The Year of Me

Peace and sanity in the midst of a concrete jungle

Peace and sanity in the midst of a concrete jungle

“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.

 

Fighting to Persevere

I’ve mentioned how poorly I was feeling before.  Here and on social media.

I downplayed it.  If you know me, you know I tend to downplay things.

I was at the point where I was counting spoons to see what I could and couldn’t do through my day.

I called off work one day a few weeks ago because I woke up in the middle of the night in pain and wasn’t able to get back to sleep.  Nor was I able to stay standing while fixing my breakfast.  I didn’t have the spoons for the day.  I took the max dose of ibuprofen (800mg) after calling in and went back to bed.  I spent the better part of that day and the next doing nothing but laying on the sofa with my feet elevated.

Just the day before one of my managers was telling me I needed “to get healthy” because there was a big load of work coming up.  The irony is I’m probably the most health minded person there even if I’m not healthy right now.  I had these reactions running through my head when he told me I needed to get healthy.

Are you fucking kidding me?  Do you realize who you’re talking to?

I’m never going to be healthy here. 

You selfish bastard. 

I just want off my feet! 

Stop talking already! 

Let’s go back to “I’m never going to be healthy here.”  When I realized how true that statement was, I knew something had to change.  Either I get to the root of this problem and figure it all out or I quit my job.

I kept all this in mind for my doctor’s appointment.

Pain, inflammation, heart palpitations, problems sleeping, mood swings, fatigue, being so tired I was falling asleep on the sofa if I wasn’t vertical, feeling like I re-sprained my wrist.  I thought that my thyroid was going haywire.  I was at the point that I felt like I was hitting the same rock bottom that I hit before.   I was crying because I felt so horrible, yet I kept pushing myself to do more than I should have and still not give in.

My life was like this again…

The Saturday before my appointment, I was awake mega early again due to pain.  This time along my pelvic bone on the left side.  This was new.  I couldn’t go back to sleep and I eventually got up and started my morning routine.  When I got to work the same manager that told me I needed to get healthy was asking me how I was doing.  I told him, “Not well.”  Then I explained being woken up by pain when he asked.  “Are you going to the doctor today?” he asked.

At this point it was creeping towards noon.  My doctor is not in on Saturdays.  I probably could have driven myself to an ER instead of work that morning, but I was trying to hold out.  I was incredibly irritable from lack of sleep, pain, and generally just tired of being sick all the time.  It took all I had to not just reach out and give him a wake up smack.  He is a really nice guy when he’s not so focused on the bottom line, but I knew he was thinking in the back of his mind, Oh no, we can’t get even more shorthanded so close to the holidays.

I started thinking again, I’m never going to be healthy here.

You might be wondering, then why not quit?  That’s the easy thing to do.  I’m a person who feels bound by loyalty.  I am not bound to the corporation.  I am loyal to my co-workers and my team leader.  If it weren’t for the ones that make it worth being there and laughing with, I would have left long ago in search of something else.

I went to my doctor last week Tuesday, starting with my chiropractor and moving on to my integrative doctor.  I didn’t rush through my progress note to my doctors to let them know what is going on.  In previous months, by the time I saw them, I wasn’t feeling nearly as bad as I had this last month or even as bad as I did when I went in after being off work for nearly 48 hours.

For the first time my neck adjusted better than it had in months.  I have a stiffness that settled in months ago and would not adjust for anything.  Normally, my chiropractor jokes about me starting without him as things start popping back into place while he’s getting me into position for the adjustment.

My doctor sat with me and reviewed everything I wrote down.  We went over the Stress Chart they have in every room and discussed where I was on the chart and the cause of my stress.  Work.

My wake-up call

I never thought I’d hear the words, adrenal fatigue, coming from a doctor of mine and directed at me.  But, it explained everything.  It explained why my plantar fasciitis was getting worse no matter what I did to help it along.  Icing my feet after work, stretching them out, rolling them over golf balls.  My feet were just getting worse and worse.   I thought the inflammation was what was driving everything.

If you aren’t familiar with adrenal fatigue or even what your adrenal glands are or what they do, let me do a quick summary.  Your adrenal glands are responsible for releasing epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol when you are under stress.  Epinephrine is also known as adrenaline.  In my case, my adrenal glands were working overtime to pump out cortisol while at work because of the stress I was under.  This resulted in my cortisol levels being all over the place rather than high in the morning and steadily dropping throughout the day, which explains the sleep problems.  When there is too much cortisol running through your body, your body turns on the inflammation response and poof…inflammation!

I never plan anything after my appointments with my chiropractor and integrative doctor.  I don’t want to completely undo everything they just did and I want my body to be able to accept the adjustment and acupuncture and get maximum benefit.   I spent the rest of Tuesday on the sofa.  As my body adjusted, I felt more and more exhausted.  I just wanted to sleep for months.  Or at least sleep until I was better.   I think getting an answer gave me finality and my body just wanted to shut down and say, it’s okay now, let me do the work to make it better.

I felt the same the next day, but slightly less irritable.  Baby steps.

I talked to the manager responsible for my scheduling, who happens to be the one who told me I need to get healthy.   I explained my diagnosis and that I needed my hours cut as I recover.   He agreed to meet my needs, which I fully expected.

By Friday, I was feeling light at work.  Less stressed.  I kept my focus on my tasks and if I happened to get called away to answer a call on the other side of the store, or get carts outside, or help at the registers, I went without all the negative thinking in my head that fed the stress.

Baby steps.

Here I am, Monday.  I’m still sleeping like crap.  I was awake well before I needed to be this morning.  I laid in bed for a while before finally getting to it.  Grocery shopping.  Housework. Yes.  I finally cleaned today.  I still have clutter going on, but I cleaned my bathroom, swept, mopped, vacuumed, and dusted.  Still baby steps, but it was something I couldn’t do a week ago today.

I’m moving forward and moving slowly.  I’m running on my time and to the beat of my recovering drum.  I’m reminding myself not to push myself too much or too far.

I persevere.

Body Mind Spirit

This is what I see when I arrive and leave the Alliance Institute for Integrative Medicine

My body is reacting to something.  I am trying to figure out what it is but if I went by what I feel like, I would think I’m getting glutened.  Which I know isn’t happening.  I am changing things one by one to see what helps and what doesn’t.  So far, coconut has helped the most with the rashes, itchiness, and flaky scalp.  These symptoms haven’t been much of a problem since going gluten-free.  With the exception of the rashes I had earlier this year.

There is also muscle fatigue and overall general fatigue.  The kind where I’m coming from work and not wanting to do anything other than sleep.  There are nights where I end up crashing on the sofa before bedtime.  Some heart palpitations.  A lot of inflammation.  So much inflammation my plantar fasciitis is in a constant state of swollen pain and nothing helps.  Nothing.  Not icing, not stretching, not rice, not golf balls, not yoga.  It’s quite frustrating because I know the inflammation is driving the fatigue.

There is a constant state of chaos and stress right now at work with a major store remodel in progress.  In one night, it is possible for a project I’ve worked on for days to be completely undone and have to be re-done.  Things are in a constant state of flux and answers are hidden away somewhere.  Probably in the disaster of a fixture room in which I always feel like everything will come crashing down on me if I move just one thing the wrong way.  There is also all kinds of crap in the air.  Dust, paint fumes, chemicals, sawdust.  Who knows what else is lurking in the air.  I could blame it all on the remodel, but a lot of the symptoms started before anything was touched.

We leave for Los Angeles on Thursday.  Time with my best friend and her family, whom I haven’t seen in nearly three years.  A football game on Saturday for my alma mater.   The promise of a beach and other friends from long ago.  The possibility of a musical at The Old Globe Theater if Chaz agrees.  

I’m hoping the time away will help me at least narrow down what is setting my body off on this massive reaction.  That way, when I get back and see my doctor the week after, I can present her with my findings, leaving the potential for the amount of testing low.

You see, the practice she is a part of practices what they call Transformational Medicine.  It combines integrative and functional medicine and they take everything into account when making an assessment.  It’s not just about what’s going on in your body today, but yesterday, last week, last month, and last year.  They consider stress, nutrition, metabolic function, immune system, hormones, and your body’s alignment.

I’ve been going to this practice for a year and a half now.  I get acupuncture, chiropractic, and the occasion energy healing when needed.  It’s not covered by insurance, but worth every penny because not only can we head things off before they get ugly, we can prevent.

I look forward to my appointments.  I know they will listen, take care of me, and I’ll be relaxed throughout my time there.  What doctor’s office plays music you normally only hear in posh spas?  That’s right.  Mine.

The founders of the practice, Steve Amoils, M.D. & Sandy Amoils, M.D., recently released the book, Get Well & Stay Well.  They share their journey of learning other types of healing after finishing medical school and how transformational medicine works.  It’s a great book even if you have no clue about alternative medicine and want to learn more.  For those of you who are familiar with alternative medicine, you’ll see how combining the different practices along with Western medicine can benefit you.

I may not find all the answers at my next appointment, but I know I’ll feel better when I leave.