It's Official: I'm Unwell.
For quite some time now, I've been feeling bad. I've had some good weeks where I had more energy and fewer headaches, some relief from a small host of complaints and seemed to be able to handle the stresses of life just fine. But those weeks have not been the norm. I found a good naturopathic doctor who took my complaints seriously and has been very aggressive about figuring out what's wrong, and trying to help me get better. I had some extensive blood work done, and that came out relatively normal, with just some B vitamin deficiency and a little anemia. I was feeling better, but took a plunge after I started exercising again (because I was feeling better!) She suggested an adrenal test, so I did that a couple of weeks ago. I totally flunked. It's complicated to explain exactly what it going on, but I am in the throes of adrenal exhaustion.
If you do a little reading about it, adrenal fatigue is pretty common, and many people have elevated levels of cortisol in their system. Cortisol is sometimes seen negatively because it is associated with stress, but it is really essential. After a long period of elevated cortisol levels, the body simply can't keep up its supply and runs out. My cortisol levels are very low. Apart from not having much, the building block for making more (pregnenolone) is the same thing that is needed for many other important hormones, like DHEA and progesterone. My DHEA levels are seriously low, and though this test didn't measure progesterone, it's kind of a no-brainer that this important sex hormone will be very depleted.
The other part of my problems have been related to my reproductive system, and I don't have a definitive diagnosis yet, but let's just say something's wrong there too. Not only have I had some clear signs of hormonal imbalance, but we have been trying to conceive for about a year now, with no luck. Add to the equation a very unhappy digestive tract that just immediately gets rid of everything I try to nourish my body with, and I am left feeling very, very BAD.
So, what to do? Well, the treatment, in order of importance is: to erradicate sources of stress, SLEEP, REST, nutritional support, avoiding stimulation and having a daily routine. In addition, the test showed an intolerance to gluten, so I am taking that out of our family's already rather complicated and limited diet. Sleep, rest, and some of the other recommendations are rather tricky for me, especially with a toddler who's sleep is very unreliable. But we're all trying our best to make it happen.
I asked my ND how, in her opinion, I got here. I already knew, though. My pregnancy with Amelia was really difficult, stressful and draining. I'm type 1 diabetic, and although I was able to manage my condition through pregnancy, it was an enormous source of stress and was very hard on my body. As many of you know, we had so many struggles as new parents. Amelia cried constantly and slept very, very little. I ate my meals while bouncing her on an exercise ball for months, exercised too much in order to lose the huge amount of pregnancy weight I'd gained, then ran out of breastmilk and had to make it from scratch every day, hardly ever slept, never rested. The sleeping problems went on for a full 18 months, in a addition to a number of other little issues we have sought help for. We had little to no help or support her entire first year, and then we moved out of state, bought our first home and have been trying to settle in here for a year now. Her sleep improved significantly around 18 months, but we still have some bad weeks, and I have some of my own issues with insomnia.
I know many may be wondering at this point about why, exactly, we've been trying to get pregnant! In short, I want to have my kids and move on to enjoy them. Our family is not complete with only one child, and although I have felt at times like it would kill me, I want to have another baby (or two) and feel like I want to have a "do over" with my pregnancy and birth experiences. I don't want that to be all I ever experienced in that department. When my doctor gently told me that I should really reconsider having another pregnancy since she didn't think my body could actually handle it, I knew she was right-- as much as I haven't wanted to acknowledge it. I feel sad. But I also feel some relief from the pressure to take on something I don't believe I should right now. So, we're talking about adoption and looking into other possibilities. But not much, since I'm supposed to avoid stressful situations!
The trickiest thing about this whole situation is that I don't seem sick to most people. I have this ridiculous personality that fools everyone. If I feel terrible, I put on nicer clothes, a little more makeup, and go do something productive or fun to take my mind off of it. I clean when I'm overwhelmed. Only people who know me well realize that something is really wrong when I say I don't feel that great, since I don't go on and on about how awful I feel, and I'm probably still smiling when I say it. No one likes to be around a moaner, right? Also, I am terrible at acting sick, even when I should (lying around, being unproductive.) The other aspect of my personality is similar-- I rarely believe that I can't handle what is thrown my way. This has changed in the last couple of years, but it has been a difficult learning process. During my worst times of exhaustion and despair with Amelia, I thought that I was telling people that I couldn't handle what was coming my way, and that I needed help. Either I wasn't very convincing, I looked like I really had it all under control, or I couldn't tell that anyone actually wanted to help. I have continued coping with anything that has come my way, but it has all come at a price, and I have used up all of my body's resources.
I am particularly discouraged about my health crisis because, quite frankly, I don't know anyone who works as hard as I do to take care of their body! My family's diet is excellent, I have always loved to exercise (although I have to stop now for a while-- extra bummer,) and I just plain CARE so much about my health. They say it takes six months to two years to heal in this type of situation. We're trying to figure out all of our options for allowing more space for me to heal so I can actually feel good and have energy on a daily basis-- that sounds pretty amazing, but I'm not quite sure yet how it will all play out. On a positive note, I am incredibly thankful to at least KNOW what the official problem is, so we can start addressing it!