Sorting my shit out - Tactical Ninja
Jul. 26th, 2015
11:31 am - Sorting my shit out
So the results came back from the doctor. Note accompanying results from doctor:
"Everything normal, however depression can make eczema worse, I think you should come see me about that."
Problem is, I'm not depressed. And I don't think I have eczema either.
I first went to the doctor last year with a weird pain in my back. After doing some tests and discovering that my autoimmune response indicators were up, I was referred to a rheumatologist but couldn't get an appointment because I'm not sick enough*, and the doctor ended up telling me it's a mechanical problem and patting me on the head and sending me away.
A year of doing exercises to fix it and I still have the same pain in the same place. It's not mechanical. It might be OOS-related, but I'm not convinced because I've changed all the things that might cause that as well, for no improvement.
Meanwhile, my mental state has gone downhill, I've developed a weird rash (which the doctor says is eczema), I have been sick twice this year (I never get sick), and it's affecting my work and my study. Here's a list:
depression, low motivation
waking early (3am-5am)
loss of libido
beaded, ridged fingernails
low tolerance for cold
poor reaction to stress (crying jags, emotional instability)
craving for sweet and salty food
difficulty maintaining stable weight
So off I go back to the doctor. Bung all those symptoms into google and it comes back with hypothyroid every time. Doctor insists it isn't that, but that I must be depressed. I'm like "This doesn't feel like depression" so she sends off for a bunch more tests.
Fast forward to Friday, get the message from the doctor. Thing is, I can look at my own tests, and while she's right in that everything is normal (and the thyroid stuff really is normal), there are a couple of things that are only just:
cortisol level (8am) 291nmol/L (normal range 250-700)
potassium level 5.2 mmol/L (normal range 3.6-5.2)
There is also an elevated level of alkaline phosphatase (93 U/L when normal is 20-90), which the doctor has left a note saying 'minor change of no consequence')
So while these are within the normal range, they are close enough to the parameter that I think it's worth having a look at. I bunged them into google, as you do. Turns out the normal range for morning cortisol is variable, and taking an average of the 20 or so sites I read, google thinks that anything below 350-400 is worth further testing. And elevated potassium goes along with this, to supposedly indicate poor function of the adrenal glands, which can be caused by:
* pituitary gland problems
* prolonged stress
* autoimmune problems
I can tick two of those boxes, so I read further, and found that 'adrenal fatigue' is not a recognised medical problem, but that once it tips over into adrenal failure, it becomes life-threatening and then the medical community recognises it as Addison's disease. Anyway, I discovered a bunch of lists of symptoms associated with adrenal insufficiency, which while often quite broad and vague (aren't they all?), include every single one of the things I'm experiencing.
So I read further, and discovered that the adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys, which is *exactly* where the pain in my back is located.
Now that's a bunch of coincidences and internet non-doctorial exploration, and I know that humans tend to find patterns where there aren't necessarily any, but to me that's worth considering further.
Especially when I found that in these illnesses, the adrenal glands lose their ability to respond to stress by producing enough of the right hormones to regulate the body, and so instead of rebalancing itself quickly, it takes ages to recover, and/or even minor stress can send you into a tailspin. So last Saturday I pranged my car, on Sunday I wanted to kill myself. On Thursday I had an argument with the insurance company about it, on Friday I didn't have enough energy to go to my pole class. Etc.
Thing is, I'm afraid to go back to the doctor, and go "I read the internet and I disagree with you and I want you to look further into this."
Oh yeah, when I was diagnosed with depression? It was after a prolonged period of stress and the psychiatrist that saw me said I had 'adrenal fatigue'. He prescribed fluoxetine, which apparently raises cortisol levels, so it worked.
If my doctor did that, I'd probably get better, and she'd go "See, I was right! You're depressed!"
I'm not fucking depressed, except by the fact that I've not felt 100% for such a long time.
So I read further. Turns out that there's a lot you can do for yourself by adopting a diet that helps the body to maintain stable levels of blood glucose (which is one of the functions of cortisol) throughout the day.
This diet is basically a modified form of paleo (but with dairy included) - lots of protein, complex carbs, and fat, no sugar or processed foods, loads of vegies, not so much fruit. Apparently the inability to deal with sugar is one of the things that goes with this type of problem.
The other thing is about *when* you eat. The idea being that small, regular meals, each containing some protein, fat, and complex carbs, will help the body not have to work so hard to maintain its balance of hormones. Things like not eating fruit in the morning because too much sugar after fasting is hard work for the adrenals, having a snack before bed to reduce the amount of time fasting, etc.
So I'm willing to give this a go and see if it helps. Meanwhile I've reduced the stress in my life by knocking the Honours on the head, and I'm going to try this for a month and see what happens. I feel better already, but I want a record of consistently feeling better before I'm convinced it's working and not just the novelty of my newfound freedom.
But there's still the pain in my back, and I'd like to get to the bottom of it, which means going to the doctor.
I think I need to find another doctor, tbh. This one seems determined to tell me I'm depressed without looking further into what might be causing it. Bollocks to that.
* For those who are thinking 'death panels!' think again. Our government would like to turn our health system into a US-like user pays model, and part of what that means is that state funding is not covering as much as it used to, and so the bar for who gets to see a specialist has been raised unless you have insurance and can afford to go private. Fuck that noise.