The good news is we have some answers, the bad news is that there’s bad news. I was not at all shocked to hear that my hormone levels were off as I have had a feeling this was the case for a long time. What I was shocked to hear was how off they were and that my adrenal levels and cortisol are low. I don’t know about you but when I heard that cortisol is low, I assumed that was a good thing meaning “low stress”. This is not the case. To my understanding this means my body is not handling/can’t handle stress because it is not producing enough cortisol. I know that I have been in a constant state of stress since 2020 because of life circumstances that have always been underlining and I believe magnified by the global pandemic we all experienced. Most people in my life would describe me as chill or easy going as I do not typically display signs of stress outwardly. I however would describe myself as a duck. Seemingly calm and collected from the outside view as I’m floating on water, but underneath the surface am paddling water in an ever anxious state. It is difficult for me to turn my brain off and I am always thinking about everything all the time.
I feel at times as if I were bred for stress. With the inability to turn my brain off and to be constantly thinking: “what ifs,” things I should do, my problems, other people’s problems, and my favorite; worst case scenarios are constantly plaguing my mind. I feel the need to always be prepared for the worst and do not like it when I am thrown into a situation that I did not anticipate because I can usually anticipate the worst case scenario. This has been a coping mechanism for most of my life but over the last few years I have seen how this has taken a toll on me and is no longer serving me well. We cannot predict everything, and it is prideful for me to believe that I can. I bring up stress because this is one of the main points Anya went over with me on how my number one priority at this moment needs to be releasing stress.
Being told I need to be less stressed feels like someone asking me to change my entire personality. I have been operating in this state for so long that I don’t even know where to begin. Anya and I discussed how I need to prioritize rest and that if I am feeling guilt or shame while resting…then the rest does not count. Again, this feels like I am being asked to change who I am as a person but the hard reality is, this is not who I am, but it is who I have allowed myself to become. Because my cortisol and adrenal levels are low, this is my body’s way of telling me to take a literal chill pill and that I can not continue on this way.
Low cortisol and adrenal levels are affecting my hormone levels, which will need to be treated with hormone therapy. As you know, I am not a medical professional so I will let the experts be experts and will have Anya explain why this is, and the plan of action moving forward:
“While Casey’s cortisol levels were low, this is actually a coping mechanism by her brain and body,” says Anya Wallace, PA-C. “Initially, in periods of high stress, cortisol levels rise and stay elevated throughout the day. Cortisol is designed to allow the body to adapt to the periods of higher stress, and in turn, higher metabolic demands. However, when it stays chronically elevated, it can wreak havoc on other systems and hormones in the body; so the brain tells the adrenal glands to chill out and stop producing as much. This is the case with Casey.
“The goal in these situations is to decrease all types of stressors (as much as possible) so that the brain and body can calm down and recognize that everything will be okay. We are doing some adrenal adaptogenic herbs, which will allow her body to adapt to stressors better while she focuses on managing her day-to-day stressors. We will also be giving her some progesterone to help supplement her low levels. This will offset some of the higher estrogen symptoms she has.”
So what is my role in all of this? How am I going to eliminate the stressors in my life? How will I identify the top priorities of what needs to change immediately? How long until I feel better? Will this adrenal issue be a forever thing? These thoughts (along with many others) are what have been running through my mind since hearing my ZRT results. The one thing that is relieving these anxious thought patterns is the fact that I do not need to have all the answers right now and that I do not have to do this alone. This is the beauty of the system that Companion Health has created. Not only do I have the support of an amazing provider (shout out to Anya) but I also have a health coach (shout out to Stevie) to walk alongside me and assist me in implementing these very important lifestyle changes that need to happen. Again, I have been met with empathy and have been affirmed in my concerns. The validation that all of my symptoms are real, that they have a source, and that I am not “crazy” has been weight lifting.
This has also further opened my eyes to the flaws in our healthcare system because all my basic labs at my initial assessment did not raise any red flags, and if I were anywhere else I would have been dismissed and told that there is nothing wrong when there actually IS something wrong. It scares me to think about where I would be in six months to a year if we were not addressing these things now, and I am beyond grateful that is not a worst case scenario I have to prepare myself for.
I will leave you with the following mantras that I am trying to replace my anxious thoughts with in an effort to release stress:
“We are meant to thrive, not just survive.”
“Stress is not a badge of honor.”
“You need to take care of yourself before you take care of others.”
“You do not have to earn rest.”
Feelings this week: Stressed, overwhelmed, and relieved to have answers.
Favorite moment from experience: being given permission to rest.
Something I am currently loving: clients at Companion Health reaching out and encouraging me :)
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