The “Something isn’t Right” Syndrome

If I had a dollar for every time a woman has said to me “Something isn’t right…I shouldn’t have such a hard time living life” or some rendition of that refrain I would have some pretty serious spending money in my purse right now. Exhaustion and all the resulting myriad of side effects and physical complications brought on by fatigue seem to be the constant companions of many women. Most have forgotten what a life full of energy and “feel good” is like to experience. Having been one of these women most of my life, and having had the opportunity to talk to literally dozens of other struggling women I want to share some of the opinions and perspectives I’ve gained along the way.

The ironic thing I’ve noticed about women who are struggling on some level or another whether it be from sleep deprivation, underlying chronic health issues that may or may not be diagnosed yet is that some of the most productive, motivated and hard working women I know are the ones struggling to stay off the couch during the day. The more driven and motivated in life they are it seems the more prone they can be to experiencing this “Something isn’t right” syndrome. There is an actual explanation for why this might be…Very motivated, driven, type A individuals tend to be very hard on their adrenal system and the end result can be Adrenal Fatigue after years of abuse. Since the adrenal system and thyroid systems work so closely together and rely upon each others functionality in order to keep things working well a few years of flogging the adrenal system can result in a thyroid problem even if there wasn’t one to start out with.

Physical issues aside I believe just as big of a toll can be taken on the emotional health of a woman struggling with this syndrome. There are a slew of experts out there trying to answer the question of “Why are women so hard on themselves?” and probably a dozen books on Amazon touting the latest answers to that question. I don’t have the answer, or even part of the answer but I have accepted the truth that many women are incapable of complete personal satisfaction. We seem driven to find something, anything to torment ourselves with, usually based in some comparison to other women. A lot of it is self created but in many cases there is an innate knowledge within us that we could be, and should be accomplishing so much more in life than we are. When it’s a struggle just to get out of bed, get the kids fed and keep everybody alive and cared for without the house tumbling down around our ears it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize there is something wrong with that picture. The occasional “Super Woman” who manages to get 6 hours of sleep per night, have well maintained operating systems within her home, cooks from scratch and grows that gigantic organic garden, births 8 children, homeschool them all and do it all with a joy and life satisfaction and never seems to suffer once from brain fog or depression much less need naps…well, it’s just further evidence for what we are already telling ourselves. We are failures and therefore we must push harder, and try harder even though we feel worse and the mental toll increases.

Depression very often goes hand in hand with this “Something isn’t Right” syndrome. Feeling like a perpetual failure, often struggling to get adequate sleep even when there is opportunity to in addition to whatever underlying physical things might be going on…little wonder depression begins to set in. Unfortunately in our society it is a whole lot easier to get treatment from the average Dr. for Depression than it is for a vague “Dr. Something isn’t right…” While I firmly believe there is a time and a place for prescription medications for depression I also recognize the fact that Depression is a symptom of a bigger problem 9 times out of 10 and not the problem itself. Putting the mute button on Depression as a symptom (and perhaps a few more symptoms as well) via anti-depression medications often times does nothing but allow the underlying problems to go even longer without detection. antidepressants should only be used as a band-aid, a temporary way to get reprieve from symptoms (and even then I would go so far as to say should only be used when the mental imbalance is severe enough to cause harm to oneself or impedes the ability to safely care for ones children), not the cure or solution for depression or sleep problems. Many of them are highly addictive and come with their own host of potential side effects and potential long term negative health impact.

Find a Dr. who is willing to at least check for Adrenal and Thyroid problems via blood-work and a saliva test. Don’t be bullied into believing that what you know in your heart of hearts to be a physical struggle as being “just in your head”  The second phrase that I hear a whole lot (and said myself for several years) is “I don’t have a Thyroid problem. My Dr. did the test and there is nothing wrong with my thyroid” This may be true, your thyroid may be fine or it may be that your Dr. did not know enough to interpret the test results, or might not have even ordered the right tests to show your particular thyroid problem in the first place. It is important to keep in mind as well that the adrenal system may be completely taxed and messed up for some time before it is bad enough that it begins to affect the thyroid. It is important to have BOTH systems thoroughly tested before scratching them off of the list of potential issues. The reason I am so passionate about this is because I had my thyroid tested by a Dr. 3 times. The tests came back normal each time so although every few months I seemed to acquire more thyroid based symptoms I kept insisting it couldn’t be part of what was wrong with me. Turns out my Dr. was not ordering the right tests for my particular problem to even show up.

If you happen to be one of these women struggling with the “Something isn’t Right” syndrome please do not give up. It may take years to figure out what is going on, and you may get answers one piece at a time but please do not give up seeking answers and solutions. Don’t write off what you are feeling and experiencing as “mental” either. And please, for goodness sakes, don’t use the fact that you are actively struggling as an additional tool to beat yourself up with. Life is hard enough without the extra mental self-flagellation we are prone to giving ourselves at every turn.  A womans body is an incredibly complex creation with dozens of operating systems and functions that rely upon each other to stay in balance and operate at full capacity. There are so many things in our society that can cause these fine tuned systems to be thrown out of whack it is the unusual woman who is completely and truly unaffected by external health and functionality disruptors. It is not a spiritual problem, not an attitude problem and definitely not a mental problem to be struggling physically although all of those elements may come into play the longer a struggle goes on.

Although I only touched on two commonly “hidden” things that can severely compromise the health of a woman there are many others out there. The second most common is undiagnosed gut problems and food sensitivities. Out of time and space in this post to address those but they are actually the easier problems to fix with diet modifications, food enzymes and gut healing protocols.

If you happen to be a “Something isn’t Right” woman out there right now I wish I could give you a huge hug.

Sometimes a hug makes everything feel better

Sometimes a hug makes everything feel better

Regardless of what factors you have going on, or what level your life struggle is at, or even if it is caused by a physical problem or maybe even a life circumstance or stress you have no control over I know just enough to know that it is emotionally exhausting to keep on keeping on through it all.

The light at the end of my personal tunnel of physical struggle is brighter than it’s ever been. My first pregnancy that followed right on the heels of multiple miscarriages was fraught with physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. The first year of our precious girls life was spent with me even more exhausted and sunk deeper in mental and emotional depression.  Another miscarriage and then a hospitalization preceded some drastic dietary changes that began to improve my physical and mental state and finally a diagnosis and answer to help explain what was going on with my body. Although I am now in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, traditionally the most miserable stage of pregnancy my mental, emotional and physical well-being are better than they have been in years. Although by no means completely healed, or even operating at what I would consider to be “optimal” it is still so much improved I thank God on a daily basis for how wonderful it is to experience so many positive things this pregnancy.

Here’s to every woman’s “Something isn’t Right” struggle ending in hope, triumph and complete healing. In the meantime it is my hope and prayer that the “Something isn’t Right” struggle so many are facing can help to bring us to a place of more grace, compassion and willingness to help each other as we struggle and muddle through life together.

Mom praying for daughter

Mom praying for daughter

 

Tired, Weary and Bleary: An Experience in Vulnerability

I have an autoimmune disease. My adrenals are shot. My Vit. D levels are in the basement and way below the bare minimum required to support good health. There are about a lot more tests I need to have done to get a bigger and more accurate picture of what is going on with my messed up, screwed up, crazy body.  It’s going to cost a lot of money but it has to be done at this point.  Over the years I’ve spent a lot of money on this ol’ fleshly house without many solutions or answers to show for the sundry problems my body has presented me with. Do I sound frustrated? That is probably because I am sometimes. Tonight happens to be one of those times and you my unsuspecting blog reader shall subsequently have to endure some verbal spewing on the subject.

Most women struggle with body image. Body self esteem. Accepting the understanding that they are inherently valuable and beautiful just because they are women and as such something special and to be treasured. We all have our memories and those pivotal moments in our childhood or youth when we first became self conscious. First felt inferior. First became aware of the sinister reality that the world was geared to respond well to beauty and and not so much to plainness or even flat out homeliness. Then there is the other side of the coin. The side where there is a realization of a certain amount of beauty, a certain awareness that one or two or five aspects of your looks are pretty exceptional attributes. Especially for those raised with the concepts of modesty, decency and a fear factor when it came to creating problems or temptations with men there can be a whole host of insecurities and fears tied up in those ideals. For these women instead of asking “Do I look good in this?” or “Does this make my already pronounced rear look even bigger??” their self doubt questions are more along the lines of “Does this draw too much attention to my already attention getting bust?” “Does this reach long enough? Are people going to think I’m being indecent because of this?” It is as though womankind, regardless of which end of the spectrum they are coming from or even if they are some jumbled up mess of both ends  is destined to be over aware and struggle to have an emotionally healthy and positive view of themselves.

Image aside there are certain undefined, unspoken expectations most women have of their bodies. Some are rather futile feeling hopes (accompanied with the knowledge that there are those women in the world that are blessed with this as a reality) that a monthly visitor won’t include any pain, discomfort or bloating. We expect our bodies to have the capacity to support reproduction. We expect our bodies, when treated with respect and care to function in daily life without excess pain or discomfort. We expect to be able to set reasonable weight and fitness goals, work hard and attain them.

Or maybe that was just me that had those expectations.

In hindsight my poor ol’ bod wasn’t treated very well. My life has had a lot of stress. I internalize most negative emotions and tend to have delayed emotional processing of bad or stressful situations. Until the past couple of years my diet has been pretty horrible. Although a life long fan of sleep in my late teens and early twenties I often went a couple of days at a time with no sleep at all until crashing to sleep sometimes 24 hours straight in a sleep-catch-up marathon. There were months long periods where I averaged about 3 hours of sleep per night. I discovered caffeine and coffee became my weapon of choice. Back then I didn’t know a good brew of smooth coffee even existed and drank some of the most bitter, burnt and acidic gallons of coffee you can imagine as a means to the end of requiring less sleep. (The above routine is, for those of you who don’t know it, the prescribed method for rapidly burning out even a healthy adrenal system. Not good. Pass the word along. )

Despite the physical appearance of being a very healthy child I had some semi chronic health issues that required the use of pharmaceuticals all through my life. First two years of life were punctuated by antibiotics and surgeries for tubes due to chronic ear infections. Later came the asthma and lung complications that at least once or twice a winter resulted in me being on steroids or antibiotics or both a couple of times per winter. The inhalers and allergy medications were also par for the course. In my early teens after months of the rather dangerous problem of randomly losing consciousness at various times I was finally given the hard earned (after dozens of tests by various medical experts) title of having Neurally Mediated Syncopy. Which was simply a fancy way of saying my brain randomly decided to tell my heart to stop supplying blood to the brain. Rather suicidal of my brain but it wouldn’t listen to reason. =P This resulted in being put on yet another slew of pharmaceuticals designed to help me manage the array of symptoms that went with this syndrome. Fast forward a few years after that and add a year of chemical birth control in early marriage to the mix. Just reading through the list of documented/potential side effects of all the medications I’ve been on in my life is enough to make my eyes cross and vow to never swallow another pill ever again.

All that to say. My body has not had good nutritional support and it’s actually had a lot of help in the opposite direction, actual support in developing some of it’s chronic issues. As a result my body has not cooperated with those undefined reproductive expectations. I have had numerous miscarriages. That we have a daughter with us here on earth is nothing short of a miracle and was called such by my Dr. at the time.  My body does not perform well on a daily basis. There is fatigue, at times debilitating, extreme, mind numbing fatigue. Muscle and joint aches. Lethargy so thick you can cut it with a knife. Muscle weakness. I remember being so surprised to learn that running, as in, just running across the yard to pick up a ball was not uncomfortable or painful for most people. Running at all for me has = pain and discomfort even in my childhood. I just thought everybody had that and that most were better at pushing through discomfort than I was. In my adulthood I read about physically active people having to develop mental discipline and push through the pain and discomfort. Of throwing up after a good workout. At various points in time I decided to suck it up, and do what I needed to do to attain physical fitness. I pushed myself hard and was usually rewarded by heat exhaustion, asthma attack/coughing fit or losing consciousness. Needless to say I did not try this all too often and have led, by and large a sedentary life.

To sum up this long, sad tale of depressing self pity…I haven’t just had insecurities about my looks. About my chubbiness, or weight that was always higher than that of my peers. About my nose that was too big and my bushy eye brows that looked like they were constantly brooding and trying to hatch a plot to take over the rest of my face. About my clumsiness and lack of coordination.  About my super squinty eyes that are puffy 99% of the time. I have been disappointed in every other functionality of my body as well. Those hips that I always comforted myself as being good for child-bearing turned out to be a big chubby dud. That regular as clock-work indicators of my genetically pre-disposed rabbit like fertility was nothing but a false assurance. In almost every way imaginable I have felt like a failure as a woman. I have experienced deep seated self frustration and self hate. Asked all the deeply emotional and illogical questions of God. Looked at the image in the mirror with loathing. I have wondered and questioned if only I had done or had not done xyz would some of our children be alive.

And I have been frustrated. Managing and owning a health supplement company and the roller coaster educational ride that has completely redefined my world. My body is now getting the nutritional support it needed for so long. Many of the underlying issues that are causing my body the plethora of miserable symptoms are being addressed via supplements and alternative resources. But, although there is always hope, in some ways it feels like very little that might possibly be too late. Autoimmune diseases cannot be cured. One cannot deactivate a gene that has been activated. However, it can be neutralized and I know of quite a few people with various autoimmune diseases who have lived symptom free for years. The body is constantly seeking to normalize and optimize it’s performance so the key to that thing we call a magic cure is to find what tools the body needs to obtain optimal functionality with your particular body and make sure that there are lot’s and lot’s of those raw materials around for the body to use. First to heal, repair, do damage control, build up some reserves and then get to work actually making you FEEL better. All of this is very good news on the physical side of things. I do have hope that one day my body won’t feel the need to stockpile weight like it’s going out of style and that I will actually regain a waistline again.

And yet, I still feel frustrated. Still sometimes feel betrayed. But you know what? Those are just feelings. And feelings I CAN deal with. Right here and right now. I don’t have to wait for my body to normalize to healthy and fully functional first. I don’t have to wait for those workouts to start paying off. This can be combated with truth in the here and now.

The truth is I am blessed.

I have two feet that carry me where I need to go.

I have the ability to play with my precious little girl and take her for walks.

I am able to jump up and down, to bumble through dance steps with my man and to sing at the top of my lungs.

I am able to cook, draw, play the piano, write and anything else I want to do in the creative realm.

I am able to eat healthy and delicious foods.

I can smile with the confidence and radiance that only a woman who knows she is loved unconditionally by her man can have.

I can hold, cuddle, kiss and care for the Doodlebug.

I can have joy. I can have peace. I can be content. I can trust. I can believe.

That I am beautiful. From the inside out. I am who I am supposed to be. The past is the past and I cannot undo what is done. Our babies cannot be brought back. I believe somehow, somewhere it is all for our good and theirs although I cannot understand the why or how behind that concept.

Contentment is something I used to think was a gift. That some people were born having and others were not. I believe now it’s a skill. As much of a mental and emotional discipline as it is anything else. This is a skill I am committing to actively learning and practicing. Contentment. It is an amazing thing to obtain. I theorize that the feeling a person get’s at the end of a marathon…After all the hours of training, blood, sweat and tears. The mental discipline and the day in and day out follow through required to condition their bodies…That feeling at the end though has got to be similar to a person who has conquered the emotional marathon that is contentment.

I challenge every woman who has made it this far into reading this (and by the way you totally deserve an endurance metal just for that!) to seek truth. Specific, exact, freedom based truth for every fear, insecurity, self doubt and disappointment that you have about yourself. Whether it be personality, body, looks or whatever. Specific truth for specific emotional bonds that we find ourselves in can be earth shatteringly freeing. Once a truth is found that combats a particular problem or self-struggle please take the time to write it down.

Make a list. Memorize the list. Speak truth to yourselve when you are going through one of those life workouts that tend to obliterate any vestige of emotional contentment that you have been able to summon. Practice the mental skill of speaking truth to yourself and then believing it and then acting upon it emotionally. Find an accountability partner, someone who will speak truth to you when you are too tired, weary or bleary to see anything but mountains of negativity. Learn to love the person God has created you to be. Skinny or chubby, long or short, average or exceptional…Learn the “good” side to whatever coin you have been given and find contentment there. Contentment does not come from obtaining some particle of perfection, contentment comes when we accept and find joy and happiness in the imperfections. When we can recognize the good and the beauty that is more clearly shown and reflected back in our woefully imperfect selves and lives.

I wish you grace, peace and freedom! =) And a Good-Night, Good-Afternoon or Good-Morning!