Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Reduce Stress by Reducing Stress... um okay

So today I had my long-awaited follow-up appointment, and I am on a supplement to support my adrenals so that they actually might be inspired to work a little bit, and *very excitingly* a natural thyroid supplement (Armour).

I have to order the Armour, which is "dessicated porcine thyroid gland," from a small mom-n-pop pharmacy that is only open 8-5, and since my appointment wasn't until 4pm, that means I have to wait until tomorrow to get my precious medicine! And of course I forgot to ask if that pharmacy takes my insurance. So many details.

The thing is, though, in order for the T4/T3 supplementation to work in eliminating the buildup of Reverse T3 in my body, the adrenals have to be working too, and in some cases the thyroid hormone supplementation will not work at all if the adrenals don't work, and in fact can tax the adrenals further, causing worse symptoms. Of course, in this delicate feedback loop, two things are true: low adrenal function worsens thyroid function, and low thyroid function overtaxes adrenals (which makes them then burn out and underperform). So basically what I am doing now with the supplementation is sticking a wrench into this terrible machine in which the adrenal function gets worse and worse, and the thyroid produces more reverse T3, until I am eating 800 calories a day and gaining weight, and unable to stay awake during the day but unable to fall asleep at night. (It's not that bad yet, but that's where I would be headed.) There isn't really a graceful way to halt the process, you just have to pick something and improve it, which will make improving the other things easier as well.

So in an ideal world, I could flood my body with all the right supplements and wake up completely fine, but it has to be a slow and gradual process. The hardest part of this for me, I predict, will be rehabilitating the adrenals, and here's why -- when the adrenals begin to underperform, you find yourself subconsciously doing things to violently jump-start them again. For example, drinking tons of coffee. Now, I have cut coffee cold turkey for the past two weeks, and I have done well with it. I am drinking a lot of tea, though, and I will have to cut that as well. No caffeine at all. That will cause stress in itself, but it will be all right. Not looking forward to it, but I have to do it. So I think I will be tapering off of that gradually.

Overall now, in order to get any adrenal function at all, it takes a pretty big event. Thinking about this, suddenly the last puzzle piece clicks into place when I try to figure out why sometimes I literally *can't* work unless I am under a tight deadline. I hate having things to do at the last minute -- I really hate it -- but when I try to sit down and work ahead of time, I am horrifically underproductive -- it takes me an hour to grade one paper, my mind wanders, I get antsy -- whereas when I am under a tight deadline I can knock out 4 papers in an hour, for four hours in a row, with thorough feedback and consistent grading that I am proud of. But I literally can't function that way unless I am scared about missing my deadline. This is a way of artificially stimulating the adrenals! To put myself in a state of panic over a deadline, so that I finally have the energy to meet it!

It's like the heavens opened up, and a light shone, and I understood why I have such a hard time working ahead. I am addicted to adrenaline, but every time I get an adrenaline rush, I need more and more of it while at the same time my body produces less and less. I guess some people like roller coasters, and other people like leaving 20 papers to grade until 12 hours before the grades deadline. To each his own, ha ha ha.

Looking at this, it's easy to feel overwhelmed, because I know that as I wean myself off of my punishing habits, procrastination addiction, caffeine, and drill-sergeant self-talk, I am going to have a few days or a few weeks when the only way I will get anything done will be through sheer willpower. No dark coffee or exhilarating panic to spur me on -- nothing to give me that lovely hopped-up feeling that I crave, because it is the only time that I am productive at all. Instead, I have to give that up in order to regain the ability to be generally productive, at any time of the day, any day of the week. It's worth it, but I know I am staring down some pretty gnarly grading sessions for the next few weeks.

This also means that I have to drop some of my bad habits, like sleeping as long as humanly possible before stumbling out to "greet" the day -- instead, I have to be one of those people who wakes up at 5 or 6, meditates and exercises alone, and then starts the day. I have to give myself a good, even, non-panicked start. I also might have to get some child care. Ugh. I am such a stingy person, you guys. You have to pry the dollar bills out of my hand. Paying someone so that I can work just goes against everything the tightwad on my shoulder is screaming at me. I've won battles with her before, though, and I guess I can win again. Health is worth investing in! (I will repeat that to myself a hundred times over through the next few weeks...).

I will have to start doing gentle exercise every day -- a walk in the evening while Ben sits with the kids. I really like walking, and it helps me sort my brain out, if that makes sense.

When I was doing the infant thing with Chris and then with Norah, one of the most difficult parts of it was that I never had time to do that "unpacking" of the day's events that you do when you sit down with a glass of wine, or take an evening stroll, or drive alone somewhere. It was just this other person's needs literally 24 hours a day. I had no time to process any information -- my memories were like boxes of receipts with no lids in a room with the fan on -- stuff blowing everywhere, total chaos. Some of that chaos is still with me, I think.

So when I go get my little T4/T3 tablets in the morning, they won't be an instant fix. I actually have no idea what the effect will be, because every patient responds so differently to it. I am doing a cortisol test tomorrow as well to try to pin down the extent of my adrenal problems, so that the doctor will know if stronger medicine is needed for them (cortisone? I think?). After that 24-hour test, I will start the adrenal support supplement. There are going to be zillions of those tiny annoying "lifestyle changes" that are so hard to really do, but this time maybe I'll be successful because so much is on the line. What it really comes down to is taking the power of my will and instead of focusing it on Achieving More Always, focusing it on Letting Go and Chilling Out. Not in an incidental, daily, don't-cry-over-spilled-milk kind of way, but in a real, pivotal, Truth-seeking kind of way. I have to take the power of idealism and use it to take me somewhere I actually want to go.

Join me on the winding, whiny road to health! :)

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