It’s been six months since I last posted: six months! Admittedly, I’ve felt some guilt about that. However, moving back into an actual life, as in, I am once again a “contributing member of society,” takes up a whole lot of time and energy. In any case, I’ll start with the big exciting news: as of March 31, my third book, Deeper than the Deep Blue Sea, is complete, and available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle!!! This crazy book (which I honestly love!) seems to have taken forever to finish, but, as with all labor (if the mothers I talk to are to believed) the end result makes it all worth while. Continue reading
It’s 5:55am, and I’ve been awake for over an hour, anxiety clawing at my chest like a wild creature in a trap. I leave for Michigan in four days. Yesterday I received an offer for a job that I’ve wanted for two years and have been courting for two months. My travel plans are in place and I have enough time in my schedule that I can take the scenic route across the country and still have a week or so to settle into my new apartment before I start work. I’ve got people lined up, starting today, to help me finish my packing.
And still I wake up too early every morning and lie in the dark fighting panic. Continue reading
Just when I’ve got my stress maintained at a manageable level, Whoosh!!! Here comes the storm! Life is not always in alignment with what I think it should be, and I do struggle with that, though weakly. This move to Michigan was not my first choice – or even my second or third – but it was by far my best choice, and I’ve come to be very excited about it, eager to be living back with many great friends, to have a place of my own (more or less) and to maybe even have a job I’ve wanted for two years now, ever since my long summer there in 2013. Moving all my stuff cross-country is intimidating, but my dear (and slightly crazy) friend had decided to drive himself, a cohort, a van and a trailer all the way from Michigan to California, load my stuff up with his Ninja packing skills, and get me and mine all safely back across the country in a rambling, “let’s stop at Yellowstone while we’re at it!” kind of way. There were certain aspects of that plan that made my stomach clench in panic, but I was doing a pretty good job of breathing and letting my friend worry about the details.
But as of yesterday, that whole plan has been scotched. Continue reading
The good news is I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I had great fun last week, going with a friend into San Francisco to the Mosaic Steps, which I’ve been wanting to do for years. Not only did we climb them (160 gorgeous steps up) but we then continued up even more steps (172) to the top of the hill, from which we could see all over San Francisco in every direction. And then, of course, we came back down those 332 steps! Whew! After that we went to the beach. Normally San Francisco is overcast, but for the whole of the eleven years I’ve lived in California, I’ve very rarely seen it cloudy. And as usual, we had an amazingly sunny day, and in the eighties. So in addition to having a fantastic time with my wonder-friend, I also got a bit of a sunburn. That isn’t
a complaint; I didn’t mind at all. Continue reading
The past week has been challenging. In the first place, my gut has hurt at least a little every day, some days it’s hurt a lot. Though that was my normal state for many years, the two months without gut pain was so wonderful, and I have no idea what’s triggered it again. Sure, I splurged on all counts while celebrating my birthday, but tiny splurges mostly, and that was over a week ago. Why am I still hurting? I’ve been horribly itchy – somewhere (I ONLY mention this because I’m doing my best to keep an honest account of all that’s going on for me on this healing journey) – and that’s the last thing that should be happening! My diet is mostly squeaky clean these days; what’s going on inside my body?? Add to that the incredible stress of sorting and packing all my earthly goods (always a huge stress trigger for me; until the last two days I was doing a great job of not panicking), and yes, I am definitely struggling. It hasn’t helped that I’ve been reading through those old journals. Yesterday’s selection took me through the two years up to and through my divorce and into the following year. What a roller coaster ride! Like all but one of the others, it, too, went straight into the trash as soon as I finished. Unfortunately it was so compelling that I stayed up way too late two nights in a row reading. Bad, bad idea. It’s been a dickens of a week to NOT be drinking!
On the plus side: I’m getting the packing done, shelf by drawer, box by bag. Four big boxes of books went to the Half-Price Bookstore (netting a whopping $58), several bags have made the trip to a thrift store. There is now space in the garage for me to begin piling boxes as I pack them for the trip. I have breakfast with a friend today, and Wednesday I’m going into the city with one of my dearly beloveds to check out the Mosaic Stairs, a treat I’ve been wanting to do for several years now. Beth and Paul have been doing their own sorting and packing and I’ve reaped a lot of benefit from that as well. And, even though reading through the journals hasn’t been all easy or fun, I read one and then as soon as I finish it I tear it from the binding, pages at a time back to front, and leave it all in the trash. It is, in fact, a wonderful cleansing process for me.
So I’ll keep plugging, keep babying my body, and one way or another, I’ll get ‘er done.
For the last seven-plus years I’ve slept quite comfortably in a twin-sized bed, covered by (at minimum) a flannel sheet and a light quilt. I admit that one of the things I’m looking forward to in Michigan is a reintroduction to the joys of queen-sized sleeping, but this sturdy twin has served me well. However, in the weeks since I started the supplement protocol to restore health and vitality to my depleted adrenal glands, I’ve been experiencing a unique phenomenon. I’m not sure what to call it. It is evident that the way I sleep now is somehow different but, as the sleeper, I haven’t been privy to observation. And my bear Dooley, who has been spending much more time than usual on the floor at night, never complains, never explains. All I know is that I now somehow remove the sheet from the bed without disturbing the quilt. One morning I awoke to discover that a thin strip of sheet remained clinging to the head of the bed and a thin strip remained clinging to the foot of the bed, but the entire middle of the sheet was draped uselessly along the side of the bed, falling in graceful folds down to the floor. And this morning when I woke, the entire sheet was bunched up at the head of the bed, stuck with it’s flannel magnetism not beside the pillow, but to the side of the mattress, once again puddling onto the floor. Thankfully, most mornings the sheet has just pulled annoying out from the wall-side and is creeping across the middle of the bed, but there are nights when it is definitely an overachiever. Meanwhile, my steadfast quilt stays dutifully straight and tucked in, carrying in loyal solitude the burden of keeping an easily chilled sleeper covered and warm.
When I wake up I never remember performing any gymnastics, magic tricks or illusions. But my rogue sheet tells a different tale.
Last week Beth and I both had birthdays, and Saturday we had a big party to celebrate them, and to commemorate my upcoming move to Michigan. Seemed like a good time was had by all, and I allowed myself to break most of my current protocol guidelines: I had a little bit of cheese, gluten (in soy sauce), wine, sugar (in a homemade ginger drink) and chocolate, and I stayed up late. Am I paying for it all two days later? Yes. Is it awful? Nope, not that bad. Am I going to make a habit of it? Nope. Yesterday I had the tiniest bit of intestinal cramping, and this evening it’s worse. Also, my outlook has been much more bleak the last few days (although I admit I was already mighty crabby for the two or three days before the party). I am not going back down that road, though I notice that, having taken a little break from the rigorous guidelines, it’s harder sticking to them now. Good information, but, you know, bummer.
I had already decided that the whole being in bed trying to sleep by 10pm was causing too much stress. I wasn’t sleeping well and I was kind of wigging out about it. So, for now, I’ll be more lax, aiming to be in bed by 10, but probably reading, with the goal of outing the lights by 11. Immediately I started having much better nights. Tomorrow is the last day of the current supplement protocol; Wednesday I drop some supplements, decrease some others, and add two new ones. It is definitely a step in the right direction.
I’m also reading through old journals, from 1998 through 2003. I’m doing a lot of skimming, but even so I’m covering a lot of old pain, and that is not fun. However I’m reading some things that I’m glad to be reminded of, and seeing events and old musings from a very different viewpoint, and I think that’s useful. All but one of the journals have gone directly into the trash as soon as I finished reading them (13 so far), and I have torn out maybe a couple dozen pages with poems or story ideas that I want to save.
So far I’m handling the stress of the upcoming move pretty well. Most days I actually get some work done towards the move; today I sorted through three drawers, filling a bag with stuff to take to a thrift store. That may not sound like much, but that’s work that really triggers me, so I’m pleased. If I continue to do a little bit every day, then I’ll be good and ready in four weeks when it’s time to pack up the trailer and hit the road.
This all may not sound very exciting, but what is exciting is that I laugh a lot more now. I’m getting more done. I’m not exhausted all the time. My gut almost never hurts. Oh, and for those who’ve asked, my pooping has regulated nicely. All good things.
It’s been six weeks since my initial appointment with the functional medicine practitioner. I’ve been taking a ridiculous amount of supplements. My gut feels better than it has in longer than I can remember, though the gut-health protocol hasn’t made a huge (as in discernible) difference to my mood, my mental clarity, my energy levels.
A week ago I started the new protocol to restore my flat-lined adrenal glands. In addition to four new supplements, I’ve cut my alcohol intake to almost zero, decreased my simple sugar intake even further, and have done my level best to be in bed, already defragged by a little in-bed reading, with the lights out by 10pm (extremely challenging for me, but somehow doable). The first three nights I slept little and poorly, and by the third morning I was so exhausted I could barely function. It was worse than it already had been, and that’s saying a lot. The next two nights I slept great, last night was another challenging night.
But my mood does seem to be improving. I’m more optimistic. I’ve been doing things, being productive. Not all of a sudden a whole lot, but a little bit here and a little bit there. I’m starting to get excited about my move back to Michigan, and the past two days I’ve accomplished necessary tasks that I simply hadn’t been able to face before. Today I actually sorted and cleaned and organized the desk/office area in my bedroom, which included – gasp – filing, and even throwing away scribbled-on scraps of paper! I’ve cut way back on the time spent watching NetFlix and haven’t replaced all of it with reading. I’ve taken the time and energy to make really great salads for my lunches, and I’ve started having a power-packed breakfast every day (it’s been years since I was a consistent breakfast eater). These may seem like little tiny things to a person without crisis-level adrenal fatigue, but to me these are huge accomplishments.
I spoke with a friend today who, many years ago, had a similar diagnosis concerning her adrenals. She told me, as did my doctor and the internet, to figure on one to two years for a full recovery. That sure seems like a lot. But I already see progress, even if just a little. You know what that’s like for someone like me, someone who’s struggled with these issues for forty years? It seems like a very bright light at the end of a long, long tunnel.
That works for me.
The test results are in! Yesterday I got the results of all the spitting I did 2-1/2 weeks ago. The news is both very bad and very good. But first, what was all the spitting about anyway? It was for a test that determines how well the adrenal glands are functioning. (For more information on adrenal glands, what they are and what they do, click here.) In brief, the adrenals produce the hormones that handle stress. That sounds simple, but understand that they handle every kind of stress the body encounters, so that means illness, injury, pollution, bad food, life changes like weddings, funerals, breakups or job loss, new relationships, jobs or homes, chronic pain, chronic pains in the ass … you get it. Whatever happens that upsets our worlds – whether seemingly positive or negative – it causes stress on our bodies. When they’re working right, the adrenals handle it for us. The correct currently accepted marker of adrenal health is the cortisol levels that can be measured in spit. In an adrenal-healthy person, cortisol levels are high in the morning and slowly fall throughout the day. During a good night’s sleep (the “sweet spot” is 10pm to 6am), the adrenals work to repair and restore the body to a peaceful, stress-free state, and upon waking a healthy person is alert, optimistic, motivated and ready for action (please don’t get me involved in a lark/owl discussion here! As a bonafide, died-in-the-wool owl, I admit I have trouble believing any of this part!).
Okay, now for the bad news: according to my four spit samples (collected first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, late afternoon and at bedtime of the same day), my adrenal glands are virtually non-functioning. My graph was almost a flat line. In the morning, my cortisol level was a mere 10% of what it should be. As the day progressed, that minuscule level slid slowly downward until, at 10pm, it matched the lowest acceptable level for a normal person, way down there at the very bottom of the graph. What this means for me is that there is actually a very good reason why I wake up every morning exhausted, crabby, swollen eyed, aching, unmotivated and confused as to why I’m bothering to get out of bed in the first place, and why the day doesn’t improve a whole lot until late afternoon, when I may or may not feel slightly better for a minute. It means there’s a reason I have serious memory problems (which I have mostly refused to either talk or think about, they’ve scared me so much as I’ve watched my dad’s side into dementia), and it’s why my thinking is often muddled and fuzzy and I have a hard time comprehending what I read.
The good news is, I’m not just a lazy good-for-nothing bum! I actually, physically have virtually zero reserves of resilience against the daily stresses of life (and the past eight months have been swamped with more-than-normal stresses, believe me!). The great news is that it’s entirely treatable! Not only that, but I should start feeling better within a week or so now that I’m on the protocol. However, my case is extreme, so I need to be prepared to follow the protocol for at least a year to bring my faithful adrenal glands back to full health. But once I’ve achieved that, I won’t need to keep supplementing with the (vile) drops (in 3 astonishing flavors: Yuck, Ralph, and I-May-never-Taste-Again) and the additional 2-pills-three-times-a-day. I’m also supposed to be more careful than ever about avoiding dairy, sugars, grains, caffeine and (si-i-igh) any and all alcohol, even red wine. I’m to do my best to “eat a rainbow” every day: pack as many different (natural) colors into my meals as I possibly can. Another part of the protocol, one that may be the very most challenging for me, is that I am really, truly, no joke supposed to actually be in bed doing my best to be asleep every night from 10pm – 6am.
Between taking care of my gut (which should have a marked effect on my emotions) and my adrenals (which should have an equally exciting effect on my energies), within six months to a year I may hardly recognize myself. Honestly, I can barely even imagine what it would be like to wake up feeling good both physically and mentally, to have energy and motivation and plans and ideas that excite me. Its been so long since I felt passionate about anything, I can barely remember what it’s like. And I may be resisting some of the tight strictures, but as for leaving behind these life-long problems and taking hold of something new? By golly I am ready!!
Tomorrow I get to collect samples for a lab test to determine if I have adrenal fatigue. It’s a fun little process: four times tomorrow I get to spit into a vial until it’s half full (no hocking!). But the instructions are ve-e-ery specific! First off, no caffeine, alcohol or cigarettes tomorrow (only the no alcohol might be a challenge). I have to spit at certain times (between 6 – 8am, 12-1pm, 4-5pm and 10-midnight), and I’m not to eat or drink anything but water for an hour before spitting. Also, be forewarned that it may take up to ten minutes to drool out a half a vial-full. As soon as the collection is collected, I’m to make a note of the date on the handy little label and put the spit-vial straight into the freezer, nestled in alongside the two freezer bags that have to have been frozen for at least 36 hours before shipping. Leave the vials in the freezer overnight, then ship according to the very clearly outlined directions. I have a huge mailing pouch for my four tiny vials, because they have to be kept frozen during shipping. The pouch has layer upon layer of insulation, and the four spit-vials (after they’ve been appropriately labelled and sealed into the plastic biohazard bag) are to be sandwiched between the two thick freezer bags, then wrapped in the silver insulating wrap, then slid into the white insulating wrap, then put into the white shipping bag which must be sealed just so and then punctured in four different places (being careful not to puncture the white insulating wrap inside) so that the outermost bag will inflate fully (oh, and do not forget to put all the paperwork in there somewhere before you start sealing things up!). Then that all gets put into the final blue, brown and grey UPS Laboratory Pak. Then quick as ever you can, rush the whole shebang to UPS and drop it off. Oh, you can schedule a pickup, but I wouldn’t want to risk that with the close-to-100 degree temps that expected are Tuesday. And be sure to do my collection so that I can ship Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, because if I ship Thursday or Friday, I’ve wasted my time and my money and my spit; it’ll be in transit too long. I’m not making this up!
If I don’t have adrenal fatigue before I do all that, I may by the time I’m done!
This is just one more step on my healing journey, one more diagnostic tool to try and narrow down my multitudinous options of what all might be causing my annoying chronic symptoms. It’s actually all pretty interesting to me. I had to look up adrenal fatigue to find out what it even is, how it affects a person. Quick answer – chronic fatigue. Oh, right, well, I’ve had that for about a hundred years now. The adrenal glands produce hormones that respond to pretty much any and every stressor one experiences (they produce cortisol, for example). So if a person has had a long period of stress, chances are good that the adrenals are a bit tired. Hmmm, does fourteen years of trying to get pregnant count? Howzabout chronic depression and anxiety and H. pylori and leaky bowel syndrome, do those count? How long is “a long period” exactly? Do you think forty or so years would be considered long by my li’l ol adrenal glands?
In other news, my body is doing weird stuff. My appetite is way off, and I find myself wanting to go ahead and eat the “bad” things I normally eat, just because, after all, it’s my habit. But right at this moment, chips or chocolate or wine or even my old favorite, a Moscow Mule, just sound awful to me. My four big food vices, and not one of them is appealing to me! I forced myself to eat a little egg salad, a few almond-stuffed olives and several cherry tomatoes for dinner because I need to take my dinnertime handful of supplements with food. But really? Ugh.
This whole process is definitely not a straight line. My mood remains slightly better than what had become normal, and I’ve managed to get through some packing in the last few days, which is great because packing and otherwise going through and sorting stuff is extremely anxiety inducing for me. I feel bloated a lot, which I hate, and my weight is definitely up higher than it’s been in a few years, which I also hate. And still, my mood is pretty much okay, though I have been angry a lot in the last couple of weeks. But I find that it’s a relief, feeling that I don’t have to do anything other than what I’m doing (taking a zillion supplements and putting one foot in front of the other). I don’t have to judge myself, I can just observe and be curious: will this change as my body heals? Will that?