As a person living with adrenal fatigue, the scariest days are the ones after losing a night of sleep because of the “wired and tired” feeling (the hallmark symptom). When this happens, the body’s already depleted resources are left gasping for air all day. When you have adrenal fatigue it can be hard to fall asleep due the cortisol levels imbalances that make you feel wide awake at bedtime, even though your body is tired and needs sleep. On these nights, I am a hopeless zombie until about 4a.m. Today was one of those days after very little sleep, and in addition to that I am also lagging because that sort of thing happens to me about once a month. AND, I also had a small outbreak of eczema on the tops of my hands (another sneaky adrenal fatigue symptom is the onset of auto-immune deficiencies). ALSO, I was kind of silly and cut some peppers (that turned out to be VERY HOT peppers) without gloves the day before, and my fingers were still burning from that activity.
When I woke up, I did not want to experience the day. But because I had already mapped out my day with tasks, I was ok to take one step at a time. The first thing I had to do was go to a doctor’s appointment. I took my time on the bus and in the waiting room to wake up, breathe deeply, fix my posture, and altogether consciously relax my anxious tendencies that happen when I am hit with one of these days. There was a time about a month ago where I had these sleepless nights almost 2 or 3 days a week. This sleep- wake disturbance cycle quickly gains momentum and sends the body into a deep crash that takes a few days of doing nothing to recover. Anyways, I have been getting quality sleep for the past month (BIG SUCCESS). So today was manageable! Even though I had little sleep, I was OK. Mentally and physically I had to take things slower, but emotionally I was 100% OK. I didn’t feel hopeless and scared for my health this time.
Adrenal fatigue also messes with your emotions by inducing exaggerated physical responses with adrenaline and other hormones. Whether it is a good or bad scenario, the body’s response can be exaggerated. As a funny example, a few weeks ago I watched The Wolverine. I really enjoyed it! and you know what, my body overreacted and my excitement and adrenaline was pumping for too long … which led to a wide eyed sleepless night contemplating what will happen in the upcoming Wolverine movie, Logan. This exaggerated adrenaline response is even more easily triggered when one is low on energy from a sleepless night. Point being that even after losing my precious sleep, today I was able to keep my easily exaggerated emotions at bay.
After my appointment I went to get some hot tea and relax before I went to my office to write my Ph.D. proposal that was due in three days. This turned in to a really, really, long tea time. But I needed it, I knew I couldn’t go to my office and socialize until I was more alert because doing so would trigger an exaggerated response. Not too long ago, losing a few hours of my day and getting behind on the days work would anger me, and send me into a state of mind where I would question my ability to accomplish my deadlines. But, even though I took a two hour tea break this morning (my most productive time of the day) instead of writing my Ph.D. proposal, I didn’t let “losing that time” frustrate me. After this break, I went to the office and focused on tasks that did not require a lot of concentration. But not before I got sidetracked by watching the Logan trailer… and then Facebook… and then Logan. When you don’t get sleep it is extremely hard to get focused. BUT after some time I finally got started on coding and busy work. I had a busy day ahead along with a dinner party at my advisor’s. I realized after an hour of working that if I were to go to this party I would not be able to sleep tonight because all the stimulation (noise, discussions) would be too taxing and leave me feeling “wired and tired.”
I canceled my plans, even though I was really looking forward to them. Instead of feeling bad about not going, or going and feeling physically weak, I went home and recuperated. I did a bit of cleaning, cooked a healthy meal, and even got a few hours of light work done in the evening. All of these things were actually relaxing because they were mindless tasks, I felt accomplished, and my creativity kicks in when I cook, so I also nourished my soul.
Adrenal fatigue is so subtle at first and can go on for years before you realize you have serious issues. I don’t know how long I have had it, but as I was working on my proposal this evening instead of attending the dinner party, I found myself very surprised by the work I had done a year ago. It was very good, but at the time of that work I was so fraught with the slow progress and I was also hard on myself for the physical ups and downs I was experiencing. I would always say in the back of my head, “well if you worked out more, or ate differently, or weren’t so boring…everything would be going well, you would be happier, and getting more work done.” Through this reflection I realized that I was definitely experiencing adrenal fatigue symptoms at that point in my work (without knowing it), and the frustration of those symptoms were detrimental on how I viewed my progress/self-worth.
So today, with all the setbacks to my plans and the weight of a significant deadline three days away, I was extremely productive. All of this is a huge success. When you have had adrenal fatigue for a long time, angst and anger at oneself becomes the norm as a result of repeated experiences where you don’t understand your struggles and inability to handle stressors.
Today is a success because I didn’t get stuck on a hangup even though I had many opportunities to. Today is a success because I nourished myself instead of stretching myself. Today is also a success because I was able to reflect on my past and realize that some of my roadblocks were completely habitual, or an adrenal fatigue symptom that only needed managing
On a lighter note, when I came home today, a little frazzled and slap happy, I passed by my distressed aloe vera plants and laughed because I realized they completely resembled my life. I bought three of the plants a week ago and accidentally gave them root-rot because I set them in my empty bathtub while away for the weekend, not realizing there was a bit of residual water in the tub. I had to cut the dead roots and spikes off, then just hope they would grow strong again after removing the dead parts and replanting. To add to that, last night when my hands were burning from cutting the peppers I frantically ran to the aloe vera plants and cut them up some more to get the soothing sap. Poor plants. Even though the little plants are beaten and bruised, they are still doing their job, and with some time and love they will be strong again.
Originally published at medium.com