Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Define Normal

I just finished my follow-up appointment at my endocrinologist.  (For more about what brought me to this place, read last week's post: Patient.)  The results?  "Normal."

She elaborated patiently.  "This is good news," she said.  "I agree," I responded.  I don't have some incurable debilitating disease, thank God, BUT, I still feel horrible.  Oh, and, there's that little problem of my "episodes".  I keep having them.

She nodded sympathetically (I say this without sarcasm - she really was very sympathetic) and tried to problem-solve with me.  We talked through next-steps - seeing a naturopath, visiting Austin's natural pharmacy and asking for supplements, etc.  I could feel my stress level rising.

Here I go again, I thought.  A solution that is a non-solution.  My thoughts started down a negative, hopeless path as I thought about how desperately I need these episodes to stop.  Like, now.  And how tired I am of no one having any clear answers, clear solutions.  Same song, different verse.  Great.

The P.A. kept talking, but I could no longer hear her.  Uh-oh, I thought.  Here we go.  The next thing I remember was a blood pressure cuff on my arm, and the P.A. calling my name.  "You with me?" she asked.  "Jenny?  Can you hear me?"  I had done it again, for the who-knows-how-manyth time...the slightest bit of stress and BAM! I'm out.  Not fainted, not unconscious, just unable to respond physically while I hear everyone rushing about in a flurry around me.  Physically collapsed in a syncopal-like episode while my conscious self is fully engaged.  Slight brain fog at times but, otherwise, present and accounted for. 

True to form, all of my vital signs were perfect during the episode.  Slightly low blood pressure but "to be expected", according to the experts.  The funny thing?  The woman who had been giving me my results changed her tune slightly after actually witnessing what I had been trying to describe to her.  She had called the doctor in to observe in the middle of the episode, and he concurred: we need to treat her.

If you've read my other post, you'll know that all the other specialists I've seen have effectively treated me like I'm some over-dramatic actor vying for attention.  That I'm making this up.  They come to that conclusion because my vital signs and test results are "normal."  But, as the endocrinologist said after witnessing my latest episode this morning, "this is not normal."

Here's where we get into the nitty-gritty.  It turns out that my a.m. cortisol level was 7.  The normal range is 7-25.  So, as the doc put it, I'm technically within normal range, but my results are kind of "pansy."  That made me laugh.  And made me feel good at the same time.  I'm not making this up - my body doesn't produce enough of what I need when I feel any level of stress.  It produces some, but not enough.  Yes, I can try to manage stress in my life, but I can't magically fix my physical responses.  They are real and in need of treatment.

The doctor took one look at me and told the P.A.: "we need to treat her.  We can at least see if she'll respond to treatment.  Normally, she shouldn't need the standard treatment, but this isn't a normal response.  Let's try it and see."

So I took my first pill today.  Officially I've been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue.  That means my adrenal gland doesn't work as well as it should.  The adrenal gland produces cortisol in response to stress - any form of stress (cold weather, for example, or financial pressure; a sore throat, or a conflict with a friend; in other words, physical, or emotional/psychological).  Cortisol tells all the other systems in your body how to work well in this heightened state: your immune system, your body's ability to build muscle mass, metabolism of essential vitamins and minerals, and the list goes on.  In other words, if your adrenal gland doesn't work well, nothing really works well.  No wonder I don't feel good.

The hope is that I'll feel better within a few days.  You can pray.  I would dearly like to feel better.  But more importantly, I would like to learn how to endure...how to persevere.  I am weary, I won't deny it.  I'm having to fight for hope.  Pray that my faith will grow; that even if I see no results I will "not grow weary in doing good."  And not just in doing good but also in believing in good.

One final note: I had a revelation about this last night while talking with a friend.  About a week ago I checked in with the Lord about my quiet times.  I've been disciplined in following where He's leading in my daily time with Him, but I feel...basically, empty.  No filling up at all.  As if I can't access my Source to get to the energy I need to keep moving.  I can hear Him, see Him, observe His presence and work in my life.  But, something's missing.

I asked Him about this, wondering, what's up?  He pointed out: "Jenny, your heart is weary.  You can't handle any more from me right now."  The minute I heard Him say that I knew He was right.  The last six months have been very taxing on me, for many reasons not the least of which is how much I've had to fight for and carry my daughter Lily through her own health stuff.  It has been scarier than I've allowed myself to acknowledge, so there are some unresolved things there I need to deal with.  In His grace, He is not going to pile on more right now, but rather, call me to rest.  Give me space to process the backlog.

This applies to many areas in my life right now.  Obviously, it makes me think of my poor, overworked adrenal gland.  It needs a break so that it can regain strength and catch up.  The physical reflecting the spiritual and vice-versa.  Isn't this the way it always works?  In all areas I need recovery more than rest.  This is a tricky one for me, a new place.  I know how to rest.  I have learned that.  I don't think I know how to recover.  Not yet.  I suspect that recovery begins with acknowledgment of the trauma that caused the need for recovery.  Hmmm...I'll think more on that and get back to you.

Thanks for reading.  And don't forget to stop by Soli Deo Gloria for some Tuesday encouragement!


  1. Recovery. This is a good word for this new stage. And I love it because I think in some connotative sense, it means the struggle just might be at end, which therefore signifies hope.

    I'm hoping and praying for you, as always, my friend.

  2. I like that word too...my friend Tara has Forgive & Recover on a sign she makes...and I've loved it ever sense. Praying for you...that He will show you the next step of the beginning:)

  3. Yes, praying for you. It seems this is a new door for you . . . let your weary heart recover, yes. It is ok.
    love & grace, jodi

  4. Wow, you have a lot going on right now. And adrenal gland stuff can get tricky. Glad you found a doc who is treating you.

    Hope you can enjoy the rest as you heal . . . heart, soul and body.


  5. Jenny, as someone who was sick for 2 years with "normal" test results, I'll tell you that the only thing that worked was going gluten free. If you haven't tried it, it's worth a shot. Praying for you. :)