I hope you enjoyed yesterday's interview with Shawn Stevenson. Stevenson was instrumental in getting my health back after a severe bout of adrenal fatigue. My wife Elizabeth and I found his podcast, The Model Health Show, as I was pushing the boundaries on my health. My diet had become predictably unhealthy. Not in a dramatic way, and often, that can be the worst way. We can lull ourselves into thinking everything is just fine.
In reality, though, we have become just a little more tired. We’re getting just a little less sleep. Our clothes are fitting just a little too tight.
We don’t worry about the extra hours we are putting in. I have bills to pay and mouths to feed, right? It’s all honorable. How can you succeed without hard work? But it’s easy to run past the boundaries when you don’t know where they are. It’s even easier to stray when you don’t have any set boundaries.
Looking back, I had few.
And it hit me. And hit me hard.
It seemed to happen overnight. I learned later that it was years in the making. One evening, I stayed up way too late watching YouTube videos. One led to another, and somewhere along the way I began watching a few documentaries that got me worried. A few more, and I was panicked. The next morning, Elizabeth woke up next to a different husband. I remember lying in bed, feeling like everything was falling apart. She had to laugh because the night before, everything was just fine and dandy.
Although I knew that our world hadn’t changed overnight, something in my body did. With the stress that I put on my mind, something seemed to be fighentingly differently. Worry took over as I literally felt it in my heart. It was like it was shaking. What was so hard was even attempting to explain this to anyone else. How could everyone else seem so calm? How could they seem so stress free when I couldn’t stop shaking?
That night, I slept less than three hours. That pattern continued for more than sixteen months. I would finally fall asleep around 11pm. But like clockwork, I would wake up in a panic a few hours later. My heart would be racing. My chest would be pounding. I’d look at the clock.
The next night, the same thing would happen. It became so common that when my eyes would open, I would guess the time without even looking at the clock.
“2:01,” I would say to myself. I was spot on. For months, I could predict the time within one minute of the actual time.
It got so bad that I would go downstairs and sit with my head on the dining room table, wrapped up in a combination of depression, worry and anxiety. Elizabeth would walk downstairs, asking what time I woke up. I’d explain that I only slept for an hour.
The burden that this took on our family was immense. Elizabeth essentially had to be a single mom for more than a year, while adding a nervous, adult child to the mix. Every day, I would wake up exhausted, I’d grab a blanket and drop onto the couch. I was tired before the day began. My body battled with each other- the exhaustion would fight against the anxiety. And it left me battered and bruised.
After six months of stubbornness, I finally went to get bloodwork done to see what was going on. It turned out that I had adrenal fatigue. Are you curious what adrenal fatigue is? So was I. Essentially, it is a group of symptoms that occur in people who have been under mental, emotional or physical stress. I will link to some articles to help. Eventually, it makes life too hard to handle. With too much long term stress, our adrenal glands can’t keep up and eventually give out.
Between a combination of a poor diet and lack of boundaries with my work time, it shut me down. I knew I needed to make big changes while on a weekend walk with my son AndrewI. In bright sunshine next to a kid with boundless energy, I could not keep my eyes open. That night, with the help of a nutritionist, I made a major change in my diet- eliminating added sugar- and began to turn things around. It would be another year before I felt like I was past it, and if I’m being totally honest, all of these years later, I believe I still feel the effects of it today.
In tomorrow's episode, I will discuss what I did to recover from my adrenal fatigue, things that you can do if you are experiencing it and- maybe most importantly- what to do so you don’t experience this. If this can help anyone change so that they don’t go through the torture that i did, my work here would be a success.
Join me tomorrow for the final segment of this theme on Entrepreneurial Health!