I am not trying nor could not do justice to all these topics, or you in the one article.
I will link to as many specialists, articles and courses as I know of at the end for you to continue your own personal research.
My intention here is to share my story with you, as it has mirrored so many clients stories over the last few years and it breaks my heart to hear of even one other woman who has had to spend as much time and money as I did feeling crazy and wondering if they were ever going to get answers.
I want to you feel seen, heard, validated. Your experiences are real. You are not alone.
If you are seeking answers and support I can help we may have to really search for them, but hopefully with the use of my own experience we can create some short cuts.
So, let me take you back to 2010 and the perfect storm many have experienced of a divorce and a death, coupled with the text book post divorce grieving bonanza of really bad choices, overwork and stress.
I lost at least 10 kgs and everyone unfortunately was telling me how wonderful I looked and I wanted as fast as possible to feel like I had my shit together and was doing fine.
And you probably aren’t either if you’re reading this.
And that’s ok.
There were new wonderful opportunities that I said yes to and there were many choices that I wish to dear heaven that someone had been able to convince me to walk away from.
I worked A LOT and I never sat still, EVER, for a really long time.
The thing I want you to take time to hear, is it took YEARS at this pace for the wheels to really fall off, and this is such a key thing for women to understand.
Most of us are pretty resilient, and we are privileged to be able to have a long weekend here, and get a massage there. We think relative to what we have been through that we feel ok, this is not accurate. We have long ago lost our benchmark of what normal or ok, or basic healthy homeostasis even looks like.
Our endocrine systems are a nuanced and complex ecosystem, it’s ridiculous to think that we can have such a sustained spike in our stress chemistry and pressure on our adrenal glands and it not have repercussions for the rest of the system (most importantly our ovaries and thyroid)
And so in ever increasing increments our baseline becomes eroded until one final cliched card brings the whole house down, and we can feel genuinely baffled at this point because the divorce or frighting experience or the job loss was “years ago and I’m ok now”
Let me repeat myself here.
You’re not, and that’s ok.
This occurs for a variety of reasons, firstly when we have experienced a significant stress and we are not given time to really rest and heal physically and emotionally, cortisol and adrenaline become our day to day companions.
This sets up a raft of biochemical patterns the most well known of which is that our pre-frontal cortex, the bit of our brain in the front of our heads that is really clever and rational and can make sensible decisions is taken off line (mostly) so we can in theory flee the big scary bear that our bodies believe must be coming for us.
But that bear isn’t coming, what is however when we don’t have a calm rational thought in our brains is often a barrage of really hectic unfortunate choices with consequences.
Well that was the case for me anyway;
The abusive relationship, throwing money at problems that shouldn’t have been let in the door in the first place.
It is immensely embarrassing but I’m sharing this because in my experience and those of my clients, shame has a role to play in keeping us from seeking help and finding solutions.
Life is happening so very fast and we often feel so out of control that slowing down doesn’t feel like a safe option, so the situations begins to snowball and perpetuate itself.
The manifestation of this for me a few years on, was that I was felt so very anxious, and exhausted and emotional, all the time.
My cycle had taken on the characteristics of a Tarantino movie complete with psychedelic plot twists, waterfalls of blood loss and unexplained emotional outbursts complete with existential crises.
Four years passed and by 2014 things got so bad I finally started to seek help both from a psychologist and an integrative doctor.
I went from my divorce diet super slender self to putting all 10 kilos plus back on in the space of less than a year. And I am going be really honest here, I’ve never lost that weight. I have much to say on this topic of scales and weight but let’s finish this story first.
I had been taking on and off for years things like Neurocalm, Adrenotone, buckets of zinc, a thing called Estrosense that helped my Liver clear out unneeded estogen and all manner of liver support herbs
Now as I write this, I am really baffled at how there wasn’t some alarm bells going off in someones head somewhere. I will decline in putting the next paragraph all in caps lock because I know it’s not helpful but please imagine if you can that I am pretty much shouting this because this is how I feel about it!
Let’s think about it, as I’m sure you will relate; I was a young woman in my early 30’s, I didn’t have any history of serious illness I had the lifestyle of a saint (albeit a busy saint with a propensity for putting myself in relationships I shouldn’t) I rarely drank, I ate all my greens, I walked the beach every day and did yoga. Why the bloody hell should my liver not be working properly?
And why on the Goddesses green Earth would I be ok with just accepting that this was how I was now; tired all the time, emotional and with a uterus that had a 5 film deal with Tarantino?
THIS IS NOT OK (ok I couldn’t help the caps lock there)
And not only was it not ok for me but it’s not ok when women I treat come in and can barely speak up to tell me what is going on.
They are so tired, and so exhausted from the managing and the explaining of their symptoms and have spent so much time masking their anxiety that to whisper its existence out loud is almost more than they can bare.
And so, I did all the fun tests, the saliva ones where you spit in jars and blood tests to check zinc and liver function and every other damn thing, and lo and behold by this point I had no cortisol left ( Cortisol levels increase in times of stress then as the years goes on you run out… I will point you in the direction of science to explain this later)
I officially had Adrenal Fatigue. Hooray!
Now this wasn’t a surprise but validation is very bloody helpful and a course of treatment ensued.
I now also had a reason to rest. Truly friends I believe I am so very good at seeing and treating women with these kind of endocrine issues as I was one of the dumbest people I ever had to deal with. Honestly it’s been such a lesson in humility.
The only thing that could have helped me recover faster is taking more time at the time.
Repeat that back to yourself as many times as you need because it will sound like an oxymoron. When you’re in this kind of state you will argue with the reality of this as impossible, or at least I did. I would recommend just accepting it as a truth till further notice.
With that in mind I figured that after 6 months I would be all fixed (lets recap here that it has clearly taken at least 4 years to get to this state of health, feel free to face palm as you read along)
So I went back after 6 months and redid the tests. I was feeling genuinely so much better within myself. My sleep was better my mood was more even, I was able to make decisions in my life without feeling like I wanted to crawl into a cupboard. So I was super excited to get the test back and have it proven that I was ready to take on the world.
Oh boy. You can feel the disaster incoming already can’t you?
The tests came back and things (according to the tests) were worse.
I’m including this here for two reasons, firstly the fact that things weren’t better in hind site was a hint that there were a few other key things that needed investigating and secondly because it was a really pivotal point in my relationship to my ownership of my experience.
The doctor in question is someone I still see, and still refer to, she’s amazing. I have no issue with her, but I did learn a lot about how to deal with women like myself in situations like this because as she clinically and technically pointed out the down turn in the graph she had so thoroughly printed out for me, I completely and hysterically (think Uma Thurman) lost my stuffing.
This was the end officially of my tether. I couldn’t and won’t add up all that had been spent on supplements, testing and treatments. Never mind time off work, and time out from life.
I had lost friendships and relationships because I was always tired and I was scared about how I was going to continue showing up to my life. It all felt like too much.
What did happen here to give me some hope is that a very clever girlfriend reminded me that I am not my test results. She reminded me that my experience of my own body needs to be my guiding compass and that tests are helpful as I’ve mentioned above to give validation and to support a treatment plan but they are not the be all and end all and that it’s quite logical, especially as an acupuncturist to see that our energetic experience of our health will change first and that physical measurable changes might take a little longer.
And so with this all in mind I kept on keeping on. I rested, I took my B’s and my Zinc and my Adrenal Support and I had acupuncture and swam in the ocean and got on with my life.
I had, had to stop any sort of exercise or yoga but in 2015 slowly began bringing it back in. This felt amazing. The kind of endocrine picture that I had been and most of my clients are in means that muscle is used up as a fuel and putting muscle back can become quite difficult. So to find myself feeling stronger was such a wonderful sensation and further evidence that slow and steady wins the race.
Life went up and down and sideways as it tends to do and it was well into 2016 when the next, final and most important piece of the puzzle got put together.
Whilst my impatience is something that I struggle with, my tenacity and persistence is something that I refuse to apologise for, because eventually I get my answers. I may well drive most people in earshot crazy in the process but there isn’t much I can do about that!
This is the piece of the story that I most often share with my clients when they come in, second guessing themselves and doubting that they have the right to ask for better health.
Because I am a health practitioner and I do have access to herbs and treatment I was managing a new raft of symptoms “well” and was almost convincing myself that it was ok and that I should just keep on managing week by week as I was.
My cycle had created a new type of bonkers and there was mid cycle spotting, odd off and on period bleeding, deep depression day 5 ish , floods of tears on day 18 and a couple of days each cycle when I actually just didn’t have anything to do with the outside world.
Again I’m being really specific with my experience here as there are many women out there thinking it’s just them, it’s all in their heads, or perhaps this is just normal and they should be braver and stronger.
I’m here to tell you that isn’t the case at all.
It might take longer than you would like but help is at hand.
I was taking Chaste tree, using progesterone creams from day 14, I was still on adrenal support herbs and had just randomly decided to pop myself on another Liver support supplement called Liv Phase 2. I am still in love with this supplement for many reasons.
I went back into that same doctor as before and was like “ there is still something not quite right and we need to find it out”
Now while I had put Uma to bed I was still quite persistent. There was a whole lot of hmmm well maybe that’s just your liver, or maybe that’s just Estrogen symptoms … well sure but WHY are there all these Estrogen symptoms?
“Hmmm let’s take another look at your most recent test results.”
So are you ready folks, after talking zinc for, let’s see, where are we up to? 6 years by now yes?
I was still zinc deficient.
So if you’re up to speed with your chemistry and you’ve read the title of this article you will realise that it was about now that I went and had a copper and a methylation test and discovered that my free copper levels were literally off the charts and that I under-methylate which is why my copper levels were out of control and why my liver was also having difficulty processing Estrogen, and a bunch of other things.
Copper binds to the same sites as Zinc so all this time my zinc levels were being undermined by the ever increasing levels of Copper. (and yes I try not to think of the expense of all that zinc that never reached its destination).
Copper toxicity damages thyroid function, inhibits zinc and iron uptake, (which then have their own cascade of symptoms) It is implicated in raised cholestrol, Syndrome X, multiple hormone imbalances and the obvious fatigue.
The thing that I am so deeply passionate about conveying is that so often due to the alarming and urgent nature of our symptoms it is easy even as health practitioners to be treating a symptom thinking it is the cause. It is important to gently and persistently keep looking for the root.
All of my treatment of the past 6 years at that point would have been infinitely more effective and potentially a whole lot could have been prevented by knowing that I don’t methylate well.
It is a simple and inexpensive test and around 40% of the population has a genetic set up that inhibits this function.
It has links to the MTHFR gene and by all means you can also go down that road of gene testing and in some situations that can be really helpful too. I am as you may have sensed a big fan of keeping things simple, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck its’s most likely a duck.
If we don’t have a thriving phase two liver function happening so much of our endocrine system will end up under a great deal of stress. Add in actual stress and you have a perfect recipe for baffling ill health.
There were SO many points where many less tenacious personalities would have taken someone else’s very well educated opinion as gospel and continued to struggle in silence.
Which of course would not have been their fault but I just cannot bare the thought that there are women out there struggling with not only some deeply un-fun physical symptoms but the incredibly hard mental health symptoms, that become barriers to seeking help in themselves.
As a post script of sorts there hasn’t been a magical ‘there’ that I have arrived at. I don’t believe that this is something that any of us should be hoping for. In any given moment it’s about
“How can I be as well as possible and then getting curious or asking for the help to achieve that”
Your wellbeing isn’t static it’s going to evolve across your life.
I experienced a period of feeling amazing, post Copper detox and then just recently I went through a period of stress that saw my hair falling out and I am now back on T3 which is a form of thyroid medication.
I would be lost without my monthly acupuncture sessions and yoga.
There is no one single path for any of us, and I truly believe that the best approach is an integrated one, that takes into account the Ancient Sciences of Eastern Medicine, Western integrative science and emotional intelligence and support.
This has been my story and experience so far and as I have mentioned earlier I would dearly love for other women to take advantage of my lengthy journey if it can offer them a shorter path to feeling well.
I am committed to offering my clients the most exemplary care in my acupuncture and coaching clinic and where my knowledge and testing reach their limits always referring on to my extensive network.
Below are some starting points for reading, listening or courses to purchase.
I am not affiliated with any of these clever humans but have benefited from and enjoyed their resources.
I would love for you to share your experiences in the comments below and if you have resources that you have enjoyed please pop them in so I can add them into the body of this article.
I want this to become a resource for all of us to never question the signals our bodies are sending us again.
Our Feminine Health needs to be a priority in our lives for the wellbeing of all.
From my heart to yours
Burn out To Balance 21 Day course
Dr Libby Rushing Women’s Syndrome – this is your bible now 🙂
The biochemistry she explains so effectively here is essential for us all to get our heads around.
It’s in this book that you can find an explanation for how we struggle to put on muscle when we are in our fight or flight state.
Debunking your Thyroid with Nat Kringoudis
PS I was going to include an Uma Thurman gif from Kill Bill to really clinch the deal but goodness that was a violent movie… but it is kinda how it feels on the inside right? I’ll let you go google yourself 😉