I’ve spoken very openly about my experience with adrenal insufficiency and burnout. Adrenal insufficiency has been a big part of my life over the past 4 years, and it’s gotten me to where I am today.
Finally I’m ready to take this opportunity to share the details of my story with you.
If you burn out once, they say it’s easy to do again. It can take up to two years to fully recover, assuming you’re actually putting in the effort to resolve your adrenal insufficiency. It takes time, and if you don’t give yourself the necessary time, you can easily fall into early stages of adrenal fatigue again, and again.
Truth is, I’ve burnt out twice in my short adult life – I’m only 28.
Recovery is a long and hard process filled with its own challenges. Lifestyle changes, dietary changes, supplement regimens and attitude adjustments were all necessary in my recovery. I’ll share more of those changes in the coming days.
I want to be honest with you about what I’ve gone through, so I’m starting this series to share my experience with burnout, and how I’m focused on recovery every single day. Before we jump into everything, I’ll give you the backstory of how I used to be as a child. It helps to paint a picture of why I burnt out in the first place.
I was always a perfectionist striving for straight A’s in school.
How many of you can relate? Perfectionism is rampant in our society. We do it for many reasons, including attention, love, self-worth, fear of failure… I did it for all of them.
I let my grades and my success define my worthiness and my happiness. But at the bottom of it all was a fear of failure. I was terrified of what it would mean to fail at something – to get a failing grade, to be unable to accomplish what I was supposed to accomplish, to miss out on an opportunity because I didn’t push hard enough to get it… to not be worthy.
My ambition and drive to succeed got me a decent job out of university with a large company. Of course, I believed I was destined for success so I worked even harder to get that promotion I thought I deserved. When I finally got the promotion, I was ecstatic – but there were more levels to climb. What about the next promotion?
I worked my butt off in my new job, taking responsibility for more than was my own. Productivity and perfectionism ruled my life and anytime I made a mistake I was angry with myself. My supervisors saw my ambition and gave me more work, which I gladly took to prove that I could handle it all. Can you see the vicious circle that’s forming?
I started feeling nauseated every day, I was experiencing pressure headaches, I was falling asleep at 7pm on the couch, I was finding it hard to concentrate, I was easily irritable – all signs of chronic stress and adrenal fatigue.
Ultimately I was responsible for burning out the first time.
I took on way too much, didn’t give my body enough time to rest, and didn’t know when to quit. After much contemplation, I ended up leaving that job because I was stuck in a vicious cycle – the rat race – and I couldn’t get out. The corporate world is extremely competitive and while I was well poised for another promotion I just couldn’t do it anymore. My efforts were not sustainable. I felt guilty and felt like a failure, but it was the best decision I could make for myself.
I learned a lot about how to treat my work life after that. I decided to take a step back and found a new job that had fewer hours and was much less intense. While working in my new job, I was able to start recovering. Luckily for me, I felt better within a few months.
Then my younger brother, Brendan, was diagnosed with cancer.
While I was in the process of recovering from my first case of adrenal fatigue, our family learned that my brother had stage 2 lymphoma. He went through about a year and a half of treatment as soon as they caught it. Multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, two stem cell transplants – he went through it all and took it like a champ. But being in limbo is not my thing. I hated not having control of the situation. I hated not knowing the end results. I hated waiting and waiting and waiting. So for me, it was a year and a half of ups and downs.
During that time, many other things happened:
- I began my education with the Institute of Holistic nutrition, a 2-year part-time program to become a Certified Nutritional Practitioner – all in addition to my full-time job.
- Mike and I moved into our first apartment together.
- Later we purchased and moved into our first NEW home together.
- We learned Brendan’s treatments weren’t responding. Then they were responding. Then they weren’t again.
Throughout all of these events, I could feel the stress piling on. But of course, I ignored it.
I thought I was doing enough to take care of myself, but I wasn’t.
In December of 2016, we were about to find out the news of Brendan’s overall cancer prognosis.
Before today, I’d always had a rather pessimistic view of life. It’s something I’m currently working on, but I often fall back on old patterns. In any situation, I always worried about the worst case scenario to prepare myself. His entire cancer journey was very challenging for me. I never knew what would come of each appointment or each treatment, and from the beginning I was terrified of losing my brother.
I woke up one day in December and could barely walk.
My legs were numb, I was dizzy when I stood up, I was crying uncontrollably, I had a terrible feeling of dread. This was my breaking point and the day I hit rock bottom in my burnout.
A week later we found out his cancer was terminal, and he was given 1 to 6 months to live. There I was, burnt out and learning that my worst fear had come to be.
I was going to lose my brother.
I took a couple of weeks off work to “recover” as best as I could. In January, Mike and I were moving into our new home which required packing, new home stresses, and the stresses of dealing with builders, construction teams and more. Then we had family visiting because of Brendan’s diagnosis, so I was spending time with them. The entire month was a blur but I somehow got through it.
February was tough as we dealt with a flood in our new home. Meanwhile I was still going to school, working full-time, seeing family weekly, and dealing with my brother’s diagnosis.
In March we started to notice a rapid decline in his health and I started taking time off work so I could be with my family. Brendan passed away on March 29th, 2017.
Through the entire ordeal, I experienced almost every single symptom associated with adrenal fatigue.
Fatigue, inability to handle stress, low blood sugar, low body temperature, low blood pressure (head rushes upon standing), dizziness, leg numbness, heart palpitations, chest constriction, digestive distress, hair loss, difficulty getting up in the morning, developing food intolerances/leaky gut, low sex drive, anxiety, depression, apathy, panic attacks, memory loss, foggy thinking, feeling “wired”, sugar cravings, and more.
Yes, almost every single symptom related to adrenal insufficiency.
It’s been nine months since Brendan’s passed, and I’m finally feeling better for the first time in about three years.
My life is moving back into balance, and things are starting to clear up. I still deal with the pain and grief of losing my brother, but my burnout symptoms are nearly gone and I’m feeling like myself again. Mike and I are settled into our home, I earned my nutritionist certificate in August, and I finally feel excitement for my future. I forgot what that felt like.
The road here was far from easy and required a lot of support. In a future post I plan to share what I did to recover from burnout a second time and how it’s gotten me to where I am today.
Thanks for following along on this journey with me. If you’re going through adrenal fatigue or burnout, I see you. I get you. I’ve been there too.Follow