A 4 Part Series on Discovering Your Hurdles, The Science Behind How to Fix Them, and Empowering Your Life!
Part I: Discovering What Went Wrong
In one year, I had gained over 25 pounds on my petite 5 foot 2-inch frame, and doctors just blamed it on my age. I had always been relatively fit staying at a healthy weight for my body type. I wasn't a gym rat, yet I loved swimming, Pilates, walking and yoga. Blood tests came back stating all was fine, yet I was experiencing severe brain fog, fatigue, headaches, muscle weakness, constipation, bloating, weight gain, and poor sleep. My GP just said I was most likely approaching perimenopause, yet I knew there was something more than approaching the scary "M" word.
So, in Fall 2015, I decided to take my health into my own hands and go the alternative route. I went to a Functional Medicine doctor, who within ten minutes diagnosed me with severe Adrenal Fatigue.
I was blown away, as he explained that most women my age experience the collapse of this very intricate system. He put me on supplements to support me, yet his biggest concern was that to fix Adrenal Fatigue was to rid myself of stress. I think I did what most people do when told to get rid of stress, I retorted, "I don't feel stressed!"
For the next twenty minutes, he had me talk about every aspect of my life. What struck me as strange, was that my GP never even asked how I was handling all of my daily workloads, let alone relationships and friends! After unpeeling what looked to be a successful life, he pointed out that although I was managing quite a load, my body could no longer support it. He had me tell him what my life was like before it all began, and to my shock, I remembered specific times that I was in a battle to stay afloat.
Months before May 2015, I felt amazing and was at the top of my game in my career, as well as a budding love life and friends. I was fit and active, truly enjoying my new independence and freedom to do all that I wanted after a much-needed divorce four years prior. Yes, these are good stressors, but stressors all the same.
Things seemed to be going so well!
I was at the top of my career in a newly created position training teachers district-wide at over 15 school sites.
I was asked to join a global start-up company by a close family member involved in the company, and I was asked by the Board to become the Director of Teacher Trainers when it was launched. We were so excited for this opportunity.
I received an artist grant to write a screenplay about a woman's life story up in Alaska.
I unexpectedly met the most amazing man, and we were planning on moving onto a boat!
So what happened to put me into a tailspin?
Although I was handling it all well, I went through several crises that sent my body into a downward spiral. I didn't realize at the time that stress was the culprit, and it manifested in my declining health.
I had to file a grievance against my boss in the district, which later caused her to resign. Great news, right? However, it was a very stressful situation having to meet with investigators, and not know if she was going to try to retaliate during those months before she left.
The start-up company's Board of Directors let my family member go, due to lack of experience. I was shocked. However, it caused her to have some anger towards me. Within the same week, the legal team discovered the Founder of the company was committing security fraud with her parents' investment money. They lost all of their money to that horrible man. Believe it or not, they blamed me somehow for this debacle, cutting off all communication with me.
While on a 21-day trip into the Alaskan wilderness, the woman whose life-story I was writing suffered a mental crisis when her father was found dying in her apartment. Our trip in Alaska was immediately canceled after the 4th day of travel, and the ordeal in getting her home, and the backlash she caused afterward, was enough for another movie. I wrote about this in my article, "It Took Alaska."
I compartmentalized each event within those six months, resolving themselves relatively well, but noticed a change in my overall health. Rich thought that maybe I needed to exercise more since I didn't have a daily routine, but after each workout I felt utterly drained and worn out.
It was an old prescription to my declining health, "No Pain, No Gain!" "Just Do It!" or "Eat Less, Weigh Less." And, worse of all the scale kept climbing! The last straw was when I burst into tears after a par-course workout Rich had planned after work. Exercises I could do easily were now taking everything I had to complete not even a set! Something was happening deep within my body, and intuitively I knew there was more going on. That's when I knew I had to seek help. So, I did what everyone else does; I sought out my General Practitioner doctor for tests.
With Rich's support, I went to my GP and asked for a complete blood panel, with Vitamin D, hormones levels, and mineral make-up. Luckily, my doctor knew me well enough that I would come in with a plan. I was shocked when the results came in, and nothing was glaringly wrong. He said to up my Vitamin D, but that was it. I knew in my gut that there was so much more under the surface. So began my search to seek better answers. The first break in my discovery was when I found Integrative and Functional medicine doctors.
My Gigantic Leap of Faith
By January 2016, I met with Dr. Clyde Porter, who diagnosed me with Adrenal Fatigue. He sent me home with something to think about, which was to take the rest of the school year off to heal my body. This would become the biggest leap of faith, which I wrote about on my blog.
Three months later, I took a Medical Leave of Absence and sought answers to this strange and debilitating disease in my body. However, I can't say I immediately felt stress-free. Rich and I decided with the changes in my department, as well as my health, I should leave teaching that year. We had been looking to relocate to Florida to live on a boat, and the timing couldn't have been better. We packed our bags, found a beautiful boat and left Nevada in September 2016.
Did my stress diminish? Of course not! I was leaving a very secure career after 25 years, with health benefits, and I wasn't going to receive retirement for years to come, due to age restrictions. Yet, I knew to trust that it was the right move, at the right time. Rich was providing me the chance to dive into my writing career full time, and to live on a boat, a dream for both of us.
Of course, life didn't become stress-free. Not for one moment. At the end of Summer 2016, I packed up my car with my daughter, Paige, and moved back to my hometown in Pennsylvania. Rich's son and his wife were moving into his home, so I moved some things Paige could use while in college, and things I needed for the boat. Later, I met up with Rich in Florida after visiting my family. Within those three weeks after returning to my hometown, I discovered;
My father came out of remission from recovering from cancer years ago, and his prognosis didn't look good. He was extremely weak needing weekly transfusions.
My amazing daughter was moving to Boston for college.
My siblings were lashing out from a year of pent-up aggression.
And, the last big kicker was another family member was diagnosed with Stage III cancer.
To say things should be easier now that I wasn't teaching anymore, would be a gross oversight. My weight was still increasing, my fatigue was still present, yet I knew I was moving in the right direction, as far as following what I knew to be my path. I will share more on finding your Path, in Part 4 of this series. It was the one thing that kept me going and not giving up when life was throwing me lemons.
Beginning Your Journey of Discovery: How to Get the Answers You Need
Looking back, I can see how important it was meeting a Functional or Integrative Medicine Doctor. Finding someone that not only had been trained in traditional medicine, but has sought out additional certifications in areas that pertain to optimum preventative therapies, drugs and wellbeing. Many GP's will suggest nutritional guidelines that can be detrimental to your specific body type, if it contradicts to a system that's already strained. This wasn't the first time I was lead astray by well-meaning medical advise.
In 2009, I had full body hives, which a team of seven doctors could not figure out the cause. My GP prescribed Prednisone, my dermatologist gave me anti-itch creams, and my allergist told me to take prescription antihistamines. So now I was a walking medicine cabinet. I did get a food allergen test by my allergist, which showed inflammation from several food groups. However, it never occurred to me to ask what causes food or environmental allergies in the first place. I just took the medicine and felt like crap. I weaned off of several foods weeks, yet none of it made a difference.
It took meeting with an alternative medicine doctor to get my wheels churning that I need to become an advocate for my health. My journey into medical research began that same year.
Let's Begin Your Journey
I'd like for you to write down all of the ailments you are feeling in a journal or digital file you can add to at any time:
Physical ailments- achy joints, cramps, headaches, allergies, sleeplessness, etc.
Emotional ailments- sadness, depression, anger, malaise, irritability, cynical, etc.
Spiritual ailments- lack of a Path, disconnection to self, financial stress (yes, that goes here,) no drive or motivation, disconnection to others, etc.
Environmental conditions- dirty dishes, cluttered living space, unorganized bills, rotting food in the fridge, broken fences, weeds in the yard, noisy neighbors, (basically anything that doesn't sit right with you, outside of yourself.)
Go into as much detail as possible. Don't get discouraged if your list is several pages. It just means you are opening up your eyes to all that makes up the life you are living. Within this purge paper, you will start to see trends toward how you're feeling and what could be affecting you. But don't go crazy trying to decipher it, yet. I'll do that with you later!
Keep this journal close. Take it to work, and do the same thing. After you're out with family or friends, note how you feel after you've been with them; good, bad, indifferent? This is your time to put a microscope on your life, like a caring 'doctor' wanting to learn everything about you; a doctor that can help you find the answers.
This is not a quick fix plan, either. If you find it's overwhelming, then you might need to step back. I can give you a thousand helpful steps, but unless you're ready to do this for you - no one else- my information falls on deaf ears.
Later, you will learn how to tackle the list you've created. I will give you a step by step plan on how to find the answers to your health and wellbeing that's been alluding you.
Happy journaling, and be sure to sign up for my emails, so you don't miss any of my musings and mishaps along this journey we call Life!
Writing down all that makes up your life.