Monday, October 4, 2010

Stressed Out?? Part Three

One Monday morning, my high school science teacher shared a remarkable experience that occured over the weekend.  In an effort to save some money, he decided to work on his own car.  His wife, not very confident in her husband's mechanical abilities, watched nervously from the living room window as he jacked up the car and slid underneath to take a look.  The jack collapsed under the weight and the car fell on top of him.  In a flash, she darted from the house and with the strength of ten men, lifted the car with one hand and dragged the love of her life from beneath it with the other.  She saved him from being crushed to death.  It wasn't until he was safely in her arms that they realized the miracle that had just occured.  She was a tiny woman, barely five feet tall and she had just lifted an object that weighed a ton or more. With one hand! How did she accomplish this ordinarily impossible feat? Adrenaline. 

Adrenaline is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland in the body. When it is produced it stimulates the heart-rate, dilates blood vessels and air passages, and has a number of more minor effects. Adrenaline is naturally produced in high-stress or physically exhilarating situations.

The term "fight or flight" is often used to characterize the circumstances under which adrenaline is released into the body. It allows us to cope with dangerous and unexpected situations. With dilated blood vessels and air passages, the body is able to pass more blood to the muscles and get more oxygen into the lungs in a timely manner, increasing physical performance for short bursts of time.  This explains the sudden Hulk-like strength of my teacher's tiny wife.
When we live in a constant state of stress, our bodies produce more and more adrenaline in order to keep up the pace. If we don't slow down and give our bodies a rest or a chance to regenerate and recuperate, it just keeps producing more adrenaline and cortisol ( another hormone produced by the adrenal glands to help us meet challenges by converting fats and proteins into energy, keeping us alert, balancing electrolytes, calibrating heart beat and pressure, and counteracting inflammation). Simply put, if we are constantly on the go and under stress, our bodies are always in "flight or fight" mode.  Living a life in this mode will eventually reap devastating consequences; constant colds, flus and viruses, debilitating aches and pains, strokes, and heart attacks. Adrenaline and other such hormones are gifts our body gives us to survive occasional stressful and dangerous situations.  It was never intended to be pumped out repeatedly on a daily basis.  
This is how I was living.  In a constant state of stress. A life without balance.  Rather than listening to the signals my body was sending, I kept pushing and pushing and my body kept making more of these flight or fight hormones until it was completely overloaded, overburdened and finally decided to shut down.  
I submitted to a series of tests from my doctor.  Heart stress-tests, a heart catherization (because the chest pain was just so intense), a Lyme's Disease test ( I had been bitten by a tick in PA a few months before), tests for ulcers, acid reflux and many more painful, time consuming and expensive procedures.  Every test came back negative.  It was discovered during the heart cath that my heart did spasm from time to time but my cardiologist reassured me it would not kill me.  He did suggest I cut back on the Tequila ( a stimulant by the way), but other than that, my heart was miraculously healthy and my arteries were clear.  Although I fought him over the blood pressure pills he prescribed,  I obediently took them bring my pressure down.   At least I was able to cross heart attack off the list.  He did warn me, however, that if I continued living the life I led, I would be back in his office within a year or two and the solution would not be so simple the next time.
I was scared, I still felt awful, and decided to take a leave of absence from my job.  I took a vacation and did nothing but sit and sleep on the beach.  I read books I never had time to read.  I organized my closets and drawers and tried to de-clutter my house.  I asked a room-mate who was a constant source of aggravation and stress to find another place to live so I could have peace and quiet in my home.  This all made my life a little more bearable, but I still did not feel well.  I had turned over every stone and still  had no explanation for why I was feeling so poorly. My chest still pounded, my blood pressure was still fluctuating, I was still gaining weight and could not lose it, and I was completely exhausted.  Every doctor and specialist I saw had no solution for me. I refused to accept the fact that I was going to feel this way for the rest of my life.  I wanted answers and I wanted them now. Typical! I kept pounding down doors for an answer and no one could help me.
I met a lovely female doctor at a party.  We began to chat and I poured out my life story to her. She was genuinely concerned. I don't make a habit of doing this, in fact I find it mildly irritating when people ask me for professional advice when all  I want to do is eat, drink, dance, and forget about work. This doctor listened and was gracious and kind.  She suggested I call her office the following day and schedule an appointment.
After reviewing my medical records,  conducting a few tests and evaluating my lifestyle and all my symptoms, she gave me her diagnosis.  I was suffering from complete adrenal fatigue.  I had lived life in the fast lane for so long, and had abused and pushed my body so badly, that my adrenal glands were completely exhausted.  The constant rush of adrenaline and over production of cortisol was too much for my system to bear and every symptom I had was a manifestation of this condition.  Adrenaline and cortisol released in short bursts when we need it can be protective and restorative.  Sustained levels of it on a constant basis will eventually tear your body apart.  Although I had calmed down a bit, my adrenal glands were still over-producing these hormones out of habit.  We needed to correct that before it got worse and possibly resulted in a life-threatening disease.
Next time I will share the steps I took and the changes I made in my life in order to heal.
And this is my Daily Cyn......


  1. still following......this is getting good

  2. LOL...... I will be wrapping it up in the next day or two... :)

  3. I know that it's frustrating to have persistent symptoms your doctor can't readily explain. But accepting a medically unrecognized diagnosis from a practitioner could be worse. Unproven remedies for so-called "adrenal fatigue" may leave you feeling sicker, while the real cause — such as depression or fibromyalgia — continues to take its toll.

  4. THomas....I DO have fibromyalgia......I was diagnosed with it several years ago and I managed to keep under control with diet and good clean living. But when I got wrapped up in my crazy lifestyle, everything was exacerbated--including the fibromyalgia and depression.. I was a mess!! I will be posting the last and final installment later tonight.. :)