Adrenal Fatigue, part 1 [Balding & My Sinful Heart]

I’ve shared the general health issues of my family, but I don’t really talk about my health. I don’t have any allergies. I don’t deal with a disease. I’m overall a seemingly healthy person, but I’ve been battling adrenal fatigue since April 2013.

Most testimonies I read of adrenal fatigue involve driven women that work so hard over a lengthy period of time that they eventually deplete their adrenal glands and crash and burn. I don’t have that testimony. I used to be the laziest human being on the planet. My life’s goal was to skate my way out of every responsibility on my plate. If there was an Olympic event for sitting on your butt, I would have won. I was nowhere near being a candidate for adrenal fatigue.

The launching point of my adrenal fatigue - our 6 weeks premature baby.

But on April 4th, 2013, Cooper was born 6 weeks premature and my entire world was flipped upside down. For the 5 solid weeks of our NICU life, much was required of me. I experienced a constant adrenal rush; It was like I drank 10 monsters a day. My blood was pumping, my heart was racing. I had more on my plate than I’d ever had before and my mama bear instincts were full force. I was overwhelmed, I was stressed. I felt like the only way Cooper would get to come home was if I worked hard enough to get him there. I drove myself into the ground. [you can read a little more of the story here.]

Cooper hooked up to his apnea monitor while I try to tackle gardening with Emery

When we came home from the hospital I couldn’t shut it off as I scrambled to find a new normal for our wounded family. We were all drained from the ordeal and had each coped in our own ways. I wanted, more than anything, for our lives to go on as if the NICU had never happened. I wanted healthy meals made, our home clutter free, house projects done, pinterest projects ready for my artistic little Emery, etc etc. I was frantically grasping at anything and everything that I thought would make home life feel normal and to finish the things I had envisioned already being done when Cooper came home after a normal birth. I literally had surges of adrenaline consistently throughout the day. They slowly became less frequent, but I was still in pretty bad shape. I would be emotionally fine for a few hours and then all the sudden my whole body would tense up. I would start spazzing at Andrew, snapping and critiquing him for dumb things, things typically related to doing something to get the house or our lives in order. It took me several weeks to realize it was happening with each surge of adrenaline. I had to start learning to control my emotions and my tongue each time I felt it happen.

I didn’t realize how bad it really was though until my post-pregnancy hair shedding wouldn’t stop. With Emery I had the normal hair loss – definitely lost a lot of hair, but nothing to be concerned about. With Cooper, I was literally balding.

I tried to pull up pics with similar hair styles. The photos on the left are before or immediately after Cooper was born. Photos on the right are within 3 months after his birth. You can see the thickness of the hair on my back [and my bald patch], how thin my braid became [at least 2/3 skinnier], and how I could no longer cover my forehead in a thick layer of side-swooping bangs.
 

I stopped brushing my hair because it would pull so much out. I tried to go as long as I could between washings to preserve as much as I could. I had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right but I was in denial. Surely I was going to wake up one morning and it would be done, right? I think my snapping point and final moment of realization that I had a problem was when Andrew walked past me one evening in July and ran his fingers though my hair as he went by – I completely lost it.

“STOP! You freaking CAN’T touch my hair! You don’t understand Andrew, you can’t even barely touch it because even one little touch makes SO MUCH fall out. DON’T EVER DO THAT AGAIN!”

+ tears.

I’m pretty sure that as soon as I calmed down, I went straight to the computer to find out what the heck was wrong with me. I posted on a holistic FB forum, just to see what input people would have for me before I started researching. I always conclude I’m about to die if I head straight for webMD ;-)

Once people realized I knew what normal post-pregnancy hair loss was, the resounding response was thyroid or adrenals. I get my thyroid tested every time I get blood work done because we have a history of issues in my family, so I knew that wasn’t the issue. Also, someone mentioned that if you’re also loosing the outer third of your eyebrows, that was an indication of a thyroid problem. My eyebrows were intact.

A few people specifically mentioned adrenal fatigue. What the heck is that?

I started looking into it and couldn’t believe what I was reading. The concept of adrenal fatigue is not a widely accepted condition but there was no doubt in my mind that it was my problem. Essentially adrenal fatigue is when a person has, for various reasons, pushed themselves so hard that they’ve depleted or at least partially depleted the hormones in their adrenal glands. For some people it’s a lifestyle problem, for others it’s the result of a life crisis like a death, house fire, job loss, etc, etc. It’s considered the 21st century syndrome. The more depleted you are, the more intense the recovery. Adrenal fatigue is healed through rest, diet, supplementation, and exercise.

I called Andrew into the room and had him read a few articles. We sat and talked for awhile about what this meant and how we needed to make healing a priority for our whole family’s sake.

But then he caught me off guard.

“You realize a lot of this is just a sin issue, right?”

Huh?

“I’m not saying your hormones aren’t out of whack, but there’s also sin involved.”

The last 3 months flew through my head and my eyes were instantly opened to the reality of my sin. I knew I had a hormone problem, but Andrew was right. I also had a heart problem. I realized that as soon as Cooper was born I had spent every moment grasping for control over the situation. I was never able to nest while pregnant because I was on bed rest, so the second I came home from the hospital I started doing stupid stuff like sewing pillow cases before he was a week old and rearranging bedrooms to prepare for his homecoming. I went psycho trying to get things done.

Cooper came home on an apnea monitor

 

I was also bluntly told by an RN, 4 weeks into our NICU stay, that bringing Cooper home on an apnea monitor didn’t mean he wouldn’t die of SIDS. Her words sent my hormones and desire for control into over drive. My trust in the sovereignty of God was almost zero. MY BABY CAN’T DIE. HOW DO I KEEP MY BABY FROM DYING? Insert hyperventilation, tears, and obsessive desire for control. I threw myself into researching causes for apneas, how to reduce the chances of SIDS, and lost much sleep in my panicked state.

A hand full of other things happened as well that all were rooted in my lack of contentment and satisfaction in Christ. I wasn’t resting in Him, I was convinced true rest would only come after I got the results I wanted from the hard work I was putting in.

Oh what a night. God used Andrew’s words to grab my heart right then and there and convict me of the control I was trying to have over my life. I spent a good deal of the evening in the word, praying, and repenting.

I hesitate to say this because I feel like I’ll be burned at the stake by a doctor or something but, I kid you not, I never lost another hair after that night. It was about a year and a half before I even had any come out when I brushed my hair or took a shower. It still hasn’t grown in fully, it’s still very thin by my temples, but it’s filling in slowly.

The photos below are a progression of growth. Praise the Lord my hair no longer sticks up like that!
The second set of pictures is a before and after - the left is during the worst of my adrenal fatigue, the photo on the left is after addressing my sin issues. You can tell my bald patches have filled in.

No other symptoms went away that night – I still dealt with adrenaline rushes and unbelievable brain fog. I was constantly overwhelmed, never refreshed after sleeping, had insomnia, surges of energy at night, major fatigue during the day, extremely low blood pressure, and poor immunity [maybe you’ve noticed that I mention I’m sick practically every other week on Instagram?]. However, a huge first step of healing for me was realizing that there was a reason I was depleted, and it wasn’t just life’s circumstances. I needed my sin pattern to be called out if I was ever going to find healing. If I had just tried to heal the body and not the heart, I’m sure I would have continued to fall back into the same patterns over and over.

I have made huge strides in my daily decisions. The healing process has been 2 steps forward, 1 step back. My adrenaline rushes are almost gone. My brain fog has significantly alleviated [I think the remaining fog is actually due to another problem, for another post]. I often wake up refreshed, if Cooper sleeps through the night. I’m forcing myself to go to bed earlier more often – I find that if I stay up past a certain point, I get a second wind that I typically don’t recover from for hours. I’m often up until at least 2 in the morning those nights. I also started taking supplements from my chiropractor that helped tremendously.

However, I’m still not healed.

Have you ever seen that scripture-based “put off, put on” list? You know, put off hate, put on love. Put off irritability, put on patience, and so on and so forth? Each pair comes with verses to back up why you should not be doing one thing and why you should replace it with the other. I was introduced to this chart several years ago and I think of the concept often.

Whenever I realize I’m battling a sin issue, I find that I often put the sin off, but don’t replace it with the godly opposite. I remove the offense but then just flounder in a lukewarm state, rather than pursue God whole heartedly in the particular area. So, in this instance, God removed the obsessive desire for control from my heart but now I’m completely lukewarm. I have a hard time knowing how to articulate this, but while I don’t have an obsessive desire for control anymore, I’m just not anything in this area. I don’t think about it. I don’t think about control, I don’t think about God’s sovereignty or praise Him for His control, I just am.

Almost 2 years after developing adrenal fatigue, God has finally opened my eyes to what I need to put on in this area, and it convicted me right to the core. Not only is doing the wrong thing a sin, but NOT doing the right thing is a sin as well. To find adrenal healing for me personally, God revealed that I need to replace my desire for control with more than just acknowledging and praising Him for His control.

Click here for: Adrenal Fatigue part 2 [Tribal Wives and the Problem with Modern Christians]

Have you dealt with or are you dealing with adrenal fatigue?

Have you recognized a sin pattern connected to it?

I’d love to hear your story!