now with special needs. I have to admit that there were Sundays that I went home crying thinking that I hadn't accomplished anything. I struggled with finding the balance of disciplining but also not letting one child disrupt the learning of the other children. I had a smart class, and I wanted it to be fun for all. Eventually I would pull Tom in with me while I taught if it looked like I was going to have a big class. He came to love every one of those kids too. I never did get a team teacher, but I was sad to see "my" kids graduate to Sr. primary.

I was excited to get a new class and to get to know other kids in the primary better. I had a small class now, and they were all sweethearts. I came to love them quickly. There were no more Sundays of crying. It didn't mean that every Sunday went smoothly. But compared to the year before my class was easy to work with. The kids were eager to learn and gave insightful answers to questions. I was happy right where I was.

Besides enjoying teaching I also enjoyed sharing time. I loved to hear the different children participate. Sometimes I would be blown away by their answers to questions asked. I also liked having the opportunity to relearn the primary songs. I had pretty much forgotten most of them. During my difficult year of teaching by myself I would always remind myself to be grateful that I didn't have to teach sharing time. That task seemed daunting. Not only did you have to teach the lesson twice, but you had adults observing you as well. I liked the fact that it was just the kids and me when I taught. If I botched it I knew that they would forget by the next Sunday, and they would love me no matter what.

I had a dear friend move out of the ward boundaries. She had been serving as first counselor in primary presidency. She asked me what I thought about being in the presidency. I was blunt in the fact that I did NOT want to be a counselor. I didn't want the stress of teaching sharing time. My friend passed the word onto the primary president and once again I felt "safe." I went out of town for two weeks and on my return my friend asked me if I had thought about primary at all. My answer was an emphatic no. She asked the question a couple of times. I knew then that I was in trouble. I was able to escape the first couple of Sundays back, but the fateful day came when I was called to be the first counselor in the primary presidency.

I knew that I was going to be pushed out of my comfort zone multiple times. The women I served with were loving and wonderful. I felt welcome right off. I don't remember what my first sharing time was about, but I thought I was going to pass out I was so nervous. Yet I survived and continued to do so as time went by. I became known for going a little over the top with my lessons. I felt that if I was bored preparing the lesson, then the kids would be bored hearing it. I always worried that I wouldn't have enough material to fill up my time, but I almost always took up the whole time. I think our music leader just came to expect that when it was my turn to teach. I couldn't help but look for creative ideas to teach. I was still nervous before teaching, but the minute I started all fear disappeared as I would get immersed in the lesson and the kids. I honestly loved teaching sharing time.

I cornered the 1st counselor in the bishopric one Sunday as I was checking in on nursery and found out that the bishopric would be considering whether or not to change the primary presidency after the children's program (Nov 2012). This program was both the president's and my third time, though this year I ended up being out of town. I still put the rough draft together; I shared the information with the president (who is also a friend), and we would laugh and guess at where we would serve next. She felt that she may be called to Young Women's. At the time I had a feeling that I may be called to nursery. We had been needing more help, but we had a hard time coming up with names. My last few months in primary, when I had the strength to make it to church, were mainly spent in nursery. I missed my interaction with the older children but I loved each of the kids in nursery too.

My first Sunday back at church after the Thanksgiving break I was notified that I would be released the following Sunday. I was notified at the same time as another counselor, and I acted cheerful. I knew right away who the president would be and that the counselor I was sitting near would be called back into primary. I expected to feel a huge sense of relief. With the decrease of my health and just the different things that took place the first Sunday's of the months, I hadn't taught sharing time since July. I thought knowing that I wouldn't have to teach sharing time would make me feel less stressed and less guilty. My reaction surprised me.

As I sat sitting in church as the meeting went on it slowly began to sink in. I looked around the room at the different children. It began to dawn on me that the world of primary would no longer be mine. I wouldn't have the children running up to me to give me a hug, to show me a loose tooth, to tell me about their birthday party, to tell me how many teeth they had lost, to show me their very first pair of heels, etc. Such small moments that I would no longer have.

It took all I had to hold in the tears until I found an appropriate time to get up and go out to my car. It wasn't sitting in a very private location, so I drove off and parked in a parking lot that was mostly empty, and I sobbed. I'm not sure how long I sat there, but my heart was breaking. The laughter I had experienced at the idea of being released was forgotten. The following Sunday I didn't go to church because of health reasons but also because I knew I couldn't handle sitting there as my name was announced and another's to replace mine.

My time in primary was a priceless gift: a gift that Heavenly Father knew I needed even though I dreaded it at first. As most know, primary can get to be noisy and pretty crazy, but stepping through the primary doors at times was like walking into a piece of heaven. Children eager to learn and share. After my time in the Johnson Unit last year Sister Roderick had the children draw something that made them happy. Those drawings can still be found hung up above my closet. It is amazing how much love and healing can be found in a child's arms when you have a hard time finding it anywhere else.

I have to be honest and say that at times it still hurts. I happened to be looking at instagram, and I saw a picture of a Sunbeam giving her first talk. A child who had just been in nursery last year. In the photo I could see some of the presidency sitting where I once sat. I found myself tearing up. I miss them. I know that the timing of my departure was right. My health started to decrease even more quickly after that, but yet it was another loss. One that I didn't realize would hurt. It is a huge feat if I make it to just Sacrament Meeting now. I know the children are in good hands and are loved very much by their teachers and leaders.

     Heavenly Father, are you really there?
     And do you hear and answer ev'ry child's prayer?
     Some say that heaven is far away,
     But I feel it close around me as I pray.
     Heavenly Father, I remember now
     Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
     "Suffer the children to come to me."
     Father, in prayer I'm coming now to thee.

     Pray, he is there;
     Speak he is list'ning.
     You are his child:
     His love now surrounds you.
     He hears your prayer;
     He loves the children,
     Of such is the kingdom,
     The kingdom of heav'n.

"A Child's Prayer", words and music by Janice Kapp Perry

(*Note: The majority of this blog post was written before I was officially released. I was planning on publishing it shortly after, but because of health issues writing takes so much out of me physically and emotionally.)