Finding a way through fatigue

Suffocating trepidation. Five years ago, I was consumed with it.

My tears wept suffocating trepidation. My fears blanketed suffocating trepidation. I fought an enemy that WAS suffocating trepidation.

And then, I rode a trike.

I sat down on the Radio Flyer tricycle I rode as a child. I tucked up my adult legs, stuffed down my adult pride, and I rode…straight down our driveway on Adams Street.

In that moment, I wasn?t a mom fearing her daughter?s upcoming surgery. I wasn?t a mom struggling through a journey I did not want, and did not request. I wasn?t a mom scared to admit that I was fiercely terrified that my precious firstborn would die on the operating table in a few short weeks.

I was carefree.

Five years ago, it was a moment. But it was also monumental?it was the start of a shift in my perspective.

On my blog, an entry dated Sept. 7, 2010, and titled ?Riding a Trike,? I wrote this: ?And I decided that no matter how down my day is, I want to find something joyous to do. Something childish. Some?thing completely out of character. Some?thing to make me laugh. Some?thing to expend some energy.?

That day gave me a taste of what living with uninhibited abandon can feel like. It?s real. It?s possible. But it takes a life-shift.

These days, I?m working to make that shift. I?ve been able to pinpoint this time of suffocating trepidation as the start of adrenal fatigue… a disorder that mimics thyroid dysfunction and sends energy levels plummeting, as well as decreases the body?s ability to cope with stress.

The suffocating trepidation was met with exuberance with a successful surgery, but was closely followed with stress of selling a house, living in my in-laws? basement for several months, moving into a house in the country and finally, feeling the strain of 18 months of continual medical bills, capped with a surgery and extended stay in the pediatric ICU.

What a ride.

When I went to the doctor about my fatigue, it was blamed on my two girls. Then on having two girls and working through two lost pregnancies. Then on two girls with a baby on the way. Then on having three young children.

I knew it was more. But it?s hard to argue when labs come back clear. Eventually I was connected to a doctor who introduced me to adrenal fatigue.

Over the phone, my husband quickly pulled up information on the syndrome and found this description: ?You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or ?gray? feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.? (adrenalfatigue.org)

I laughed when he read those words?especially about the mid-day prop-up. And I was relieved. Finally, answers. But no easy solution. Recovery sounded lovely, but way too draining. So I half-heartedly followed recommendations, but mostly just wished it could happen with a finger snap–though some days, even that was too much to ask.

After I started therapy last summer, I noticed marked improvement emotionally, but I was still drained. Several months ago, I finally decided I had to make lifestyle changes, too. I realized that while the things I had involved myself in were ?good,? they did not cooperate with my desire for overall health and restoration.

I am no longer coaching volleyball. I am taking a break from my proofreading role at the Free Press. After the Arts & Crafts Fair Satur?day, I am stepping down as the board?s marketing director. I am taking a break from teaching Wednes?day night church at Eben?feld. And I am trying very hard to be intentional about what roles I accept and how I fill my weeks. I?m weighing my yes or no with the long-term effect my answer will have on my health. Because any choice I make will have an impact, positive or negative.

I don?t know how long this season will last. But this shift in perspective? I plan to make it permanent.

Malinda Just has been writing her column for the Free Press since 2008. she can be reached at malinda@justs.org.