I’ve had quite a few tests of patience in my 27 years, and I’m finally trying to take charge of my health.
I work(ed) in television production, not really the best industry when it comes to employee health – my days consisted of long commutes (not abnormal for LA), long hours (12 hour days/60-hour weeks are the normal) and endless mounds of stress.
Having worked my fair share of shows and films since 2007, work has affected my health in many ways. Including a rare autoimmune syndrome – Parsonage-Turner, a localized version of Guillain-Barré – most likely also caused by my eating disorder + stress level at the time. I’ve struggled with eating disorders since my teenage years – bulimia, anorexia, “eating disorder otherwise not specified” (that was the clinical name of it), I’ve battled ’em all. Swinging from overweight to malnourished & emaciated (110 lbs on my 5’7 frame), to exercising 3-4 hours a day without ever taking a day off. I’ll go into my ED history in another post.
No doubt my stress level plus ED past has had an effect on my health, and lead me to where I am today: tired.
I’ve never been so tired, lacking in energy than I have been the past 2 years. I’d seen doctors in Los Angeles, gotten blood work done, everything pointed to me being a healthy human.
Basically, when I got my eating back on track, I hadn’t gotten my exercise routine to a normal level. I was working 60+ hours on a talk show and trying to keep up my college-days athletic mindset. Between 2009-2011, my days looked like this:
- 5am – wake
- 6am-7am Swim Practice
- 7:45-8:30am lift weights (sometimes extra elliptical trainer)
- 9am-9pm WORK (usually 12 hour days, sometimes less, sometimes more)
- after 9pm? Sometimes a late yoga or barre class. Not kidding.
- ~11pm Bedtime.
And repeat…5x week. Plus weekend workouts. Day off? HELL NO.
Was I in great physical shape? Yes. Was I healthy? No.
It was when I left said talk show for a new project, and my schedule was broken that I started to feel insanely tired. Sean insisted I see my doctor – something wasn’t right and he was sure adrenal fatigue was the culprit. I was working on another TV show, working crazy hours and feeling like I was going to pass out at any given moment.
I went to the doctor, only red flag was my blood pressure – it was 80/54 – that’s dangerously low. Why was it so low? The GP didn’t offer much insight other than a possible link between one of my Rx lowering my blood pressure. Anyway, I was so tired, feeling so weak that I was forced to work from home on the show. Luckily the work I was doing could be done remotely.
So we first suspected adrenal fatigue in 2011. Fast forward to 2013…over the past 2 years I’ve been unable to keep up my exercise regime due to my general fatigue. My latest “doctor” said it was all in my head – saying I can work past this “fatigue” likely from depression. I know depression. I know what that feels like – this fatigue is different. I’m not curled up in the fetal position crying “WHY!?” (not that I’ve been far off at times), I’m literally feeling exhausted. I go to sleep and wake up feeling the same – like I got no sleep whatsoever. Talk about frustrating.
And exercise? Yeah. Can’t do a lot at all. I’m simply too tired to keep up any intense exercise – my go-to is walking. This is hard for me as I was/am an athlete and have gained weight due to all of these issues. Again, more on that in another post!
It was at Paleo f(x) in Austin, TX this past March, when I heard a refreshing take on treating health with food as medicine. It was Dr. Lauren Noel, a Southern California-based naturopathic doctor. Her talk inspired me to introduce myself and mention my issues briefly – there I vowed to see her officially to tackle my health.
The thing with alternative medicine is that it’s not covered my insurance – it’s not “real” or something…that’s a load of BS! So I saved my funds, and since I couldn’t take off work to drive down to Encinitas to see her, I finally made a Skype appointment with Dr. Lo back in April. After the first appointment I felt excited, hopeful and a little scared.
She started me on a few supplements and a morning protein shake to kickstart my journey. The big part of the puzzle would come from the ordered tests – thorough intensive blood work, a lovely stool test and neuroendocrine saliva test. The blood work showed deficiencies in antioxidants, among other things. Nothing was a red flag, but a few things were out of balance. Still nothing to explain my fatigue.
Just about a week and a half ago did I learn the results of the latter two. Before my appointment, which was in-person at her office, I was so nervous. The worst thoughts filled my mind – “what if it IS all in my head?!”, “what if there’s nothing wrong with me after all, then what?!”.
Well, answers I got.
The saliva test tests hormone levels throughout the day, at 4 different times. Turns out my cortisol levels are all out of whack! Cortisol is a stress hormone – your “fight or flight” response. It’s supposed to start out higher in the morning, giving you energy to tackle the day, and decrease at a nice rate until the lowest point at bedtime.
Here’s a chart of my results:
See how my levels – the red line – is basically flat-lined through the day? Yeah. No wonder I’m so freaking tired! The gray area/shaded purple is where is should be. Sure, my mid-day and evening levels are “normal” but the fact that my morning starts off so low is why I’m waking unrefreshed & exhausted.
And that little raise at the end of the day? That’s likely due to something we found in the aforementioned stool test (hey, 85% of your immune system is in your gut!) – one of the samples showed a parasite. Yes, a parasite. This was likely contracted from contaminated food at some point – could’ve been last month or years ago. So, the raise in my cortisol could be related to the parasite and my body fighting it.
The other hormones tested showed my serotonin is low (happy hormone!) and many others are out of the norm. So, how am I going to treat all this? Dr. Lo has me on a lot of different natural supplements to attack the adrenals, hormones, and even that little parasite (which has since been named Melvin).
I’ve just started my journey, but I’m thrilled to have some answers as to why. When I get frustrated with lack of progress, I have to remember that all of this didn’t happen overnight, so it won’t be fixed overnight.
Stay tuned for updates!