Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Spoon Theory and Stress

I came across another interesting article called The Spoon Theory. Although the author is writing about Lupus, some of the things she describes are very similar to that of Addison's Disease. She speaks of aches, pains, and pills. Yup. I have all of those.

She uses the analogy of spoons to talk about how she has a limited amount of resources to handle the day. I can relate. I make conscientious choices every day so that I can hopefully hand everything. Y'all know I love to run. But I cannot run over five miles and then expect to work a full day as an engineer. My brain fogs out on me. It is the most annoying phenomena that is rather common with AD. Sometimes Gatorade can bring me out of it, sometimes extra hydrocortisol, and sometimes I just end up going to bed hoping I can wake up alive and feeling better the next day. There have been numerous times that I've gone to bed around 7 pm because I just ran out of spoons. Better luck next day.

Let's make it more Addison's specific. I produce no cortisol (the "stress" hormone). Cortisol helps the body respond to stress, be it physical, emotional, or mental. Although some doctors state that we should only be concerned about physical stress such as a fever or a broken bone, any one who lives with the disease will tell you that extreme emotional or mental stress can leave them just as wiped as physical stress. We must be mindful of all three. We don't want to unexpectedly run out of spoons.

Well I'd like to confess something to you. I managed to combine all three types of stress this past week which made me just so unstable. I'll start out by saying I've been under a great deal of emotional stress. That'll be the foundation, the baseline. The extreme emotional stress cost me a couple of spoons.

So let's add some physical stress. Two weeks ago, I raced a 15k. I took an extra 5 mg of HC before the race and rested the rest of the day. One week ago, I decided to run the same distance, 9.3 miles. Albeit, my friend and I completed the 9.3 miles 15 minutes slower than my race time, but we weren't racing. I figured since it wasn't a race, I would try just taking an extra 2.5 mg of HC. Two hours after I finished the run, I sprinted frequently in my indoor soccer game. I took less cortisol that Saturday, but ran more. I had to surrender a spoon. Oh, and then the foot pain came. For the past week, every time I walk, my right foot hurts. It is such a frustrating feeling. I'm supposed to be training for a half marathon, and now every step I take hurts? I don't want to deal with this set back on top of my emotional stress. The stress of possible injury stressed me out even more! Good bye spoons!

But this story wouldn't be complete without some mental stress. For those that don't know, I am a working engineer. I was trying desperately to wrap up a major project before my next assignment on March 1st. The problems we are trying to debug are even puzzling the senior engineer on the team. I see the spoons slip away from me.

One of my friends called me out on it. He didn't know to use the terms "low cortisol" or "extreme stress." He just called me a crazy female. Oh. I'm normally crazy, but not in the extreme emotional unstable way. That made me realize I tried to accomplish too much this past week. I can live a normal, healthy life. I just have to be aware of my stress level.

This upcoming week will be different. Instead of ignoring the emotional stress, I will acknowledge it. Instead of pretending that I am a super human, I will realize that I probably should not run 9 miles and then sprint for 40 minutes on a possibly injured foot. And as for my work project, I've done all that I can do. I will spend this week tying up loose ends and preparing the hand off to the person that shall complete it for me. I do not have to get stressed out over it.

After all, I wouldn't want y'all to forget that I'm clearly alive.

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