I don’t think I talk a lot about adrenal fatigue on my blog, or in my every day life either, but lately I have begun to bring it up more. I’m not sure why…I guess it’s because I want people close to me to understand what I’m going through, and because I think that I need to make even more major changes and I want them to be on board with me. I will start with saying it’s really excruciatingly difficult to talk about. I don’t like being a needy or weak person! I like pushing through, I like a challenge, and I like to be on the top of my game. And I definitely don’t want to be that person who always has a problem or excuse.
But I’m going to use this blog to say what adrenal fatigue is, what it feels like, how it occurs, how one can recover, and what the possible lifelong ramifications of it can be.
First of all, the adrenal glands are tiny but very important organs. They put out all kinds of hormones to keep us stable. They release adrenaline to help us deal with stresses such as blood sugar crashes, exercise, and scary incidents! They also release cortisol (which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Cortisol is released to balance the adrenaline, and so if one is dealing with too many blood sugar crashes, exercise, and stressful incidents, they become a cortisol making machine. High cortisol is dangerous, causes belly fat, and is linked to heart disease.) The adrenals cannot keep up with the making of these stress hormones and then when you need them, the hormones aren’t there to help you stabilize. Adrenals also make DHEA, estrogen, testosterone, and aldosterone.
Adrenal fatigue is usually caused by some kind of physical or emotional trauma, one that is either drawn out or something unexpected like a car wreck. It’s really common for people with adrenal fatigue to be “driven”, or overworked like a mom with little children or a medical student. Mine began while I was a missionary in one of the hardest places to live on the planet, I’ve been told. My body went through a lot there, and I am also a “driven person” (although I have changed a lot through the years.) I left Africa 12 years ago, and have had symptoms off and on ever since.
It feels a lot like the flu, with aches, mind fogginess, need for about 12 hours of sleep but often insomnia, and extreme exhaustion. For me, there were years where it also was accompanied by a weak immune system, headaches, panicky feelings, and random fevers. Before I even had a diagnosis, there were a few years in those 9 that I thought I was healed! Those were the years that Selah (almost 8) was conceived, my first year of raising her, and June 2011 to June 2012. Each time all the symptoms returned for no reason that I can find. I finally learned three years ago that I have adrenal fatigue, and it was a great relief to be armed with books and knowledge. There is no way to try everything recommended unless you lived alone and had money you didn’t know what to do with, but here is the basic plan for recovery.
*Chill out. Quit your job if you have to. (I have quit multiple jobs as the symptoms returned.) Let go of pressures and as many responsibilities as it humanly possible. Try to steer clear of stressful people and figure out what your own expectations are that you are clinging to.
*Exercise less. Only exercise to the point of exhilaration, not exhaustion. (I am doing 15 min a day and I think I’ve found a happy medium…finally!)
*Do not try to lose weight, but eat nutrient dense food all day long. Don’t allow yourself to be hungry. Eat power foods, and at least 5 full cups of fruits and veggies daily. No caffeine, fast food, fried food, or processed food.
*Get rid of all added sugar, this wears out the adrenals. Even have to be careful of some fruits, like bananas and raisins.
*See if you have any food allergies or sensitivities to chemicals like cleaners or detergent. Allergies are a stress to the body.
*Sleep from 10pm to 9am or at least be in bed that much. (Some of you are laughing. I know it’s not possible with little kids, but at least you could say these are the times you are ALLOWED to lay around.) And speaking of allowing yourself to lay around, take 2 fifteen minute “naps” just laying wherever you are with eyes closed. I never have once slept during these, but just close my eyes and breathe deeply.
*There’s a ton of supplements to try, but the most important thing is to be tested and find out what you’re lacking before you buy anything. Someone with adrenal fatigue will need DHEA which is an over the counter supplement and it takes a while to find out how much you need. I have went from 5 mg to 45 mg, and still rising. It’s frustrating to go back for blood work so often, but it’s the only way to figure it out.
If you don’t deal with it, AF can turn into a host of other illnesses, including Addison’s disease, Thyroid disease, MS, and because of the cortisol issue, heart disease.
So something shifted in my perspective as I laid in bed with strep and the flu this weekend. If my throat had not felt like there were knives in there, plus the white stuff I saw with the flashlight, I would not have even went to the doctor. I was so tired and achy I wanted to cry, but I had felt like that off and on for months. I genuinely felt no different with the flu than I normally feel, after that first day in bed. That was alarming to me.
I spent a lot of time reading and researching again to see if there was anything new, and so far, there isn’t. I’ve already made the changes I know to make…except…
I don’t know how to stay chilled out. I don’t know how to not have goals and expectations of myself! I don’t think I have pressure from others in my life…I think it’s all me. As soon as I have a day that I feel decent, I make all kinds of plans. And I know that having adrenal fatigue doesn’t mean I can’t be involved in things…but it does mean I cannot get involved in things that would stress me or make me have a long to-do list. (But I love my to-do lists!) I wrote out all of my responsibilities and there were seven main categories. In each category, I am asking God to show me not necessarily what physical job I need to let go of, but what expectation/worry about them that I need to let go of. There is a big difference between quitting something, and quitting worrying about something. I realized this weekend that if I have had this for 12 years, there is a good chance that even when I feel great again-which i will someday-my adrenals will always be in need of t.l.c. so my choices are not short term, they are changes I have to make for good. I’m asking for the Holy Spirit to just show me how to do this!
So that is where I’m at. I had said last year that my new years resolution for 2013 was to “hang out more” but it wasn’t long before I had a long list of other ideas. Crossing them off now. This is the life God has given me, and I need to learn how to live it.