My Adrenal Journey
One of the reasons I know this path so well is because I walked it myself on my own journey. Well, walked might be a bit of a stretch... I stumbled around, and fell a lot and took lots of wrong turns, but followed the path nonetheless. Back then Adrenal Fatigue or Adrenal Exhaustion was even less well recognised than it is now. Even now I think you'd struggle to get your GP to diagnose it, let alone help you recover. Back then it was just a vague, non-scientific, fluffy thing that alternative practitioners talked about.
In hindsight, I think it probably all started a few years before, when living a rather stressful life in Australia; and also due to a life of striving for perfection. (I know many of you ladies will identify with that struggle!). But following the birth of my daughter, my symptoms stepped up to a whole new level and became debilitating.
Birth and breastfeeding take a lot out of anyone, even if we are robustly healthy before. If, like many of us, we are already stressed, depleted and not eating a nourishing diet, then it can be catastrophic for our health. This was the straw that broke the camel's back for me - but for other people there are different reasons they descend into Adrenal dysfunction.
I was unable to wake in the mornings. I don't mean I was tired, I mean I couldn't wake up. Walking up the stairs was so exhausting, my legs would burn, and so once I'd come downstairs I would never go upstairs again that day until bedtime - no matter what I needed from upstairs. Unable to remember anything, sometimes not able to finish a sentence as I'd forgotten where it started. Heart palpitations. I would pass out whilst seated. The list goes on.
I went to my doctor at least half a dozen times. I got answers like:
"It's normal to be tired after a baby"
"Try getting outdoors more"
"Go for a run, that will help your energy"
Knowing what I know now - these are really bad recommendations. Getting outdoors is a good idea - but making the patient feel as though they aren't doing enough, just adds to the stress and then the symptoms. Telling someone things like "it's normal" really minimises their suffering and makes them feel they should do better. Any sentence that contains "should" is not good for health.
The doctor also took blood on a few occasions - always reporting back that everything was "within range". Further adding to the stress.
After repeated lack of help I turned to the more alternative side of health for help, and it was suggested I look into Adrenal Fatigue. They suggested I get an Adrenal function test from Genova (an independent testing laboratory). They also pointed me to a place I could purchase artificial cortisol, so that I could analyse if I felt better taking it.
It was like night and day. I could get up immediately, I could get on with chores, be a proper parent - it was great! But I also knew this wasn't a long term fix. The testing had come back so bad that the practitioner said she had never seen a graph like it. My daily cortisol graph was flat - when it should have a peak in the morning and then decline slowly.
Armed with this new information I returned to the GP, who realised then that there might actually be an issue and referred me to an Endocrinologist. I saw this "specialist" once. He scoffed when I showed him my test results, saying you can't believe anything they say, they do it soley to be able to sell drugs. (This lab doesnt' sell drugs or even recommend treatment, they merely provide you with test results). He then went on to say I'd have to come in early morning, be injected with something artificial to prompt a response from my Adrenals and then they'd see the result.
I never went back.
I started my research into other ways to recover. It took a long time and a lot of trial and error, because no one really knew this stuff back then. But I'm living proof you can go from near death, to health and vitality.
Keep and eye out for the next part in the series: What can you do to help yourself?