Sunday, June 12, 2011

Health Update: Cortisol

So, I've been thinking lately about all that I have gained.  This is a switch.  For many years, when I was younger, it was all about lack.  Then, I had the thanksgiving epiphany and that started to change.  The change has gone deeper in the last several weeks.  It's been interesting.  I have felt like an observer watching a fascinating process take place.  I am not in charge.  I'm just receiving the changes that are happening and raising my eyebrows in surprise as they come my way.

Here are my observations.  They are simply that - my observations about my own body, my own process.  I am not a doctor.  But I do know my body, and I have been given sovereignty over it.  It is my gift to steward and offer up.  I need to pay attention, and, when I do, I will learn.

This is what I have gained in the last several weeks of being on a higher cortisol dose:
  • no more gum pain - a somewhat strange realization I had this week...I've had worsening gum pain for about the past six years, roughly in line with my diminished energy and fainting spells; the cortisol intake seems to be combatting all of this
  • very little joint/muscle pain (I believe this is also directly related to the addition of Corvalen (or D-Ribose) and a magnesium/potassium supplement into my regiment, but the cortisol has definitely helped this)
  • energy - this has come in two forms: the first is the simple practical fact that I do not pass out every afternoon from utter exhaustion; the second has come in the form of chores...I now have the everyday, miraculous ability to do the dishes and wash loads of laundry without needing to rest for hours afterward...I'm still tired but my endurance is up
  • drastic reduction in fainting spells - I used to have 3-4/day, now I go weeks without having any
  • less fear
Yep, I said less fear.  This has been the most bizaare part of this process.  I put it all together when, one day, I saw a spider crawling on my son, and I swatted it away.  There was no hesitation or fear or panic - I just acted.  This is a HUGE difference.  Since I was a little, little girl, I have had serious phobias - snakes, spiders, caterpillars.  I know, weird.  You can ask my friends - these things terrify me.  I absolutely sink into an irrational space when confronted by any of these, and, well, let's just say, I do not respond well.

And yet, here I am, swatting spiders away, holding my son's pet "snake" (a stuffed animal that I couldn't even look at when he brought it home months ago), and watching with intellectual fascination while a caterpillar meanders across the sidewalk leading to my door. 

What the - ?

I asked my husband if he had noticed a difference.  He immediately and enthusiastically concurred: "yes, you are much more chilled out.  You don't freak out as much.  It's almost as if you're better able to control your fear."

Apt observation.  I did some research.  I found several references online - both from scholarly sources and personal, anecdotal stories of individual experiences (here's one, if you're interested).  Though the research is not definitive, there does seem to be a growing consensus that people with "off" cortisol levels are incapable of responding, not just to stress, but also to fear, in appropriate ways.  In other words, they have disproportionate responses - reactions that seem totally irrational to folks with "normal" cortisol production. 

But here's the kicker: it's not simply psychological.  I could have spent years and years in therapy over these phobias with no improvement, all the while having psychiatrists tell me I needed to work it out (and creating more psychological trauma as a result).  But without the cortisol in my body, I simply would not have been able to respond differently.  I know that now like a mother knows her child: there is no denying it.

This last has been a fascinating discovery for me.  Very, very freeing.  This is not my fault.  It's not that I'm "not good enough" or simply need to "get over it" and "get better" (all voices that have run wild in my head for too many years).  And it's not that I'm a hypochondriac.  There is something physically wrong with me that I can't fix.  I just need to respond.  As I do - as I listen to the doctors and give my body what it needs, as I listen to God and feed myself well - I am partnering in my recovery with the one, true, Great Physician. 

And I can tell you, it's really a fun ride.

[A friend recently sent me this blog post from NPR.  It has some good information on gut bacteria.  This is where it all starts my friends.  Enjoy the read!]

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Jenny. I am so grateful for the changes you are able to see and enjoy.