Well, here I am again! Dizzy, achy, dopy, tearful, nauseous, and I can barely walk across the room. I’ve been asking myself, “How did I get to this point?” “Were there any warnings?” and more importantly, “How can I avoid doing this again?”
In the three weeks since I collapsed (that what I call it when I reach this point), I’ve had a lot of time to think. Actually, I’m grateful to be able to think. For the first four days all I could do was sit and stare out the window in a dazed fog. My eyes wouldn’t even focus. Now that I am up to writing, I want to record what has happened while I can still remember it. I also hope that you might learn from my experiences and be wiser than I have been.
I have been sobered to realize that since my adrenal glands no longer produce any cortisone, I could have gone into an Addison’s Crisis. This is the point where your body can no longer cope with stress. You become extremely weak, confused, your blood pressure drops, and you can go into shock. All in all, not a place you want to go. There are warning signs right before this happens: headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
I’m aware of these symptoms and just before I start vomiting, I start taking more hydrocortisone and resting. Consequently I don’t officially hit a “Crisis”, but I sure come close – too close!
I do this fairly regularly and am beginning to wonder how bright I really am. I am also becoming concerned because each time I collapse, I don’t seem to recover to the point I was before I collapsed. Besides it isn’t very fun and takes months to recover. Obviously, I need to make some permanent lifestyle changes.
I started by looking up the symptoms of exhaustion. They are rapid or high heart rate or pulse, dizzy (balance problems), confusion, sweating, fatigue, headaches, pains, no appetite, stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, sore throat, sensitive to light and noise, depression, irritability, panic attacks, restless at night, swollen lymph nodes, poor memory, muscle and joint pain, bladder problems, heart palliations, and shortness of breath. I had every symptom! So I was exhausted, but this is how I always felt. I could even add a few symptoms to it: pinky skin, salt cravings, muscle and joint pains, muscle weakness, lethargic movement, dehydration (a 2.6% drop in hydration will double your fatigue), fever and chills, pain in my mid back (adrenal glands), and moments of low blood pressure and blood sugar.
I was shocked! I was accepting exhaustion as “Normal”! I’d always been ill, but that was no excuse. I think one problem I’ve had is that things change fairly slowly. When I collapse, I am forced to stay home and rest and relax. After several weeks I partly recover, become bored and tired of staying in, and resume trying to do all those things I want to do. At first I when I go out, I feel pretty good afterward. I think, “I can do it now! I’m better!” After a couple weeks, I become a little more tired after each thing I do or outing I take, and it takes me longer and longer to recover. Finally, I reach a point where I feel constantly tired, depressed, achy, nauseous, and can just barely drag myself around. My headaches increase and I have trouble sleeping, then I collapse again and rest!
How can I keep from doing this anymore? First of all I have to accept that I have Addison’s Disease. I have been tested and my body does not produce any detectable level of cortisone. Cortisone keeps your blood pressure and blood pressure level so you can deal with stress and feel well. I try to take enough replacement natural hydrocortisone to cover the stresses in my life, but like a diabetic you can’t just keep taking insulin and stuff yourself with cake. I’m realizing that I have to live a life within the limits of a reasonable amount of medication. I haven’t been doing this. I’ve not had enough hydrocortisone to match my stress level. I wondered if I could just increase my medication. No. There are effects of higher cortisone (weight gain, osteoporosis, diabetes, and depressed immune system ). The only solution I can see is to cut the stress level in my life.
Ok. How do I do cut down on stress? Physically I think I do fairly well. I get to bed at a reasonable time and am now taking the time to rest during the day. I eat a good balanced diet of organic foods. As I recover, I will gently exercise. I avoid extremes in temperature (air conditioning is essential for me) and dress warmly when it is cold. I try and avoid foods and things to which I’m allergic. There is a lot physically that I can’t change, so I am trying to get more rest to help compensate for these stresses: injuries, allergies, chemical sensitivities, intestinal damage, malnutrition, and pain.
Physical stress can be rough, but it also seems that emotional stresses really wear me down. Feeling that I had plenty of time since I was retired, I had taken on several volunteer commitments in our community. I added them all up and was surprised to find that I was spending about thirty hours a week volunteering. With all the time I need to care for myself (rest and exercise), I just couldn’t do it all. I started to analyze each commitment. I loved doing each thing! I didn’t want to give up anything! I also knew that I wouldn’t live a very long or have a very enjoyable life the way I was going. Something had to go! It was very hard, but I chose just a couple of less stressful things that I really enjoy doing and let the rest go.
I’ve noticed a difference since I’ve made these changes. I’m feeling better and recovering faster. I’m finally relaxing, and it feels good! I didn’t realize how much I have been pushing myself. Life seems brighter, and I’m enjoying doing things that are meaningful to me.
I am starting to want to do more, but am firmly trying to resist the impulse to push myself to the max. I know I need to live a low key life so there is something left for all the expected things that happen. I am trying to live within a reasonable about of medication cover so that I avoid collapsing. I am going to do it this time!