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.