“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” ~Albert Camus
I put others first. I always have. It is something I picked up from both of my grandmothers when I was young. It is not necessarily a bad thing. Taking care of others first all the time will take its toll though.
My doctor finally diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue last November after months of trying to figure it all out. I knew something was very wrong with me and I thought my thyroid was out of whack yet again. I was having some of my classic symptoms of heart palpitations, getting cold easily, and extreme fatigue. I also had problems with pain all over my body. Not at once. There was the usual suspects, my feet and plantar fasciitis seeming to be constantly wired no matter what I did to take care of them. No amount of rest between my shifts at work would seem to help calm them down. Some nights I’d wake up with some kind of pain shooting through some part of my body, like my left hip. It would keep me awake and I would be dragging myself into work in the morning on 4 hours of sleep. Inflammation was ravaging my body and I lost control.
Once I had a path to follow and I took my first steps, I started feeling change. The supplements my doctor has me on for my adrenals immediately helped calm the inflammation and pain. For the first time in two years, how my feet felt did not rule my day.
I started making changes to my thoughts and thought processes to help. I started to stop doing everything at work. Meaning, I wasn’t running clear across the store to take care of a call because the half a dozen people I knew were there weren’t answering. I enabled those people to continue to not do their jobs by doing that for 2 years, I worked myself up into an emotional frenzy because they weren’t doing their job, and it took a physical toll on my body. Stress is not just mental and emotion. There are dozens of physical stressors that can add to the stress load our adrenals are trying to take care of for us. When I went over all the classic symptoms of adrenal fatigue with Chaz he said what I hadn’t voiced yet, “You’ve been like that since I’ve known you.”
There are a myriad of stressors that accumulated through the years. As my adrenals became more depleted, the less I was able to handle the stressors the way I normally would when “healthy.” I felt myself close to flying off the handle all the time. Little things just made me want to rip heads off. Then my cousin took his own life and things really went downhill for me. I couldn’t pull myself out of the grief to smile at all. Everyone around me knew something was wrong, but I wasn’t talking about. Because really, how do you talk about a loved one committing suicide? I’m the kind of person who likes to lift people up rather than bring them down and with the losses I already experienced up to that point last year, I was done with death. It also didn’t help that I did not go home for his funeral.
I thought that I could manage still working at my job with reduced hours. However, I was still coming home with no energy and spending all my time on the sofa doing nothing but watching Netflix. I thought I was doing okay since I wasn’t crawling into bed as soon as I got home. In my mind I hadn’t hit bottom like I had when I was struggling with the hypothyroidism. Then it hit me. I left a job I loved after 10 1/2 years because they wanted to add to my work load and I knew either my current clients would miss out because I was being stretched thing or I would keep doing for them what I was doing on top of the added cases and then work myself into the ground. I saw back then if I stayed I would get sick. Here I was already worked into the ground with a compromised immune system (I was constantly fighting off one infection after another) and I hadn’t left.
As run down as I was I should have collapsed by this time. I should have been in the hospital with kidney problems. I should have passed out from the multitude of postural hypotension incidents I was having. I would tell myself while pushing a flat of furniture, “I should just collapse. I can feel it coming. Just give in. No. DON’T give in. Don’t collapse. Hang in there. You can make it.” The warrior in me wouldn’t let me give in.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t leave after my diagnosis, one of the reasons was all the reading I was doing was telling me not to make major changes like quitting your job. So, I made small changes like requesting less hours. Probably a foolish thing to do but it made sense at the time. Looking back, I probably should have gone in and turned in my notice as soon as I was diagnosed.
But, I finally did it four weeks later. I turned in my two-week notice and started to look forward to freedom, taking care of myself, and recovering.
It’s been over two months since I left my job. I’m getting more consistent sleep. Not always 8 hours, but it is more sleep that I’ve gotten in years. The stiffness in my neck and shoulders is starting to dissipate slowly. I have more energy. I can start a task like cleaning the bathrooms and not need several breaks. In fact, I was able to do all the household weekly chores in one day. I haven’t been able to do that in a long time. I am taking less time in the morning to get myself moving. It used to take me 2 hours or more to get myself going for the day. Now, I can wake up, eat breakfast, and get myself ready right away if needed without dragging.
I’m not fully healthy. Not yet. But I am getting there. It took me daily reminders once I was home all day to remember that everything didn’t need to happen at once. I could take my time. If I didn’t get through what I planned for the day, it was okay. I stopped pushing myself and instead focused on just me. I do that a lot these days. Talk to myself starting with, “It is okay…” Because it is. It is okay to slow yourself down. It is okay to neglect some little things that you can let slide for now in order to take care of yourself.
I’m not the type to do vision boards or picking themes for my year. Honestly, I never heard of those things until 2 years ago. If I had to choose a theme for this new year it is Me. This is the year of Me where I recover and focus on what I want and need rather than focusing on everyone else. It is not selfish. It is honoring my body and my sanity.
It is okay to put yourself first. If you don’t take care of yourself and your well-being, no one else will.