I have struggled with MS for years now and some of my recent downfall was probably that I was having a flair up. What caused the flair up? I think it was doing too much and gave myself Adrenal fatigue which taxed my body overall and the massive stresses triggered the MS. I am not convinced however that this last year has been all due to MS. If I was to put a percentage on it, it would be 75% adrenal fatigue and 25% MS. I treat them both the same as far as supplements, foods, etc.
Running and working out are great and mandatory for a person to be healthy but too much and it takes more than you get from it. More does not always mean better. In a lot of cases of athletes it is damaging even though they look fabulous on the outside.
For me It all started in July of 2010 when I first had anemia during marathon training. Marathon training is no joke and especially for women as they are more prone to anemia. I was working and mothering and working out and not managing my stress well. Stress can make you sick. Mental, emotional and physical stresses are all stress. That is the baseline lesson in all this.
Fast-forward to May of 2011 when I was in NYC for the Vivobarefoot coaching course I felt horrid but I kept quiet about it. I had numerous bouts of dizzyness and terrifying anxiety every day. I was taking anxiety meds just to get through the day. I can't believe I managed not to just bail on the whole trip. I would be in class and get dizzy and worry that I would pass out. But I kept telling myself that in NYC I would just be another tree in the forrest and be ok..... Then right after the week long class I took a train to Rochester and ran a 12 hour timed ultra and pulled off 38 miles. It was fun and the recovery wasn't too bad but what everyone doesn't know is that I was having horrible bathroom accidents while running and was really scared of the dizzyness and anxiety that I just ignored and ignored and ignored even when that little voice inside was telling me to wake the fuck up. I have a tough mind and when I want to do something I can push through on will power. I am tenacious but to a fault at times. I was hurting myself.
During that spring, my sex drive was non existent which put a rift between the super hero and I. I was lethargic and depressed and not a melancholy blue depression but a "leave me alone, lay down and stare at the wall" depression and yet I kept trying to run the bad feelings away.
In hindsight I see the hormonal issues and metabolic damage being done here but at the time I didn't know what the hell was happening to me. My periods were coming closer and closer together and heavier which was causing even more anemia. The iron supplements tear up my stomach so I was just in a nasty vicious cycle. I kept it all to myself and didn't share online.
After that NYC trip, I didn't run as much and eventually quit all together for a while. Today, I'm ok with that but at the time it hurt my heart and ego something fierce. I really had to re-examine what it is that defines me. I saw my friends running and meeting goals and doing bigger and better things. I felt like I was slipping away and I wasn't relevant anymore. Slowly, I was loosing my health and loosing sight of the fact that my health is not my own. It is my families because they need me. NEED ME to be healthy and there for them.
I thought I was having heart issues because my anxiety was causing so many chest sensations and yet all tests came back normal. I was told my heart looked "beautiful" by numerous doctors. I had ongoing bouts of pleurisy which causes inflamation of the lining between the lungs and the rib cages and hurt like hell and then of course make anxiety worse because we are supposed to take chest pain seriously. I had lingering infection and on top of that chronic stomach pain. all. the. time. Which of course, you guessed it, created more stress. ugh.
I would crash every day(crashing to me means an urgency to lay down or a drastic immediate loss of energy) , like clockwork, at 10:00 am and 6:00 pm and then wake in the middle of the night from a whacked out cortisol imbalances. Broken sleep and tired during the day and I was living on coffee, sugar, bread and anything easily digested and fast just to stay afloat.
I was not tested by a doctor (naturopaths are not covered by my insurance) but I am a smart girl and can read and research (Drlam.com )and what I found were clear signs pointing to adrenal fatigue and metabolic damage. The hard part was implementing the change and stopping the coffee, sugar, stress, and exercise as Dr Lam suggests.
I was also having thyroid and girl hormone imbalances as well. The adrenals, thyroid, and ovaries are all connected and mine were whacked out. From running. I did this to myself because I would not listen to my body, exactly what I spout off as a barefoot runner, I completely ignored. I was just doing too much. Pushing too hard and stressing way way way too much. And for what?
So, what did I do? After I was diagnosed with MS officially, with MRI scans and my prior history, I had my vitamin and mineral levels tested. I decided that getting those numbers up was a solid place to start being proactive. MS is just a label. They really don't know what causes it. They know what it is but not how to stop it or what causes it. The medical treatments my neurologist wants me on, in my case, are more debilitating than the disease. I wasn't as sure of the adrenal fatigue as I was of the MS diagnosis so I went with that and moved forward looking to improve my health overall. Easier said than done while depressed but I watched Dr Wahl's TED talk video and implemented her advice.
For a while there I isolated myself. I stopped coaching runners. I stopped running. I just felt like a big pile of poo with no will to do anything. The upside to that is that I was forced to slow down. I didn't have a choice. I had zero energy to do anything but slow down. When I would go to the store and was terrified when a bout of fatigue takes hold and I am scared that my husband might have to carry me out or the embarrassment of having to ride the electric cart at the store. I did however choose to embrace it and I decided that I want to be out in the world with my family even if I have to ride the cart. I even told myself that if I felt especially low I would just wear my streampunk goggles and combat boots while riding the cart. If you want to stare at the young fit looking girl riding the cart then I will give you something to stare at.
The vitamin and mineral imbalances and my depression from my situation were feeding off of each other and of course the heart palpitations from stress did not make things easier. I kept researching. I decided to stop isolating myself. Although the coming out of isolation was after I changed my prioritized and reestablished a deep connection with my family. The upside of depression was the stark reality of how very precious and dear my children and husband are to me.
I am working on a post about what I have done to treat adrenal fatigue as well as MS. Really its not different in how I have chosen to treat both issues. Basically it is rest and sleep as much as you can. Balance out vitamin and mineral levels. Eat whole healthy foods but in balanced levels. When I was really bad off I had to eat bread or simple carbs to keep me from "crashing". Hypoglycemia would set me back for days. Once I got stronger and stopped crashing so much I then, and only then, could go for more sweet potatoes and quinoa instead of the bread. Some exercise is ok but only after a long long rest. I didn't do anything for months. I wanted to get a bit more information and data gathering as to what has happened over the last couple of years before I even considered regular exercise.
So, being depressed forced me to realign my priorities and put my family first. I also slept more which is exactly what I needed. Because I felt like crap, I rested all the time, which is exactly what I needed. I discovered a passion and love of yoga which is just an extension for me of barefoot running. I have learned self control and how to perfect skills and work at being healthy instead of push push push and power through, now I have finesse and a greater appreciation of detail and long term work.
I had to stop. STOP. stop trying to exercise my way out of it. Running more was not helping. It was hard to admit. Cutting calories and trying to be lean was making it even worse. I had to let go of what I thought I knew and try something different. I had to sleep, eat, and slow down.
Look for my upcoming post on what exactly I am doing to treat both adrenal fatigue and my MS. This is a learning experience and an ongoing process of attaining better health so its not an end all list. Please let me know if you have experienced issues with adrenal fatigue or weight gain, crashing hard after working out, loss of sex drive, whacked out menstrual cycles, depression etc. I would love to hear your story. Ask any questions of my that you want!!!
As I sit here and type this I am feeling pretty good. I have some weird pain in my back but I feel pretty good otherwise. Its always something right :) These days I can do some yoga and ride my fitdesk and go for walks but I am very aware that I am not too far from being out of the woods and need to continue to go slow and steady. I can put myself in a creative state and I want to talk and interact with people. I have much more of a reserve to deal with my 4 crazy spawn and my sex drive is slowly coming back which my super hero is pleased about!
It gets better and I believe we have the ability and resources to heal ourselves if we will just choose to do it!
Two quick links to great resources that I love.
Doctor Lam.com was one of the first and has continued to be the best online resource I have found for helping me treat and learn about adrenal fatigue.
Danny J from Sweaty Betties has had similar issues and there are so many other women out there working themselves into a very unhealthy and dangerous place.