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.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

Yes, you are DEFINITELY Adrenal Fatigued. Also, your pupils have difficulty contracting. That's another sign of severe adrenal fatigue. Sorry about that, but we'll get it taken care of! I pray for you all the time!!!