Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Wellness Quest continues, I am a Hermit Crab

I see Dr. W, (the gynecologist/holistic doctor) for a follow up to get my test results. It is confirmed from my cortisol (stress hormones) and DHEA levels that I have adrenal gland exhaustion/chronic fatigue. What this means is that while in normal people their "fight or flight" response regulates after a threat goes away, my response is in constant "fight or flight" and never regulates. This explains beyond the Q fever why I had insomnia, because cortisol also goes up and down during a typical day, but for me it stays elevated when it is time to go to sleep and keeps me awake/wakes me up in the middle of the night! More information on cortisol in the links to the right. There are also other factors working here; my magnesium levels are low (this can contribute to migraines and headaches as well as inflammation), and my Vitamin D is low. I am relieved but also angry when I get these test results. I was researching all of these things a YEAR ago, and asking various doctors about this. However, many conventional doctors do not recognize adrenal dysfunction if you have a test result that is not very low out of normal range, or very high. I am somewhere in the middle of what is considered "normal," let's say the criteria is 100-1000, and I scored 750. Although I didn't score 50 or 2000, in the range of 100 to 1000, 750 is HIGH. Therefore, other docs didn't discuss any kind of adrenal dysfunction, but that is what I have been dealing with all along, and then Q fever came along with a nasty bacterial infection and I was SCREWED.

Now that I know what I am fighting, it is time to trust that the information I have is the correct information and that I must go with the flow and take the supplements I am given. I am now on NINE different supplements, some of which I take 3x/day. In addition to the supplements I was given last time, I am now also given Vitamin D, Magnesium and Phyto Caps for Adrenal Glands. It's a lot to remember to take in a day, but I say BRING. IT. ON. One silver lining in this is that my progesterone and estrogen levels are actually normal, so I am grateful that I don't have to worry about adding that to this already delicate mix.

I've been taking the supplements from my last visit for about 3 weeks now, and already I see a slight difference. The nausea that I feel all of the time is starting to dissipate, and I haven't felt sick from food for about 2 weeks. I ovulated last week and for the first time in a LONG time I had no inflammation in my neck, no tension headache and no toxic feeling in my uterus. Hallelujah! I did get a migraine, but it was easily dispelled with Zomig nasal spray. Dr. W. surprisingly tells me that I need to stop exercising. She is the first doc to say this. Her point is that vigorous exercise actually raises the cortisol levels and that is something I can't do right now. I am to take long, slow walks and to do very gentle yoga, and that is it. She also recommends that I start a meditation practice, because a major part of the cortisol issue is stress and negative emotions. She is not the first person to recommend meditation, so it's time I listen. It's amazing that always worrying about the really stupid, small things in life contributed to making me so sick.

Right now I feel like a hermit crab between shells. I am no longer the person I had become when I was living in Los Angeles, so I don't identify with my past self at all. However, I have no idea who I will be in the future. I am that vulnerable hermit crab, growing but not knowing where I'm going to end up. My therapist told me that part of the problem is that I have always identified myself through whatever job it was that I was doing. And now I have no job, nor any prospect of what it is I want to do, and therefore I feel lost and with no identity. She says when people say, "oh, what are you doing?" I have to be okay with saying, "nothing." It is in the letting go that I will find myself.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I speak to Dr. B on the phone and he tells me after 22(!) lyme tests that are negative, he is willing to put the lyme diagnosis to rest. He says that I definitely had Q fever (see link at right for more information), and now the antibody tests for that are leveling out, so that means that the Q fever bacteria are leaving my body. However, I will always test positive for Q fever for the rest of my life, as I have now created the antibody to it. I am forever grateful to Dr. B. for being smart enough and aggressive enough to continue testing me until we had an answer.

I meet with Dr. W, yet another gynecologist, but also a holistic healer. She incorporates Eastern and Western medical philosophies into her practice. She was recommended to me by a friend's godmother. She is really fantastic, and spends an hour with me, letting me lay out all of the details of my illness over the past year. She isn't even fazed by everything I tell her, and she is totally no nonsense. At first I am a little taken aback by this, but then decide I respect her completely direct approach.

She tells me that besides my Q fever, she believes I have the following; leaky gut syndrome (which explains all of the nausea, headaches and diarrhea), autoimmune dysfunction, and adrenal gland dysfunction. Ugh!!! These are all things I have researched over the past year and have had one doctor after another tell me are not happening (other than the autoimmune disease). In terms of the autoimmune dysfunction, she doesn’t feel I have a “weak” immune system, but rather what she believes is an overly active one. She explains that with the overly active immune system, my body is basically identifying any and everything that comes into my system (including food!), as a “threat,” and therefore attacking it. She says this is why I get so sick often after I’ve eaten, why it feels like I have to “expel” everything, and then I feel better after I do. My body is literally identifying the food as an enemy and wants to get rid of it! She feels the hormonal pain at ovulation and menses is being caused by these three things simultaneously; the leaky gut, the autoimmune dysfunction and the adrenal glands. She says all of theses things cause inflammation, and then when you are ovulating there is an inflammatory response when the egg is released, and thus MORE inflammation and no wonder I am in so much pain. FINALLY someone explains to me why the hell I felt like I was dying during ovulation and Day 3 of my period. She says, “add to that the Q fever, and your body just couldn’t handle all of it.” I feel such a EUREKA moment I almost start crying in her office. Wow! What an amazing feeling to have that little thing in my gut, my intuition, just know all of the pieces of the puzzle finally fit! ☺

I ask her about getting pregnant after having Q fever. Reading the literature about the disease it says that the bacteria in the mammals that carry it lives, in females, in the reproductive system and causes those mammals, when pregnant, to abort. I explain this to her and she says that although she doesn’t know about Q fever her understanding is that I would only have to worry about that if I had an active infection. She also, very directly, tells me that she is actually more worried about my age in terms of getting pregnant than she is about Q fever. Depressing to hear, but the truth. She asks me if I plan to get pregnant some day. I tell her yes, hopefully in the next few years. She says it’s important for her to know this, because there are certain supplements she won’t put me on now.

She has a game plan for me – more blood tests, testing my FSH, LH, Vitamin D (I was told often when I thought I had lyme disease this was something that should be looked into, but no conventional doctors did), testing my magnesium levels as well as DHEA, cortisol, TSH, T4 and T3. All things I know I should be tested for. Someone finally gets it!!! And she has put me on the following supplements:
For the “leaky gut”: L-Glutamine, Parashield, Oil of Oregano, New Chapter Pro Flora
For my immune system: Pro Omega Fish Oil, Kaprex A1

In the meantime, I have some auditions and get booked on some acting gigs. It is a totally different experience for me these days. I used to get so anxious about everything, but now that seems to be a thing of the past. My illness has taught me what is really important and now standing in front of a bunch of people I don’t know who are judging me doesn’t matter to me anymore. I think too what I have learned is balance. In L.A. it is so easy to get so completely out of balance. And the entertainment world there does nothing to encourage keeping one’s sanity. I am grateful I found my way home, even if illness is what got me here.

I read a quote in a Joel Osteen book that is sitting on my boyfriend’s coffee table, “do not let your setback be your identity.” I like that. I think I am moving away from “being sick,” and can start to identify again with “being well.” Joy!