So now I was suffering the repercussions of the unfortunate combination of events that led me to this place. My choice to not go the conventional route in treating this condition was met by incredulous reactions from family and friends. No one knew what to think because, besides my mom and Ellen, no one had ever experienced this before. Most had the mindset of my husband, which was that when you are not well you go to a doctor and they fix you.
I don’t blame them for disagreeing with me because I was obviously very incapacitated and there should be an answer out there. They just wanted me to get better. But God had plans for me. The process I would be going through would absolutely rock my world so much that I had no choice but to trust Him to guide me through. I had never in my life been in a position where I had absolute dependence on others and God to get me through something.
As you will see, God strategically placed others in my path at the perfect time to help pull me through in such a way that I had no choice but to see God’s hand in the process. The other gift He gave me in the healing process was not to take the pain away, but to give me the big picture to see what He was doing as He was doing it. Often with God we won’t see that He was intervening until after the fact and we look back at a situation in awe. But this divine perspective I was given gave me hope. And “hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:3-5). It showed me that I was not alone (and this is the loneliest experience I have ever had) and that I would get through it and be a richer and more understanding person when I was through. Sometimes that glimmer of hope was very small and I didn’t know how I would pull through, but I hung on and somehow I made it to where I am right now, writing my story.
As I said before, I have always been health conscious and besides my absolute craving for sweets (something I later learned could be fixed by diet changes) I was pretty disciplined in that area. I majored in Health Promotion and Education in college, thinking that even if I never found an ideal job in corporate wellness, I could always use my education for my future family. This general direction I had for my life was refined and fueled by my need to figure out what was going on inside my broken body.
Physically, I was pretty limited because my eyes couldn’t focus well and my hands couldn’t grip a pen well enough to journal for long, but in short spurts I would read and take notes about things that would be helpful to me. I also depended on the ongoing advice from Ellen. She was learning right along side me, but her nursing background gave her a leg up in her understanding (later I found out she was actually going through another bout with the same thing because of some stress in her own life).
Eventually I switched to a local doctor who, in a general way understood adrenal fatigue. She recommended the same book I had been reading (“Adrenal Fatigue, The 21st Century Stress Syndrome”), which helped to confirm my decision to see her. Just to have someone with some expertise directing my recovery was a huge support to me, even though the process I was in required patience for my body to heal itself.
My doctor helped set me up with some supplements that would be supportive and strongly encouraged regular protein snacks and meals to help with the hypoglycemia that goes along with adrenal fatigue. I learned all about cortisol and how it is produced by the adrenal glands along with adrenaline, to get us through short bouts of stress (i.e. an emergency situation that eventually has an end). The way our society operates is to ignore fatigue and use stimulants such as caffeine to keep going, all the while this continual revving of our engine is breaking our bodies down.
I also learned that my only chance at a real recovery would be to listen to the fatigue and rest. Rest and diet were the answer. My body had depleted itself so drastically of many of its nutrients, that supplements were also essential to boost it back up more quickly than diet alone. There are many distressing symptoms in addition to the fatigue that go along with this depletion of the body’s hormones and nutrients. Because of the intricacies involved with taking the supplements and the need to have ongoing tests to check levels, a knowledgeable doctor is essential, though hard to find. Most traditionally trained doctors have one semester on nutrition and nothing on hormone balancing.
MORE TO LEARN
The fatigue continued until July, about 6 months, when I decided I wasn’t getting any better and my doctor couldn’t give me the detailed answers I needed. One of the books Ellen had given me was called “Chronic Fatigue Unmasked”, by Gerald Poesnecker. He was a naturopath doctor from Quakertown, PA at a place called Clymer Healing Center, who had done research on chronic fatigue patients for 30 years. In his book, he basically said that chronic fatigue was an issue of the adrenal system. Although his perspective was slightly different from the Adrenal Fatigue book, his findings were basically the same and he had a clinic in which he successfully treated those with chronic fatigue. The phone number for his clinic was in the book…so I called.
It sounds simple, but it wasn’t. I was so far out of my comfort zone by that point that one more step out just made sense. A phone call sounds pretty harmless until you start taking medical advice from someone whom you’ve never met, never seen or heard of the clinic and have no idea how legitimate this doctor is, who has never seen his own patient. If there ever was a time for faith, now was it. In my logical, rational world it didn’t make sense. It was something I would have never done before. But as far out of my comfort zone as this was, I felt very peaceful about it.
The minute I heard Dr. Neville’s voice (Dr. Poesnecker’s predecessor) telling me he could help me, I had this sense that this is who God has provided to walk me through this mess. I still asked lots of questions and tried to find reasons why this wouldn’t work. I couldn’t find any. It didn’t make sense to do it this way and I would sound crazy when I told my conservative families and friends, but I didn’t care because I knew this was what I needed. There was a ray of hope. I prayed my way through my conversations with Dr. Neville, always aware that if his advice ever became questionable I would lose my peace about him. I never lost it.
So for the next 2+ years, Dr. Neville played a large part in getting me through the darkest days of my life. His knowledge of the adrenal system and my wacky, disturbing symptoms continued to give me hope. Just knowing that what I was going through was a “normal” process and someone had been through it before me, meant everything to me. And it wasn’t just his knowledge that gave me support. Dr. Neville had literally felt what I was feeling when he experienced his own time of adrenal fatigue. He had been there and gotten out of it.
In our very first conversation, he said some words that were very hard to hear, but following them was the beginning of feeling real improvement: no sugar/low carbs, lots of protein and lots and lots of rest. As hard as I had been trying to eat well with my current diet, it wasn’t good enough. The sugar and carbs were doing me in. I had cut back on sugar but hadn’t cut it out. My body’s sugar metabolism was so sensitive that when I cut out sugar and reduced the carbs, I felt dramatic improvement.
It was early on in this process that Dr. Neville introduced me to the Weston A. Price way of eating. It was very overwhelming at first because starting a whole new outlook on eating was a huge undertaking for anyone, let alone someone who could barely get up to cook a meal. And it wasn’t exactly a quick way to cook either. I tried things as the energy came, my poor family suffering dramatic diet changes that were so foreign at the time. At first I wasn’t so sure about the full fat thing and fermenting and eating organ meats. Then the more I read, it starting making lots of sense. It was food the way it was supposed to be eaten. I’m still working on the organ meat thing, but not because I disagree. It’s because for so many years I was so repulsed by any meat not perfectly sanitized and fat free and pretty, it’s hard to get out of that mindset. (I figure I get my organ meat through the glandulars Dr. Neville has me taking!)
The better I ate, the better I felt. I discovered a sensitivity to preservatives which made life eating meat much more difficult, but much healthier. Also during that time we discovered some food sensitivities in my other family members. Because of that, we had to become basically gluten-free in our household and many meals are dairy and egg free as well. I have been thankful for Carrie’s yummy recipes on her blog as I have had to create a new way of eating for my family. Many of my meals have been downright boring, but when I get the energy and focus enough to attempt a new recipe it is always an exciting time.
NOT THE END
My story of recovering from adrenal fatigue is not over, but not because I haven’t tried everything I can do for myself. Unfortunately, life doesn’t let up even when you’re down. What’s the deal with that?! I keep asking God for a season of rest, free from difficulties but I am still waiting. There have been times where I felt like I was getting my head above water and then life sends something new to knock me down again. And in those times I just keep moving forward, knowing that I don’t always understand why things happen as they do and God is giving me extra fortitude to continue on. But even with all of that, I have been ever-so-slowly improving. I can go about my daily tasks now and even play with my kids.
My energy is pretty consistent under normal conditions. It’s those knock-down times I need to have a little extra reserve on hand and don’t always have it. And since life hasn’t let up on me yet, I’m ready for the next stepping stone in my recovery. Recently, I began taking a bio-identical cortisol replacement. It should give me some of that reserve that life hasn’t allowed for and finally let my adrenal glands rest fully for awhile. If all goes well when my adrenals have had their rest, I will gradually wean off the cortisol replacement and learn to live within the limitations of my own body.
One of the most difficult aspects of my condition has been the isolation and its effect on my relationships. The effort that it took to maintain relationships was so great that my conversations with people were few and far between. As much as I wanted to give to those relationships, I had to limit each interaction pretty strictly if I wanted to keep my energy from taking a nosedive. Unfortunately, just talking itself was a drain.
There were many misunderstandings as I had to cancel plans and in the beginning couldn’t even explain why I would suddenly become unavailable if my energy crashed. Over time others learned to understand why I was limited as I learned brief ways to prepare them for my unreliability. Even my husband was in the dark at first, until we sorted out what was really going on.
Because of the personal nature of this condition, no one will ever fully understand it if they have not been through it personally. That is something that I have had to become okay with, since limiting my energy output and getting better has been my primary goal.
I know I have been supported by family and friends, even with very little to go on, and I have appreciated all the remote support I can get. It’s not so remote anymore and I’m finding several of my relationships that were basically put on hold are becoming even richer than they were before. It is in a huge part because of my own new perspectives.
Relationships really are some of the most important things in life, but the drain happens when I allow others’ needs to become more important than my own. I am a doer and a helper and I am much closer to finding the balance of taking care of myself first before helping others. It’s like the oxygen mask on an airplane. You need to put yours on first or you won’t be able to help the one next to you. There will always be people in need of my help, especially my family, but I have learned first hand that I am no good to anyone when I don’t listen to my gut instincts and give myself what I need first.
I feel like the process I have been through has successfully altered my lifestyle. Life is much simpler than I was making it before. I hope as I make a full recovery I will continue to follow the principles of a truly healthy lifestyle, however unconventional it might be.
I am seriously considering completing the same certification that Carrie is currently undertaking to become a Nutritional Therapist. The timing will depend on many factors – my body’s readiness as well as my family’s readiness. I feel that my “calling” is definitely in the health field and look forward to being able to help others who have had to go through their own personal trials. I don’t feel like a person has to be in the same position I have been in to be empathetic because going through this has given me a very strong understanding for others who are hurting in many ways.
My story is as much of a spiritual journey as a physical one. However horrible the physical and emotional side has been, the process has all been worth it for the spiritual strength and character building that I am still receiving through this process. Even my relationships with my husband and children are richer because of what I (we) have been through.
We want to thank Celeste heartily for sharing her story. Unfortunately, she does not [yet] have a blog, but perhaps this act of writing about her journey will inspire her to keep writing! Please keep Celeste, and all others who suffer this silent disorder known as Adrenal Fatigue, in your thoughts and prayers!
I’m grateful to report that Celeste recently returned home from a two week vacation in Hawaii! Now that sounds like an appropriate Rx for adrenal fatigue!