The Thing About Migraines is That Once They Are Over Everything is So Very Great!

I have suffered from migraines for years. I can’t even remember how many that is how long it has been. It used to be that they were connected to my monthly cycle and I could actually know in advance when I would get them each and every month. They are debilitating.  They start innocently enough with pain in the neck and shoulders that moves to my temples. From there it is like a vice grip tightening and then the nausea from the pain sets in. Everything causes pain …lights, noises, smells and I usually end up under the covers until it passes.

With the fact they were connected to my monthly cycle my medical doctor suggested birth control as a way to keep them in check. It did help the degree of them but it didn’t stop them. Eventually I moved on to a naturopath and my changes in diet due to the discovery of my food allergies and the help I received for my adrenal fatigue eased them but also, they never entirely went away. When my daughter was two and a half, just over a year ago, I was referred to Sharon Richlark, a homeopathic doctor. At the time I was once again suffering from severe adrenal fatigue and my monthly migraines had returned full force. I knew I needed serious help if I was going to be able to give my daughter the care she deserved and needed.

Sharon looked at my whole history and set up a protocol for me. At the same time I had started my Jikiden Reiki journey. Within a month my regular monthly migraines had stopped happening. Wow! (I can’t even explain how much this wonderful woman has helped me). Sharon tells me that migraines stem from the liver …actually, that all disease stems from the liver. And sometimes, despite my best intentions, I slip up. In the fall when we were in the middle of moving my diet fell by the wayside in exchange for convenience because there was so much to do. Lo and behold at the end of that month, wham, migraine had me in bed for 2 days. June is my month for hay fever. And this year it is incredibly horrible. I haven’t had this much itchiness in my eyes and ears and throat for years. So what do I do? I eat eggs which I am sensitive to. On top of that I have been in vehicles this week that have stale cigarette smoke and febreeze …both of which cause me headaches. So, two days ago, wham, a migraine. Again, 2 days out of commission. My lovely daughter knows to treat me gently during this time and she will lay patiently beside me watching a show or ten while I hide from all that cause me pain until once again it passes. (I do stumble out to feed her and do the necessities).

But the amazing thing is days like today when I wake up for the first time in two days and the pain is gone and everything feels wonderful. I appreciate all the things I can do again. I generally have catching up to do with chores etc. but it feels great that I can do them again without holding my head. Today was a day of productivity, of painting, making father’s day crafts (wait until you see what we did!) and dancing with my daughter. Then again, Friday the 13th has always been a good day for me.

PS. Sharon sent me a couple of things to help with my hay fever and after just two days I am no longer itchy anywhere. I am no longer sneezing. Amazing. Next week I finally am going to see her again because I have more issues to work on …but more about that later.

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HSP or Adrenal Fatigue? Sometimes I Can’t Tell.

With all the activity happening around here I have been feeling a little drained …somedays more and somedays less. After I had been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and food allergies by the naturopath I would often know that if I woke up feeling like I hadn’t slept it would mean that either I was overdoing things (adrenal fatigue) with not enough down time or I had eaten things that I was sensitive to. Usually with a quick review of my recent activities and meals I could figure it out. Regardless, it usually meant I needed to take it easy but more so if I was overdoing things.

Now, since I have figured out that I am also an HSP (highly sensitive person) I sometimes have a hard time knowing whether my adrenal glands are crapping out again or I am just having sensory overload because of the HSP part of my personality. I figure if it is the HSP part it will have a shorter term effect and if it is the adrenals it will have a longer term effect. So really, time will tell as the saying goes. Either way feeling drained for me is a red flag that means slow down and be extra diligent in food choices. In the old days before I knew better I used to just push through the fatigue. Now I know it can get a whole lot worse and take a whole lot longer to recover if I do that.

It is really frustrating to not be able to do things though, to not be able to get up off the couch, to feel like you have bones made out of cement. It is my fear of getting back to that place that forces me to make sure I take it easy when I need to as difficult as that is. It would far easier to be able to just get all the things I want done as fast as I want them done. I guess you could say I have been forced to learn how to say no. More importantly, I have learned to listen to my body and respect what it is trying to telling me.

I’m a HSP … Another A-HA moment.

Sometime in my mid-30’s I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment for the very first time. I found out I was an ISFJ (Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judging) personality. It would be the first time I would fully understand that I was an introvert and what an introvert exactly was. The definition that stuck most with me was that introverts recharge or regain energy by having quiet, alone time and extroverts recharge or gain energy by being with people. And further that the introvert required three times the amount of alone time to the amount of people time they had. This made me realize that I really did need my down time to recharge and stay healthy. It also made me understand why I would sometimes feel so very drained if I had too much social interaction and not enough alone time to balance it out.

I really became fascinated by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment and started to read a whole lot about not only ISFJ’s but all of the different personalities. It really put a lot of pieces in place as to why people were the way they are and why some people get along better than others. Reading about the ISFJ personality also put a lot of pieces in place as to why I was the way I was and how I shouldn’t try to fit myself into a role that went against those personality traits. It was the beginning of me learning to listen to my gut.

Then, a couple of years ago, when I was 40 my sister sent me a link on my Facebook page to a self test for something called an HSP, a Highly Sensitive Person. You can find the link here. I went through the questions on the self test and holy wow, I said yes to pretty much all of them to one degree or another. This was a huge puzzle piece to helping me cope with being me.

Reading about being an HSP suddenly made a lot of things clear. It is why I have to sometimes wear sunglasses in places like Walmart or Superstore where the lights are glaring bright and there is so much for the eyes to take in …both in product and people. It is why when I worked in an office I needed to turn off the fluorescent lights in my space and bring my own lamp in for more natural lighting. It is why when I had a job meeting people all day, every day I became drained. It is why I can shut down when the vacuum is turned on. It is also why I was wearing sunglasses when I gave birth to my daughter. (I was brought in by ambulance and as soon as we got to the hospital the overhead lights glared into my eyes and the sunglasses went on). It is why I can’t tolerate violent or horror movies. It is why I despise surround sound. The examples really just go on and on.

Being an HSP isn’t all bad. Because of it I am very detailed oriented and that has been a huge asset many, many times over. However, the down side is that because I take in so many details I get overstimulated easily which can cause me to shut down. I find I am especially sensitive when my adrenal fatigue is worse. I am also definitely more sensitive in the morning. It’s like I suddenly develop Spidey senses but not for the good.

Having a child as an HSP mother is also a challenge. I am really lucky to have a pretty great girl. She is caring, considerate and mostly well-behaved. However, it is still challenging when I have too many things going on in my head. For example, when getting ready to go somewhere I seem to almost always go into meltdown mode simply from trying to prepare from the to do list in my head and constantly being interrupted by my daughter and/or husband. And they aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s like my head will just suddenly short-circuit because I have too many things spinning around my head in a short amount of time with the pressure of the deadline of trying to get out the door.

These past couple of weeks when I have been setting up my husbands Etsy shop, starting my blog and attempting to work towards setting up my own Etsy shop bring back my HSP right smack in front of me. Each day I have faced challenges as I try to focus on something so I can complete the task (because having too many loose ends left hanging gets to me, too) while still being there for my daughter and my husband. My husband can understand “give me five minutes” … my daughter, not so much (really, what can you expect from a three year old?). And I have noticed that as I try to take more time she is starting to have meltdowns. This part is going to be a work in progress. I think we will have to set up a better schedule and better communication, too. Today she had a play date with my Mom (so cute, they adore each other and have loads of fun) so I was able to get a couple hours to myself to complete some tasks. It was a huge help. I think I may need to schedule more of those, too.

I have also noticed HSP qualities in my daughter. She seems to notice a lot of details. You can’t really get much past her. She also can’t bear loud noises. If my husband turns his saw on she runs into the house with her hands over her ears. The same happens when I turn on the blender or food processor. And she was covering her ears when my Mom had her foot bath on. I know young children can be sensitive to noise as it is so I will have to keep watch. At least if she is a Highly Sensitive Person I can help her understand what it means and how to cope. Just knowing what it means to be an HSP has helped me immensely. I can identify why my energy is draining and try to either avoid those situations that trigger it or prepare as best I can when I know they are going to happen. At least I know why it’s happening.

 

Reiki, a turning point

I was suffering from adrenal fatigue again. I was breastfeeding, too, so my naturopath couldn’t give me the supplements to boost my adrenals.

I would wake up in the morning but wouldn’t get out of bed.  This was the time of day that my cortisol levels were non-existent and if I were to push myself in any way my body would betray me. I would need to eat something first thing even though the thought of food made me feel nauseous. I would slip out of bed to the kitchen to get myself a small bowl of chia seeds, hemp seeds and coconut milk and slip right back into bed to eat it. This would give me just enough of a kick of energy to make things okay. My daughter had learned to play quietly or perhaps watch a show in the bed in the mornings. We would wake up around 9 but not actually get up until around noon when I would immediately make a proper lunch.  Without food I would certainly crash.

At some point between 9 and noon, regardless of what I did, I would end up on the toilet for another not so fun bowel movement episode.  If I was doing extra poorly or I had something stressful happen then this could turn into a full blown anxiety attack. Too much stimulation at once is different in the morning than it is later in the day. In the morning it could be as simple as getting a phone call (and that is just the phone ringing, never mind answering it, too) at the same time my husband is talking to me, at the same time I am trying to do something for my daughter. Later in the day that all at once wouldn’t bother me so much.

I can’t even properly explain an anxiety attack. There just aren’t words to describe the feelings of everything being wrong at once, of not being able to sit still, of utter misery, of not being able to control your body. During an anxiety attack I would often just pace in circles around the island in our kitchen. If I was lucky my daughter would stay occupied with whatever she was doing. If not it would often add to my feeling of out of control and I would feel terrible for not being able to handle, in that moment, whatever she would need. After the anxiety attack I would feel absolutely exhausted …for the rest of the day.

So, I would do my best to keep my mornings as stress free as possible and try to eat as well as I could. I would also try to get enough rest which wasn’t always possible with a little one.  And then, just after my daughter turned two Reiki started showing up on my radar over and over again. It got to the point that I had to notice. I wasn’t sure what Reiki was but from what I read on the internet Reiki is a form of energy healing. I also have a friend who does Quantum Touch healing, another form of energy healing. My friend lives across the country from me so she had only ever done distant sessions for me. When she had done them for me I was amazed at the results. I didn’t quite understand it but I didn’t really need to understand to believe in the differences it had made for me. Unfortunately for me she had a new baby, too and had her hands full so was no longer practicing for the time being.

Meanwhile, I spoke to my birth mother on the phone and she mentioned Reiki, too.  I had an issue with airplanes which, of course, stopped me from going to visit. I had actually booked a flight previously and not been able to get on it. So she wanted me to do a distant Reiki session over the phone with her Reiki practitioner. So, I did. I don’t know how well it worked because I still haven’t been able to get it together (budget, etc.) to be able to take a trip but one day we will see. She did, however, mention things she couldn’t have known about me and gave me other coping tools. When I got off the phone I decided it was time for me to see if I could find someone close to where I lived. So I turned to Google and found Mari Okazaki. She was a 5 minute drive from where I was living at the time. And she was fabulous.

I went for my first session. All I needed to do on my part was lay on a massage table. Mari placed her hands on me in different positions throughout the session. Shortly after she started I was so relaxed I fell asleep. I don’t think I have ever been so relaxed! It may have been that session or one of the subsequent sessions that I would wake myself up with my snores. When we were done I didn’t want to leave but I felt really refreshed and so hungry. Later that night though I felt unreasonably irritable. When I asked Mari about it she said that is the Reiki working …moving the blockages through my body. In later sessions I didn’t feel irritable afterwards …just the first one. It makes sense since I probably had a backlog of blockage.

I went for weekly sessions. I had been suffering from monthly migraines that coincided with my cycle. The headaches were so regular I could look ahead on the calendar and schedule plans around them. The following month after starting to see Mari I didn’t have a migraine! I was so impressed and excited about it. I decided to learn Reiki. For me and also for my daughter and family.

Apparently, there are different forms of Reiki. Mari practices Jikiden Reiki. Jikiden means “directly passed down or taught”. It is the Reiki that is directly from Japan and has not changed in it’s teachings since the original Reiki came to be. Japanese are a people who are very traditional and this suited me perfectly because I, myself, like to learn traditional ways.  Mari is also a Reiki teacher so I was able to take both my Shoden Level (Level 1) and Okuden Level (Level 2) with her. It is one of the things in my life that I am very grateful for.

Since learning Reiki not only have I been able to use it when my daughter and husband have gotten minor injuries or sickness but my sister was diagnosed with bone cancer last summer right after my Mom had an emergency surgery from a perforated ulcer. My sister lives far from me but I am able to do distant Reiki for her. It is really nice to be able do something when your loved ones are suffering. I also enjoy going to Reiki practice nights when I am able. One day when my daughter is a little older I hope to take it a little further and perhaps became a Reiki practitioner and a teacher myself.

Adrenal Fatigue, a Long Road

When I was first diagnosed with adrenal fatigue by the naturopath I was also diagnosed with food allergies. I was so focused on what to eat I didn’t realize the seriousness of the adrenal fatigue part. It wasn’t until almost two months later in a discussion with the naturopath that the light bulb went off. Me being me, I immediately went to do some research on adrenal fatigue to figure out exactly what it means. I found this book, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, at the library and immediately borrowed it. I found it so helpful I ended up purchasing it, too.

The naturopath gave me some supplements to take. Because my cortisol levels were backwards (low in the morning when they should be high and high in the evening when they should be low) she gave me Cortrex to take in the morning to boost my levels and Relora in the evening to decrease my levels. She also gave me a multi vitamin, calcium/magnesium and some fish oil, too for general health. After six months had passed we took another test and my cortisol levels did seem to level out but I would feel like they were never the same again. It would seem that any time I overdid it I would feel fatigued.

If I woke up in the morning feeling like I hadn’t slept then it would be because of one of two reasons. Either I had eaten something that I was sensitive to or I had overdone it. Overdoing it could mean not getting enough sleep but more likely it was not getting enough down time in relation to how busy I was. I simply cannot go, go, go anymore without paying for it. I would become fatigued and I would need to take a step back and go in recovery mode. If I didn’t go in recovery mode it would just take that much longer for me to bounce back. Recovery mode generally means I need to make sure I am eating super well and none of the foods I am sensitive to. (Often I can get away with eating these foods here and there as long as it isn’t too much, too close together but not when I am fatigued). It also means I need to rest as much as possible. Getting to sleep before 10 p.m. is very important. If I did all these things I would be able to function much more quickly.

As much as I try to keep a balanced life so that I don’t overdo it, often life happens and there isn’t much I can do about it. Over the next few years I would leave a job that caused me too much stress, explore new career options, sell my car and townhouse to fund my explorations and a big move to a new city, get a new job, reconnect with my high school sweetheart and the father of the son we gave up for adoption, reconnect with the son we gave up for adoption, move back to be with my high school sweetheart, get engaged, get pregnant, get another new job, and get married among other things. Those are some big things that create a lot of stress and don’t necessarily fit the prescription of taking it easy to heal adrenal fatigue.

However, during that time I did get better. I know I did because then I got worse which made me realize how much better I had been. I got worse after I moved to the new city and was adjusting to my new job. And then I got better. And then I got worse again after I had the baby and had to return to work. My husband worked Monday to Thursday and I worked Friday to Monday. I thought this was great because we didn’t need childcare. My body said otherwise. Eventually, the anxiety attacks increased back to the point where I couldn’t ignore them any longer. Dealing with anxiety attacks while caring for a baby is not fun. Being adrenal fatigue exhausted while caring for a baby is not fun, either.

For a while I didn’t even connect that my adrenal fatigue was back. When you have a baby everyone focuses so much on post partum depression and baby related issues it’s easy to forget about other issues. I had to stop working. I applied for and was denied short term disability. And then one day a light bulb suddenly went off. I pulled my adrenal fatigue book off the shelf and sure enough there my symptoms were listed. And I suddenly recalled that this was exactly how it was before. How had I not realized it?

When I  stopped working my husband just started to work more. Therefore, I didn’t have really any support to help me out with the baby. This doesn’t bode well when adrenal fatigue requires rest and eating really well but your job is to provide for your baby first and foremost every day, all day. It’s a far different story coping with adrenal fatigue when you are single than when you are a wife and a mom and have other’s needs to take into consideration. It’s funny because when I was single I thought it would be easier if I had someone to help me.

My naturopath couldn’t give me the supplements for adrenal fatigue she had previously given me because I was breastfeeding and it was very important for me to do so. She did suggest vitamin B12 injections but needles cause me to become super anxious. Really, the anticipation of them causes me such stress that it wipes me right out. I did decide to try one just because my fatigue and anxiety attacks were having such a big effect on caring for my daughter and my relationship with my husband. By the time I got to the appointment I was shaking and in tears. That kind of stress with adrenal fatigue was obviously not a good combination. I had the shot and was hoping I would have renewed energy.  Instead I felt nauseous for a week. That was the end of that.

Luckily, the subject of reiki kept appearing on my radar. I wasn’t sure what it was but I was willing to try anything. I finally did a google search for reiki practioners in my area and stumbled upon Mari Okazaki’s website. I had no idea at the time that meeting Mari would have such a positive impact on my healing journey. Mari introduced me to Jikiden Reiki, Fortune Delight and also to Sharon Richlark, a fabulous homeopath. Each of these would have a tremendous positive impact on my health but I will save those details for future posts.

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me It’s Adrenal Fatigue?

I remember precisely when my health problems reared their ugly head high enough for me to sit up and take enough notice to have to do something about them. It was the summer of 2002. Back in 2002 I worked in an office.  A bankruptcy office to be precise.  I did well at my job but it was never my dream. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do so I just kept moving forward and learning more things.  I had been with the company just over 10 years at the time.  Anyway, in retrospect I had too much on my plate but at the time I didn’t realize it or know what to do about it.

In the spring of that year I was completing the first course for becoming a bankruptcy trustee and was supposed to be writing an exam in June.  I wasn’t confident and my mentor was not a great teacher.  At the time I was in a relationship with a fellow who was depressed.  He was on a lot of prescription medication due to a motor vehicle accident and spent most of his days on the couch.  As well, I had reconnected with my birth mother in 1998 (which was a really positive experience but still emotional) and she along with her husband and 3 kids (my brother and 2 sisters) were set to come visit in the end of summer.  My birth mother had located my birth father and so we were planning to meet him when she was out for her visit.   Summertime also signalled a time when my boss took his vacation.  He usually would take 6 weeks sometime between June and September. Not usually consecutively.  For some reason along the way I had stepped up and tried to take care of the office whenever he was absent.  I had been doing it so long I didn’t realize I didn’t have to.

July rolled around and suddenly I was sick to my stomach one day at the office so I went home.  This is what I would normally do because I have always taken stomach bugs seriously.  Much to my delight by the end of the day I felt much better so the next day I went back to work.  However, this was to become a common experience over that summer.  I would be super sick in the morning and by the afternoon I would be okay again.  Later I would realize I was having anxiety attacks which would often land me on the toilet.

But at the time I had no idea what was wrong with me so I went to the doctor because that is what you do, right?  Well the doctor sent me for tests which all came back absolutely normal.  July came and went. August came and went. And then I think sometime in September when I wasn’t getting any better the doctor suggested antidepressants.  I have alway been “medication as a last resort” person but I wasn’t getting better and my doctor always seemed to be a “medication as a last resort” doctor (or so I thought) so I gave it a go.

Well, not only did I not get better but I started crying all the time, too.  It was a very crazy time.  After 9 months the doctor even agreed that they didn’t seem to be helping at all and weaned me off of them.  And that was that.  The only other suggestion the doctor had was to see a psychiatrist.

I became unable to handle the overload of work that I had previously been doing so when a position came up in a quieter office within the firm I requested and received a transfer.  I was taking it easier and doing practically nothing at home in my down time.  Slowly but surely I started to feel better.  Just over a year later I left the relationship I was in.

Fast forward to 2007.  At this point I wasn’t nearly as bad as I was in 2002 but I had never gotten completely better.  I felt broken.  If I pushed myself I would crash.  I didn’t have much of a social life.  My dog was a huge saviour for me.  She is what got me out of the house each and every day (beyond going to work).  I also think all the fresh air and exercise I got while walking her helped me hugely, too.

Luckily for me I bumped into a friend and coworker from the office I had previously worked in.  I hadn’t seen in her in a while and I knew she hadn’t been herself in a long time.  She had pretty much become regularly grumpy when in years past she had been happy go lucky.  Well, when I bumped into her she was practically glowing.  She was back to her old self.  It was unbelievable.  When I asked her what she had been up to she told me she had been seeing a naturopath. All I could think was “wow!”

It took me some time but the seed was planted.  Eventually I went to see a naturopath by my house but left not feeling very confident I had found the right one.  So, I went to the one that my friend had been to see.  It was further but so worth it.

In July of 2007 the naturopath did a complete physical and had me fill out a very long questionnaire.  I was pretty excited because I had long been frustrated with the idea of only being allowed to talk about one topic at the medical doctor’s office.  I had always wondered “what if I have more things and what if there is a connection between them?” Anyway, the naturopath looked at the whole picture and ordered some tests.  These ones were different than the medical doctor’s tests. I had a food allergy test done where blood is taken and sent to a lab to be analyzed for food allergies (not the skin prick test) and I also had a cortisol test done.

I was called back for the results and as I sat there with my double tall latte and my maple scone from Starbucks I was told that I was allergic to a bunch of food including gluten, wheat, dairy, egg, peanut,and some others, too.  And not only was my test showing I had reactions, the reactions were shown as bars that practically went off the page.  I was also told I had adrenal fatigue. My cortisol levels were high when they should be low and low when they should be high.  This is why I was always sick in the morning …my cortisol levels were almost non-existent before noon.  I had no ability to deal with stress in the morning so my body would break down.

It can take a long time to heal from adrenal fatigue and there isn’t really anything you can do except take it easy and eat really well.  (I learned a lot from the book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Stress Syndrome).  (I later realized that is what helped me get better back when I was initially sick in 2002 – I was forced to take it easy).  But I was super excited because I finally knew what was wrong with me and could actually take steps to get better.  And it made sense, too.  And, yes, I went home and got rid of all the foods I was allergic and then went to the grocery store to figure out what to buy instead.  That was a challenge …especially with having adrenal fatigue. I think I spent a couple of hours easily just in that first visit to the store just reading labels and figuring out what I could and couldn’t eat.

Initially I went about 6 weeks without eating any of the foods that caused me trouble.  A lot of people asked me how hard it was especially to give up things like bread and cheese.  Really, I found it easy because I felt that bad all the time.  When you feel that bad all the time then you really don’t mind not eating what makes you feel that way.  After 6 weeks I decided to test it.  My Mom and I went out to dinner to our favourite Mexican restaurant and I ordered chile rellenos.  I was having egg, dairy and wheat all in one go.  As I was eating it I could actually feel my head getting foggy.  It was incredible.  It also took a few days to recover.  It was a great test.

Sometime later I was at my doctor’s office and I was excited to share with her my discoveries.  She looked at me and said that you have to take naturopath’s tests with a grain of salt and that what they say isn’t always true.  Funny because I had already tested it to see if it were true.  And funny that my doctor had never once asked me what I was eating.  It makes complete sense to me that what you eat will affect your health. I have learned that doctor’s also don’t test for or recognize adrenal fatigue.  So this is why no one (initially) told me I had adrenal fatigue.  It only took me 5 years to finally discover it with the help of my naturopath.