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I was first introduced to the adrenal glands by reading Dr. James L. Wilson’s book, “Adrenal Fatigue: 21st Century Stress Syndrome” (see it here). The first to discuss adrenal fatigue to my knowledge, Dr. Wilson’s words spoke to me like he was reading my mind. I had been struggling with a strange (and seemingly unrelated) set of symptoms for at least 15 years, probably longer since I’d ignored so many subtle signs prior. Aside from constantly feeling crummy, I was tired of being misunderstood by doctors who did nothing but hand me prescriptions for drugs to shut me up.
You know that feeling when you finally find proof that you’re not making stuff up? That book was the first time someone validated my intuition and told me to listen to what my body had to say. It was, you might say, my first step to freedom. (I just bought another copy as a kind of memorial to my health journey. I’d loaned my original copy so many times, it finally disappeared.)
The Start of My Journey
Before learning adrenal exhaustion was real, I had reached the point where if one more person told me I was making it up, needed more exercise, needed to relax, needed a pain pill, needed an anti-depressant, needed to stop eating so much, needed to have more sex, or needed to get my head examined, I would explode. Believe me when I tell you I would’ve tried anything to feel better, but I was an educated woman who’d lived in this body a long time — I knew those weren’t what I needed to fix me.
I found zillions of people on the internet (usually women) who felt like I did. Knowing I wasn’t alone was incredibly empowering, since I had no idea this was even going on. By reading their stories and reflecting on my own, I grew in knowing there had to be answers beyond what traditional medicine currently understood. So began my journey to learn as much as I could about adrenal fatigue and restore myself once and for all.
In this article and others to come, I’ll talk more about my journey to solve adrenal fatigue. I plan to be transparent hoping my findings will also help you, too. Please remember I’m not a medical doctor so you’re agreeing to read/apply this information at your own risk. I’ll be brutally honest, though. After years of going to doctors, I’m confident I know more about the adrenals than most of the doctors you’ll ever meet.
I’ll begin by listing common symptoms. There are more than the ones on my list, but I’m naming some of the symptoms that personally affected me and I’ve observed in other women I know.
Also know the language I’m using isn’t clinical, but I’m writing this for real women to relate to right away.
Finally, understand these symptoms alone don’t necessary indicate adrenal exhaustion and could each have other causes. It’s the combination of a bunch of these symptoms together that likely indicates the adrenals are on the way out, or shot altogether. The grouping of these symptoms is what you want to pay attention to.
Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue/exhaustion/total wipeout:
- Stress and anxiety, often extreme, and at unwarranted times (like when you’re relaxing or doing something fun, or when you know there’s not really much stress in your life)
- Dizziness or faintness, like waves that strike for no reason at all
- Inability to bounce back after emotional or psychological pressure (not like you used to anyway)
- Excessively moody, weepy, touchy, or emotional (more than is usual for you)
- Mental confusion, hard to focus, “brain fog” (having to re-read paragraphs several times, not able to think crisply and clearly)
- Anger, irritability, argumentative (even when you know it’s not appropriate, but you can’t help it)
- Fatigue during the day, especially in the afternoons (crawling up the stairs on all fours <sigh> as I did)
- Wide awake at night when you need to go to bed, but staying up just to get some “me time” or to finally get things done
- Neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, pain in the trapezius or other muscles in those areas
- Unexplained cough
- Low blood pressure, or BP that doctors say is “low-normal” even if it isn’t normal for you
- Feeling of hopelessness, despair, general depression, even though logic says you have a wonderful life
- Low tolerance for people, stuff, and anything you used to be able to handle before
- Autoimmune issues, like Hashimotos, or being told you have Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue
- Skin issues, like rashes or hives, when they persist for years with no known cause
- Excess fat storage, especially around the middle, and especially when you’re eating relatively well
- Food cravings, for sweets, or for sweets that just don’t satisfy
- Food cravings, for salty snacks, or some feeling you need extra salt
- Food cravings for high fat foods, which fuel you for a little while until you crash again
- Feeling better after a meal, or feeling worse after a meal
- Over use of coffee or alcohol, more than you know you should (sometimes with guilt attached to using these substances to get through the day)
- Crashes in between eating, and urgency to eat soon (scrambling to stuff something in your mouth)
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Gum bleeding or swelling
- Sighing, gasping for air, feeling like you can’t fill up your lungs or get a full breath of air, but you keep trying anyway, so much it becomes an obsession
- Blurry vision that comes and goes with no apparent cause, rubbing your eyes to clear them, getting glasses
- Jaw pain, TMJ, teeth grinding at night, face tension or headaches from clenching so much
- Heart pounding, racing or rapid heartbeat, even when resting, and especially when getting out of bed in the morning
- Muscle cramps, “charley horses”, during the day, in bed, when you haven’t done any exercise or anything else to cause it
- Constipation, irregular bowel movements, or different stools than you know is normal
- Shaking or trembling, like having slightly shaky hands or an internal trembling in your mid-section
- Low or no libido
- Feeling like nothing is ever fun any more, you’re no fun, or there’s just no joy in life left
In future articles, I’ll describe some of the things that helped me and specific techniques that healed my adrenals for good. If you’d like to follow along, there’s a box where you can subscribe at the very bottom of my HOME PAGE.
Meanwhile, if you want to grab a copy of Dr. Wilson’s book, click the image (affiliate) below:
To your good health,
As a coach, writer, recovered over-doer and busyness addict, I understand the challenges of creating a balanced, healthy lifestyle while the mind tries to sabotage your success. In my journey to vibrant health, I created a personalized health system of nutrition and supplementation, lifestyle changes, and I retrained my mind and the energy of my body. I view my success as the formula to my happy, healthy life. I now empower other women to create their own personalized formulas, including the tools and strategies just right for them! Amazing life shifts come from our relationships. I look forward to helping you, too!
Victoria Hill says
Hello, I have narcolepsy so I am often fatigued and with lots of stress. I tremble when I sleep/nap- usually around mid section, neck and arms…. how do I fix this?
I’ve been cleared of everything else.
Rhonda M says
Wow- to say I feel like you just wrote about me is an understatement….
Annie Manus says
I was always on the stressed out side of life but had a nasal operation in May 2021 and when I was recovering I seemed to get worse. Just like your symptoms. Fear, worry, internal vibrations, depression, not able to bounce back, worried I had some terrible disease. I searched and searched to see what was wrong as the doctor said blood test normal except for low sodium. He asked if I drink allot of water which I don’t but tea and herbal teas. Thank you for your post.
Reinabeth bentley says
I may have adrenal issues