I am so honored to begin a series of posts on recovering from Adrenal Fatigue naturally from the perspective of one of my readers who has actually lived it. As a nutritional therapy practitioner-in-training, I have already seen so many cases of adrenal fatigue among my practice clients that I’m pretty sure it’s epidemic. Celeste’s story illustrates what happens when we push our adrenals to the max. And I’m not talking about big risk factors here; Celeste was just a mother of two young children going through life like any one of us right now, when all of the sudden her whole life changed.
I hope you enjoy and appreciate the difficult journey and the significance of her being able to put so much energy into writing her story. I invite others who have experienced healing through nutritional means to share their stories with me. I would love to publish them, and I know my readers will enjoy reading them as well! Now, without further delay, here’s Part 1 of Celeste’s story:
It all started on Labor Day Weekend, 2006. My two girls were almost 2 and 4 years old. The church campout was in the mountains about 2 hours from our home. My husband had taken our oldest daughter up the night before to have a little time with just the two of them. The plan was for me to come the next day with our youngest daughter and a good night’s sleep behind us. Just the weekend before we had been camping with my husband’s family. We had two extremely uncomfortable little girls in a tent in the middle of the night and none of us slept either night (we ended up in our pickup half the night just to tone down the screaming for our neighbors).
So the morning came when we would go up to meet the rest of the family at the church campout and the plans were that we would all attempt the second night together, hoping and praying that it would not end up like the weekend before. My daughter and I loaded in the car and I decided to treat myself to a double mocha at the local coffee stand (I had become accustomed to these “treats” since she was born, justifying them as helping my sanity level with my lack of sleep). With the jolt of caffeine in my system I was focused and ready to tackle another camping trip.
We arrived at the campground and eventually found my husband and other daughter, who had been having a great time together. By that time the buzz of the caffeine had turned into the jittery, nervous feeling that I was used to dealing with. From that point on, the details get a little fuzzy. All I know is that when we arrived and got out of the car I immediately smelled the smoke from a forest fire. When I asked about it, I was told there was one nearby but that it was still safe to camp.
No one else seemed to be bothered by the smoke so I tried to deal with it logically and tell myself I would be fine. However, my body started responding in a way that I didn’t like. My heart was racing a little and my breathing was restricted. I tried to go along with the program, ignoring my body’s responses and joining what everyone else was doing. My husband had decided to take the kids swimming in the river so I went to watch.
I needed to walk back to the campsite for some reason and on the way there it hit – a full blown panic attack – the scariest thing that had ever happened to me. There was no logical reason for it in my mind. I suddenly felt like I was about to die but I didn’t know why, so I blamed it on the smoke. My heart was palpitating, I was sweating, I was dazed and confused, and couldn’t catch my breath. I was frozen in fear and didn’t know what to do.
Since I figured it was the smoke, I decided to go to my car and turn the A/C on, hoping that would help. It did. Sort of. With the smoke smell gone, my breathing calmed down a little but whenever I tried to get out of the car and smelled the smoke, the whole process was triggered again. So my solution was to drive around the campground to keep the A/C working. At one point I stopped at the camper of someone from church and asked for help, but they didn’t know what to do to help me except let me sit in their camper to get out of the smoke. It didn’t help much so I was back in the car.
I finally made my way to the swimming area, which is a bit of a walk from the car, to tell my husband what was going on. Of course, he didn’t know what to do because nothing was obviously wrong with me. I had just been “perfectly fine” just a half hour before and now the world was ending for me. I got him to talk about options with me and the only thing we could come up with was for me to just go home. The last place I had felt “normal” was at home so logically if I went there I should be okay. And since I didn’t want to ruin my husband’s camping trip, I offered to drive home with our 2-year-old by myself.
THE TRIP HOME
So off we went, me in a semi-panicked state and my daughter, totally oblivious to what was happening, headed for a 2-hour drive home. My mind was racing with all the things I could do to calm my body down. I have always been health-conscious and had never been one to use any type of drug unless absolutely necessary (even ibuprofen). I also didn’t drink alcohol, but the first thing that popped into my head at that time was to get to a store to buy an alcoholic drink to calm myself down. I was shocking myself even with the thought. Not only did I NEVER do this, but I was driving so it would be illegal to drink it even if I bought it! Besides, I had a 2-year-old child in my car.
I found a store anyway and bought 2 wine coolers-the only kind of alcohol I could get down. Well I was panicked but I wasn’t stupid, so I had to muscle my way down the freeway for the whole drive home, telling myself that I could have the wine coolers when I got home if I wasn’t better. In those moments, I had a sudden compassion for people who turn to drugs and alcohol for lack of another resource to help them in a difficult situation. How can I ever judge anyone again for turning to this stuff when I have two bottles sitting next to me in my car, and I don’t even drink?!
On the way home I called my mom and my sister, freaking both of them out, just so I could have someone to talk me home. My daughter in the back seat was a pretty strong motivation to get home safely. Of course, looking back it was the stupidest thing I could have done. But my logic was not rational at that point. With lots of prayer we made it home, my heart racing the whole way.
Once home, there was no more smoke, but my heart was still racing and I was having a hard time breathing. I found an inhaler from when I had been sick and used it to help my breathing. It helped, but just made my heart race faster. I finally tried part of a wine cooler. It’s hard to believe I had any rationale at that point, but my practical nature pulled through and kept me from going down the path I could have gone down. Although it did start to calm my nerves, I got scared because of it, knowing what alcohol does to people in desperate circumstances. I can’t take the credit away from God’s quiet little voice in that situation.
MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL
The next two weeks were like a living hell. My racing heart never slowed down. I couldn’t sleep. I watched movies to distract myself, played the piano to calm myself down in the middle of the night (I have headphones), used the inhaler if necessary and couldn’t leave the house. Any attempt to leave the house made my symptoms worse. Finally, my mom’s friend, Ellen Stroud (a RN who has her own online health consulting business) contacted me and told me about something called GABA that could calm my body down. Somehow I got in the car and drove to the local health food store to get GABA and 5HTP (another thing Ellen suggested after she read the book “Mood Cure” – a very good book by the way!).
With Ellen’s help, I figured out how to use those two supplements. And they saved my sanity. The 5HTP was to increase my serotonin levels and help with the panic long term, and the GABA (a naturally occurring amino acid in our bodies that acts like valium) helped in a more immediate way to calm everything down when I started to have a panic attack (which happened several times a day). I eventually switched to tryptophan from the 5HTP because I thought it wasn’t working well for me (looking back, I don’t know if it really was or wasn’t).
I fought panic attacks daily. I was able to sleep if I took GABA and tryptophan, but often awoke in the morning extremely hypoglycemic and on the verge of panic. The GABA made me spacey and tired so I was often in bed. But even in the wired state, I had a strange combination of “wired but tired”, which is a feeling that is unique to this condition. And anything remotely stressful brought on the panic (like getting in the car to go somewhere or hearing a screaming child), so insulating myself from stress was the only answer.
Ellen suggested several books for me to read and she, along with my mom encouraged me to not go the conventional medical route with this new condition I had. They had both been down the same path I was going down in their past and knew the only answer conventional medicine had would be tranquilizers and antidepressants. The cure was something deeper than that and I knew it. I knew covering my symptoms was not the answer.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Celeste’s Story! If you are not yet a subscriber, please send an e-mail to carrie [at] organicthrifty [dot] com with the subject heading “subscribe”.