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.

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.