My Story of Determination to Overcome Poor HealthAugust 31st, 2009
My experiences with poor health and overcoming chronic fatigue syndrome have significantly influenced my philosophy on health and life in general. Much of what I write about is based on these experiences, and as such, I’d like to share with you the story of my most meaningful accomplishment in hopes that it will help inspire you to take better care of yourself.
From Bad to Worse
As a child, I was often sick and frequently suffered from stomach pain and headaches. It certainly didn’t help that I ate a lot of processed foods and was frequently exposed to second hand cigarette smoke. Although I thankfully didn’t have any significant problems to speak of, I began adulthood with a predisposition for poor health.
College life certainly didn’t help matters. My diet continued to be just as poor as it had always been, my sleep schedule became much more irregular, and like most college students, I was having more than just a few drinks on weekends. As I became more and more fatigued, I began to question if something was wrong, but having never experienced vibrant health, I didn’t know what I was missing and accepted the fatigue as normal.
Despite living a healthier and more regimented lifestyle after college, I was still pushing through life more so than enjoying it. Getting out of bed was a major ordeal nearly every morning, and after a typical workday, it seemed like a tremendous effort just to drive myself home. On one such drive home, I vividly remember being so fed up with my exhaustion that I was on the verge of deep depression. After questioning why the basic activities of life seemed to be so difficult, I berated myself for being weak and concluded that if everyone else can deal with it, I can too. As time passed, I found myself fighting these emotions more frequently. I’d sometimes be too tired to even care and would surrender to the depression until it ran its natural course. Other times, it made me so angry and frustrated that I could have punched a hole in a wall.
What Finally Pushed Me Over the Edge
Despite my frequent exhaustion, I still forced myself to exercise and play sports as often as I could manage. Although these were some of my favorite activities which helped to keep me sane, forcing myself to be physically active when I didn’t have the energy undoubtedly made everything worse. I frequently experienced what is commonly referred to as an exercise hangover which intensified many of my symptoms and left me even more tired than normal for a number of days, sometimes longer.
One of my most annoying symptoms was the shakiness, weakness, and lack of coordination that you’d normally experience after an intense confrontation. I was experiencing this sensation on a regular basis, especially while playing tennis, and it was very frustrating. Although it seems kind of strange in retrospect, of all the things that were bothering me, this is the one symptom that I finally complained to my doctor about. She sent me to have a glucose tolerance test which assesses the body’s response to sugar intake, and according to the test results, my blood sugar dropped severely. This meant I was very susceptible to hypoglycemia. Despite the hope this gave me for improvement, I would eventually learn that it was just a small part of the overall problem.
My Life Changing Revelation
After receiving my test results, I immediately purchased several books about hypoglycemia and began reading. I was a bit shocked when I read the long list of symptoms which included fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depression, headaches, muscle aches, mental fogginess, dizziness, difficulty speaking, poor memory, irregular heartbeat, increased sensitivity to sunlight, increased perspiration, intense hunger, and of course, the shakiness and weakness that I had originally complained about.
I had to stop reading for a moment due to my astonishment. I had experienced every single one of the symptoms listed above, many of them on a regular basis for a number of years, and couldn’t believe that they all could be caused by the same problem. More importantly, I had the sudden realization that the state of health and quality of life I’d been living with for so long was anything but normal.
At this very moment, it was as if the dark clouds of a stormy day had immediately lifted. I suddenly recognized an incredible potential for a much better life.
My Disappointment with Conventional Medicine
The nurse who called to inform me of my test results did so in a surprisingly apathetic manner. She said I could be referred to a dietitian if I wished and that was it. No explanation or recommendations from her or the doctor. If I wished? If I wished? Of course I wanted to see a dietitian! At the time, it was my only alternative to doing nothing and continuing to suffer.
By the time my appointment with the dietitian approached, I had already read several books about hypoglycemia and had already adjusted my diet to eliminate sugar and restrict carbohydrates. The knowledge I had gained from the books turned out to be more useful than my time with the dietitian. After several months of not making much progress, she agreed that there must have been more to my situation than just hypoglycemia.
Based on the reading I’d been doing, I suspected some kind of hormone imbalance and had read that hypoglycemia is a symptom of another condition called adrenal fatigue. Unfortunately, few doctors are even aware of adrenal fatigue, and the ones who are tend to disregard its legitimacy. As such, I went back to my doctor expecting a difficult discussion and she reluctantly sent me to an endocrinologist. Despite questionable test results indicating the possibility of hypothyroidism, which can result from adrenal fatigue, the endocrinologist insisted that my hormone levels were fine and that there was nothing she could do for me.
More Money, More Problems
The stress of having to wait long periods of time for appointments with people who weren’t helping was beginning to overwhelm me. I knew I needed professional help, but I couldn’t find it and was running out of options. I eventually found a center that specialized in fatigue and chronic illness. Despite the 3 hour drive to get there and my insurance company’s refusal to pay for the visit, I decided to go anyway. After dozens of tests which indicated a number of hormone imbalances including adrenal fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, and viral infections, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. Because I had been bitten by a tick in a highly endemic area, they suspected Lyme disease as the primary problem.
I had followed the treatment prescribed by this center for nearly a year, and during this time, I was continuing to educate myself on how to support my recovery through healthier lifestyle habits. I was impressed by the center’s thorough testing and advanced knowledge of chronic illness, but was beginning to question their treatment approach. Although they described their approach as natural and holistic with minimal use of drugs, they were neglecting a number of important lifestyle factors and I was also displeased with the large number of supplements and prescription medications I was taking. Throughout most of the treatment, I was taking more than 60 pills every day, and it seemed that each time I discussed one of my symptoms with the doctor in hopes that it would shed some light on the cause of my problems, I would be given a new prescription.
By the time a full year had passed, I had made some notable improvements, mostly as a result of my lifestyle changes, but overall, wasn’t feeling much better than when I had started. I was frustrated by my lack of progress and had a strong suspicion that I was heading down the wrong path. Inspired by the knowledge and confidence I gained through my own research, and more notably, my frustration with the medical community, I decided to discontinue the treatment and rebuild my health on my own. Unfortunately, I incurred almost $20,000 of debt to get to this point and had little to show for it.
The Importance of Good Digestive Health
I firmly believe that the digestive system is the foundation of optimal health. After oxygen and water, food is the most essential requirement for survival. Every one of the trillions of cells that we’re made of depends on the nutrients that are assimilated through the digestive system. Furthermore, our digestive system is our first and most important line of defense against ingested germs and toxins. As the health of the digestive system declines, we become more susceptible to nutrient deficiencies, infections, and food sensitivities, all of which can lead to significant forms of chronic illness.
I eventually discovered that my digestive system was a mess, and by focusing on this, I was able to address my health issues much more effectively than the multitude of doctors and specialists that I had seen in the past. Through the training I pursued after discontinuing my treatment at the fatigue center, I reconfirmed my state of adrenal fatigue and determined that I had 61 different food sensitivities, a chronic infection of H. pylori, and an overgrowth of undesirable intestinal bacteria. Worst of all, and probably as a result of these issues, the immunity of my intestines was completely shut down.
Dedication and Hard Work Changed My Life
I could have very easily accepted hypoglycemia as a lifelong condition and not have done anything more, or I could have viewed myself as a lifelong victim of chronic fatigue syndrome and accepted a permanently compromised quality of life. This is what many people choose to do. Having only one chance to make my life as fulfilling and enjoyable as possible, I was not willing to accept my compromised health as a permanent limitation. I was fully determined, and still am, to achieve the best health and highest level of wellness possible.
Deciding to discontinue the intensive treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome and Lyme disease was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. As a result of my hard work and dedication, I now feel better than ever, have eliminated the majority of my symptoms, and have more energy, physical capacity, and resistance to illness than a large majority of the population. Even though I still have room for improvement, I feel like a new person with a new life and none of this would have been possible without the ambition and determination to find a better way.
What about you? Is there room for improvement in your life? Do you have the determination to pursue it?