The Hardest “Workout” I’ve Ever Done

Darkness.

Silence.

Breath.

This is all I experience.

Until slowly my mind wanders.

I see …

a gathering of angels above my head.

a grocery list forming itself in my mind. Milk, apples, spinach…

a memory of our family sailing, when dad was alive and we were smiling, the sun on our faces, the wind blowing our hair and lifting the sails pushing us forward.

Song lyrics begin repeating themselves.

“Oh baby, why don’t you just meet me in the middle?
I’m losing my mind just a little
So why don’t you just meet me in the middle?
In the middle
Baby, why don’t you just meet me in the middle?
I’m losing my mind just a little
So why don’t you just meet me in the middle?
In the middle, oh”

My brain is in overdrive.
It flies from one thing to another.
All while my body lays silent and still, the only sound is my breath.

Through the “noise” I hear a voice softly calling my name.

“Brook slowly wiggle your toes, move your fingers and when you’re ready roll over to your right side and lift yourself up into a seated position.”

 

 

This is my new “workout”.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it.

How could just sitting still for over an hour be one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done?

Because I NEVER sit still.

In fact, I’m on vacation right now writing this because I just can’t “be”. I’m always moving, going, doing.

Especially when it comes to my workouts.

I’m the one that would bike, swim, run, lift, do a gazillion burpees, kickbox, never stopping always moving. I’ve tried to do yoga, but it was never the relaxation kind of yoga. It was always a “booty burner” or “core strength”.

For years, I lived the mantra “Work Hard. Play Harder.”

Until now.

Now my body is tired.

It’s rebelling against all the moving, going, doing.

I was working out 5 days a week, hour-long workouts consisting of kickboxing, and hard-core strength sessions, that in the past would have made me feel invincible, powerful, energetic. But within the past six months, they were making me feel EXHAUSTED.

This is adrenal fatigue.

As defined…
The adrenal fatigue diagnosis claim this is a mild form of adrenal insufficiency caused by chronic stress. The unproven theory behind adrenal fatigue is that your adrenal glands are unable to keep pace with the demands of perpetual fight-or-flight arousal. As a result, they can’t produce quite enough of the hormones you need to feel good. Existing blood tests, according to this theory, aren’t sensitive enough to detect such a small decline in adrenal function — but your body is.

This is how adrenal fatigue manifests itself in my life:

My body no matter where it is, just decides it is done.

I’ve fallen asleep waiting at the dentist, I’ve dozed off at my desk, and then ironically, I’m wide awake and can’t sleep at bedtime.

I can’t lose weight no matter what I do, I exercise, eat right and there’s no change. In fact, when I was over exercising I was gaining weight and my body was inflamed.

I had swollen fingers and ankles resulting in joint pain.

My anxiety and depression quickly escalated.

Low to little sex drive.

Horrible brain fog where I would forget common words or names for lengthy periods of time.

These are just a few symptoms and issues.

 

How did I get adrenal fatigue?

Well, I’m over 90 percent sure it was due to an overload of stress from my former job. I was living in a constantly agitated state and it was perpetuated by hormonal imbalances due to perimenopause.

 

So, what am I doing to fix it?

The hardest workout of my life – RESTORATIVE YOGA.

One of the main ways to heal your adrenals, without drugs, is to RELAX or as I like to say, “calm the fuck down.” This isn’t easy for a Type A personality. Relaxing for me is the equivalent of giving in or giving up. It took two doctors and two other fitness professionals to finally convince me that I needed to slow down. Not just slow down, but in some cases, STOP.

 

 

I needed to STOP working out so hard.

I needed to START relaxing and healing.

So, with the help of Marcie at Serenity Yoga and Pilates I started Restorative Yoga. It was hard and still is hard. My body has learned over the past three months that when it’s dark, and there is silence it can relax. My brain, on the other hand, is having a difficult time learning.

As with any “workout”, it takes time to see results.

Things I have seen are:

Less anxiety.

Faster relaxation.

Sleeping better.

Less pain.

More energy.

Some inches are gone.

Happier.

The best part is instead of dreading the whole idea of slowing down. I’m looking for it, all day and every day. I’m not so wired and controlling. I’m able to see the benefits of just going with the flow.

This concept is overflowing into my family life as well. I’m constantly teaching the kids relaxation techniques, how to breathe and to retreat if they need silence.

I’ll be continuing restorative yoga even after I’ve “healed”.  I’ve learned after many years, that a slower workout practice is beneficial and more sustainable.

 

Yup, I’m under there somewhere.

 

If you are in the Iowa City area and want to try Restorative Yoga Healing, check out Serenity Yoga and Pilates Facebook or Website for classes and information.

A Lifetime of Recovery

At the end of April, I was lucky enough to speak during the Iowa City NEDA Walk. For those of you who don’t know I have suffered from anorexia since I was around 10 years old. At one point during my 20’s I weighed 90 pounds. This a bit of my story and how it’s progressed through the years.

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder there is help. Visit the NEDA website for resources and a helpline.

Here’s my story.

I remember the day I started eating again. I was in the Bennigans at the mall with my mom, she was here visiting I can’t remember why. Most-likely because she was worried about me, but she’d never tell that. We started talking, and I don’t even remember what we were talking about, and suddenly my plate was empty. I didn’t even realize until after.

It’s 20-some odd years later and I’m still in a game of tug and war.

As some of you know recovery is a day to day struggle.

People look at you and think you’re fine because you are eating and moving through life like everything is fine, but there are days when the brain takes over and it’s not fine.

Like when the kids are being unruly, or a triggering random scroll on Instagram or just standing in my kitchen wondering what’s for dinner.

On those days, I stand in front of the pantry blankly staring at the multitude of cereal boxes, cans of soup, and loaves of bread, after a while they just turn into a blurry rainbow of anxiety.

I take a deep breath quietly close the pantry and move to the fridge, there must be something there.

Photo by Janelle Reule Photography

The sharp colors and cool breeze greeted me. Why hello there spinach, apples, and all the colorful bounty.

Perhaps an apple would be good. Crisp, cold and sweet a tingle on the tongue. “Its number is low,” says my brain. Quickly the colors fade, the only thing that matters to the brain is the number. My brain can be my nemesis, it ignores all colors. Those apples could be neon orange with glitter and twinkle lights and still my brain would only see that dang number.

Here’s the deal, sometimes, when anxiety is high my brain sees in numbers. The numbers represent so many things, but the most important thing according to the brain is that all numbers need to be low, or it freaks out.

There are times when my brain forgets about numbers.

In those moments, we create beautiful words together.

We enjoy playing LEGOs with the boys, creating imaginary places where dragons roam and knights protect the realm.

We work together with the body when walking the dog or tackling a big project.

It’s magical.

However, when food enters the picture my brain rebels. It’s mean and spiteful. It says things I would never say to another person. It’s cruel. It shames me with the numbers. Drowning out color and turning everything to black once again.

Which stinks because I hate numbers. I’m terrible at math. Numbers make no sense to me and they give me tons of anxiety.

I’m a creative and I miss seeing the world in color. I want to see that neon orange glitter twinkle light apple.

You know who else loves color? My body. It grumbles and fights the brain every single time. Sometimes it wins, and sometimes it loses, but the cool thing about the body is it never, ever gives up. No matter how strong the brain is, my body is stronger. It’s resilient and it fights with every muscle, to nourish itself.

My body has been through so much, it has been through babies, through wounds self-inflicted and accidental, it was strong enough to swim, bike and run across a finish line five times. It has withstood storm after storm. And still, it keeps getting punished by the brain.

As I’ve gotten older and wiser the brain hasn’t been able to wound as deeply, but it still tries. I’m more knowledgeable now that I know how to beat it at its own game. Education is power. I’ll let you in on a secret, those numbers it keeps spewing those are BS. That one number it keeps repeating back to you over and over, the one you are trying desperately to force the body to be, that number it’s BS too.

Photo by Janelle Reule Photography

But it’s also not about the number and it’s not about the food. It’s about you!

It’s about who you are.

Are you just the brain?

No

Are you just the body?

No.

You are a colorful rainbow, combined with both the brain and the body. Without one the other wouldn’t flourish. They need each other. They must work together to be you, and only YOU can make that happen. See you can tell the brain to go hell, and you can help the body fight. You are strong, do not fall prey to the brain’s cunning attempts to make you “less than” for you are more than you really know.

YOU body and brain came here together to hear words of truth, to find comfort, joy, hope and know you are not alone.

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Now open your eyes and look at the color. Look at the green grass and blue sky, look at the color inside you.

You’re more than just a number, you’re a rainbow.

This is Menopause

Crinkle. Crinkle.

The white paper under my butt crunches as I try to get comfortable. My palms are sweaty, and the butterflies in my stomach are fluttering so fiercely they may lift me off this crinkly paper and fly me away. Today is the day. The day I get answers. The day all the pieces will finally come together … I hope.

It’s been four years. Four fucking long ass years to get to this point.

I remember the day of the shift. I was on a spin bike. Pedaling like my life depended on it. The music on my headphones so loud the bass beat was coming out of my nose. Nothing could drown out my aggravation, anger, hostility and overall discontentment. Those happy endorphins that had fueled me for years had run dry. They weren’t coming. Where the fuck were they. I pedaled harder still nothing. WTF!!

One text to mother and the answers were starting to become clear. “Oh, yes,” she said. “The anger, that’s how it started with me.”

The “it” to which she referred is … Menopause.

Ugh. Seriously, I’m too young for that. Well, genetics say maybe not. My mom went through it when she was younger, so … there is a chance I might too.

Time to call the doctor.

An appointment was made at the Menopause Clinic.

At this point, I was hopeful for answers and something to alleviate my moods swings. After speaking with a nurse practitioner {who was male} and then listening as he translated everything I said to the doctor. They determined my dramatic mood swings MUST be a bi-product of my mental health. It couldn’t possibly be menopause because I’m too young. I walked in hopeful and left completely and utterly defeated.

There was no hormone testing.

There was no physical exam.

There was no listening to the patient.

It was bullshit.

I had to wait a month for that fucking appointment. What I hoped would give me answers completely demoralized me.

Devastated and mentally losing it, I finally resigned myself to the fact that I would just take anti-depressants.

I’ll admit they helped the mood swings but did ABSOLUTELY nothing for my physical well-being. In fact, they made it worse.

 

 

My fatigue increased along with my apathy. I didn’t care about anything. Sure, I was perfectly agreeable and wasn’t so anxiety-ridden, but a bomb could have gone off next to me and I wouldn’t have cared. To top it off my fatigue was so bad I would fall asleep every time I sat down. Once I even caught myself snoring in the waiting room of the kid’s dentist.

I started researching everything about hormones.

Eventually, I was led down the path of Applied Kinesiology. Basically, it’s a way to test for sensitivities, hormone issues, and other health ailments. The practitioner has you lay down and raise your arm in the air. Then she put vials of various bacteria, foods, etc. near you and tests your arm strength. It’s interesting, and it proved what I thought was wrong. Hormones and food sensitivity. So, I cut certain foods from my diet. No gluten, no dairy, no nightshades, nothing fermented, and I took tons of supplements.

After a few months, I felt better, but… still, something wasn’t right.

Of course, during this time, from the moment on the spin bike until the moment I started taking supplements I had gained over 40 pounds. This is unusual for someone like me who has stayed at 135 for YEARS prior. Also, during that time I was cutting out foods, I was working out FIVE days a week. It was completely ridiculous.

So, more research.

That’s what led me here to this office, where the white paper was crinkling with every shift of my 170-pound body. It was Dr. Gray who took an aggressive approach. She tested ALL my hormones, my cortisol, my thyroid…not just the TSH, but the T3 and T4 too. Everything the University doctors refused to do, she did.

Now, I’m here to get my results.

After exchanging pleasantries, we get down to business. She goes through my results hormone by hormone, charting them on a bell curve. The result, a bunch of hormones that are in the toilet. My progesterone is at a .3, and the only reason it was that high was probably because of my IUD.

Seriously?!!??

So, basically, it’s official. I’m in menopause.

45 years old and in menopause.

Now, what do we do about it?

I’m on a BHRT regime which consists of BioTe Hormone Pellets, and an oral Progesterone. Remember they may not work for everyone. But here’s my experience … so far.

The pellets, that are the size of a piece of rice {maybe even smaller} are inserted under the skin above the butt cheek near your hip. It’s a super tiny incision and can be done in the doctor’s office. After my first insertion, I felt FABULOUS! Literally, like the energizer bunny. I was so motived, I was excited to hit the gym again, I didn’t fall asleep every time I sat down. My mood swings subsided, and my sex drive was amazing.

When it came to my second insertion, things were quite different. My energy level didn’t increase or spike, my sex drive went back to what it was before the insertion, and I’ve been gaining weight. So, the jury is still out.

I do know I wasn’t taking DIM on a regular basis which could account for the weight gain. DIM is a supplement that can take the bad estrogen and turn it into good estrogen so to speak. Since I wasn’t taking it, the extra testosterone was converting into bad estrogen and possibly creating estrogen dominance. So, I’m taking that again on a regular basis, and we will see what happens.

Overall, I just need to wait and see. I’ll give it a year and go from there.

It took me four years to get here, and here’s what I learned.

1. Advocate for your health. If you feel “off” or “not yourself” find someone who believes you.

2. Never let a doctor talk you out of blood tests or other testing you feel you may need. It’s your body and you have a right to ask for treatments, referrals, and tests.

3. Speak up in the doctor’s office, and to your friends. Silence is isolating.

4. Vulnerability wins. The other day I posted a photo of me, at the gym in my new 170-pound body. I’ve been embarrassed talking about my experience, but 2018 is the year of Peace and I needed to make peace with my weight and this process. What I found was a community of women who, just like me, have been suffering in silence. Some citing horrible menopausal side effects like hair loss, insomnia, night sweats, mood swings, weight gain. I quickly realized I’m not alone. There are other women out there looking for someone to say “yes there is something wrong. You shouldn’t be feeling this way.”

5. Lastly, I’m NOT old. I get extremely angry at the medical community for ignoring these types of symptoms and just chalking it all up to old age. First, I’m not old and secondly even if I was I have the right to a decent quality of life.

So, do all of you.

If you have questions or just want to share your menopause experiences feel free to do so in the comments.

You are not alone.