Fight or Flight?
My alarming personal experience with Adrenal Fatigue, June 2015 to March 2016
I'll suggest you grab a coffee and sit with me for a while. This is a long one. Straight from my heart to yours. I invite you to read all the way through to the end. I'm sure you will relate to some or even all of what I"m about to share...
As a natural nutritionist and life coach, serving others for the last 22 years, imagine my despair in not being able to identify what was wrong with me—not being able to put together the pieces in order to understand what was happening, and ultimately, not knowing how to help myself.
If this situation had presented in another person, I would have clearly recognized it, and then provided care. I remain in shock that I couldn’t see it happening in me. And when it was pointed out and I finally saw it, I was paralyzed and unable to heal alone.
Looking back, I can see this this bout of adrenal fatigue began last year, around June. Of course, the signs were there, but as they increased over the following months, I did my best to ignore until I couldn’t ignore any more—which puts me in the now: March 2016. This is, indeed, my most severe case of adrenal fatigue (also known as ‘burnout’) I’ve experienced in my 22 year career as a fitness professional.
Though I’ve had three burnout experiences in the past, none compare with this one.
The beginning of my physical decline in health.
I remember being in California at beginning of June 2015, volunteering for a 5 day event. My shoulder had been bothering me for a while but I’d ignored all warnings. During an athletic-style practice component of the event, a searing, burning, and severe shooting pain radiated from my shoulder down my arm. I gasped—my breath caught in my throat—but I let it go: using my other arm and carrying on with the day. But that night—unable to find a comfortable position for my arm—was the beginning of the sleep disruption. The start of a slippery slumberless slope.
The beginning of his physical decline in health. I returned from volunteering—sleep deprived, physically sore, yet my heart was full from sharing my energy with others in support of their 5 day personal growth at camp—and was greeted by my companion of 12 years, my sweet dog, Dakota. We played and played. The next morning, I noticed he was limping, but I put it down to his age and that we’d played for an extended time the day before.
The beginning of my emotional decline in health. For the next two months, I did everything to keep Dakota comfortable. So loyal and loving he refused to leave my side, no matter how much discomfort he experienced. July 27 marked the hardest day I’ve lived through. I made the decision to have the vet come to my home. Dakota departed—and I envisioned him in a place where he could play with his friend Sara, a canine friend he’d lost a few weeks earlier. Never, in my 45 years, have I felt such profound pain.
The beginning of my mental decline in health:
Then, in September (2015), I was betrayed by someone close to me. Even though I immediately released that person from my heart and life, the fear around betrayal remained, reminding me to be more cautious and aware of others. Mistrust surrounded me.
Two months later, in November, my best friend and I decided to end our two year romantic relationship—we realized we had different visions for our future. This decision, so close to the loss of Dakota, was heartbreaking. I felt so alone. I felt empty. I felt broken. So great was my heartache, I remember crying—all by myself—for 36 hours.
The beginning of my spiritual decline in health.
Still dealing with nerve pain, and daily physical limitations due to my shoulder, combined with my broken heart from losses and betrayals, I unknowingly detached from my day to day connection to spirit.
At the beginning of 2016, it felt like I’d been covered by a dark cloud. Alone. Abandoned. Betrayed. Of course this affected my work, my relationships, and my finances. It was the darkest place I’d been in over 12 years. NO ONE KNEW. I kept all this to myself and wore a 'mask' to all obligations, including work.
I rarely exercised because of the intense shoulder pain; even Yoga was out of the question. Day-to-day activities became a chore. I did not make the healthiest food choices—instead I made ‘convenient’ food choices. Shockingly, I used caffeine—as many as 4 drinks a day—to push through. I simply did not have the emotional wherewithal to make good judgments. Hell, brushing my teeth became a chore. The depth of my fatigue was overwhelming.
Because I didn’t have the capacity to hold space for myself, I became less sociable. I certainly was not able to hold space for those I cared about. A short-tempered demeanor emerged, and that lack of patience with others set me on the course to loneliness; hell, it was easier that way. So extreme were my responses they became reactions: I even told my phone to ‘eff off’ when Siri didn’t provide the correct information for a call.
My weight increased to a level where my clothes became uncomfortable, which, in turn, triggered old messages from my eating disorder. I hadn’t had ‘fat’ thoughts in almost 15 years, yet they raised their foul voices in my head; threatened to take over.
When my friend, Tonda McGillis, a Clinical Nutritionist, came for a visit she flat out said, “I’ve been watching you spiral for months. When are you going to see you’re in a massive state of adrenal fatigue?
It hadn’t dawned on me that I could be in an adrenal fatigue state. You see, the other 3 times had been due to over-training/over-exercising. This time I hadn’t been over-exercising at all with the shoulder in such rough shape, therefore, I never considered it.
The proverbial two-by-four hit me square in the forehead. I was in severe adrenal fatigue due to STRESS. Emotional, physical, mental, spiritual and then inevitably, financial stress.
The beginning of my physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial health improvement.
Tonda and I had a long conversation, then decided on a plan of action. Sleep was the top priority as it is essential for healing.
She provided me with natural sleep support, and began supplementing me on adrenal support for physical care, and added Bach Flower remedies for emotional healing. We went shopping, then spent hours preparing and freezing various organic healthy meals so I’d have good food, ready to go, to support my physical and mental body.
She encouraged me to get another dog.
And I did.
Dakota must have scanned all the dogs on earth and told little Mishka to choose me as her human. A great fit, we are together each day.
All this support created a foundation for me to begin healing.
- Today, I give gratitude for EVERYTHING. This is allowing me to connect with spirit once again.
- My shoulder is improving—most days I’m pain free and have about 80% range of motion. I see Yoga in my very near future.
- My sleep is improving to about 7 hours straight a night on most nights.
- My emotions are rising daily to my usual place of joy and love.
- Daily doses of self love and acceptance of myself are once again my ‘norm’.
- I am embracing spending time with friends and family again.
- In work, I'm becoming effective with clarity of purpose once again.
- Financial abundance surrounds me once more.
As much as this 10 month journey has felt like hell on earth, and I have hurt in ways I never knew I could, I am profoundly grateful for this experience. I know myself better. I recognize how loved and supported I am. I understand I have the strength to make it through anything (even when I don’t think I can, I know I can). And if I can do it, you can do it.
Identifying and supporting my adrenal fatigue has been quite a journey. It has, however, made me stronger. And all that makes me stronger, allows me to serve others with more love and compassion.
Thank you, coach Tonda, for guiding me back to my amazing health. I couldn’t have done it without you.
And thank you to all who supported me, and continue to support me. I love you and am grateful for you every day.