Tag Archives: Addison’s disease

Bread and catnip

Because I have Addison’s disease, AKA chronic adrenal failure, it is necessary that I regulate my stress and choose my stressors judiciously. Socializing, travel, noise, and pain are the things hardest on me, but I can control my exposure to three of the four.

Noise is a publicly traded commodity, and there is little I can do about this stressor in my environment. About all I can really do is try to compensate with other calming activity. In the case of excessively barking dogs, which unfortunately is common where we live, but which fortunately is a violation of a county statute, I sometimes resort to calling the sheriff, whose deputies are very responsive, very good at educating dog owners of their responsibilities, and also good at imposing fines on owners who just don’t get it.

Crying babies are different from barking dogs of course, but their vocalizations are just as stressful. All I can do is remove myself from their midst, if possible. If a migraine kicks in, I have something to take for that.

Hyperacusis, or sensitivity to sound, often accompanies Addison’s. A deficiency of cortisol magnifies every kind of stress. People with Addison’s take hydrocortisone to “replace” our excessively low cortisol, but it really isn’t the same as God’s original issue.  The synthetic replacement can’t adjust its level to accommodate our stress levels as does our original cortisol, which modulates to meet the stressful occasion. But the synthetic keeps us from flatlining–a good thing, because cortisol is a hormone necessary to life.

My dear cat can be joyfully entertaining, and she can also be exasperating and stress me into caving to whatever she wants–which is usually to go outside into Effieland, our enclosed garden. But she can’t go out at night, and if she tortures us then, she needs forced cuddling and distractions. Catnip is also a fairly effective antidote to most of her yowling.

Making bread is a pleasant, happy, calm thing I do every week. Gluten intolerance, like noise sensitivity, is chummy with Addison’s. If Effie yowls while I’m making bread, it’s because she knows she’ll score a free safari ticket to Effieland.

I can’t cure my next-door neighbor’s phobia of leaves on his lawn. His gas leaf blower sounds like an XF-84H (I Googled “loudest plane in the world”). Every time a leaf falls, Doug’s on it.

Life is good; Addison’s sucks, but God has made it an instructive limitation.

 

P1020223My bread ingredients and wonderful tools in array

P1020224For Effie, bug watching has its own rewards–for me, too, because her expressions are so delightful.

P1020226Catnip score!

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Just like everybody else…

When I was diagnosed with Addison’s disease in 2007, my endocrinologist told me he was pretty confident that a simple hydrocortisone regimen would have me up and running, and essentially just like everybody else. He thought this would happen within four hours to six weeks of starting the hydrocortisone.

The regimen turned out to be a little dicier than we thought, but after a few weeks of dose adjusting, I was what endocrinologists like to write off as “managed.” Any disease that can’t be cured, that would kill you without medical mitigation, is considered managed if the intervention renders you able to open a bottle of tablets and pour a glass of water. So by my own cynical definition, I am a high functioning Addisonian. I can do all sorts of things. But I am constantly reminded that I cannot do them just like everybody else.

The other morning, I stood outside visiting with some neighbors and proffering a petition about the locally administered storm water program, which they all eagerly signed. I met a couple of my neighbors for the first time, and it was fun getting to know them. The air was crisp, and even though I was warmly dressed, I grew a little chilled. Once inside, I microwaved a heating blanket, and I couldn’t stay warm without it. By the afternoon I was running a fever. By 5:00, I had to go to bed, but I got up again about 9:00 and ate something, and then slept another 10 hours. I had no symptoms of anything prior to getting a little bit chilled in the morning. But getting chilled often means getting sick, I suppose, just like everybody else.

Going out to eat is close to zero fun, so we don’t do it. Food intolerances, some of them due to metabolic insufficiencies associated with Addison’s, makes the recitation of what to leave off my food and what I cannot have a burden and a bore. It’s a lot easier and a lot more comfortable to go about my minimalist eating routine at home. Just like everybody else.

In addition to Addison’s disease, fibromyalgia brings near-constant pain and fatigue. A 15- minute chat on the phone or a half-hour walk outdoors, or a routine grocery shopping expedition can leave me completely wiped out, hurting all over, my head buzzing as if I’d been up for three days straight, and sometimes too disoriented to find my way home on a familiar route. Just like everybody else.

When we moved to our present location and became established in our new church, I was exuberant about our new church having a Wednesday evening prayer meeting. I hadn’t been able to go out in the evening for a few years without becoming both exhausted and too overstimulated to sleep; but I was certain that my motivation would enable me to attend the Wednesday evening meetings. I tried for several months and gave up. I can’t keep up with regular activities and I can’t keep up with most people. By 8:30, I’m on countdown till I can respectably retire at 9:00. I need 9 to 10 hours of sleep every night after a day of light housework, reading, writing, maybe paying a couple of bills, and taking care of our cat. Just like everybody else.

From time to time, I just need to explain all this to myself again, because I forget, and I become demoralized. I become demoralized by a sense of inadequacy to keep up with what other people do. This is stupid.

To complain is to be ungrateful, and I have so very much to be so very grateful for: a very understanding and supportive husband, a beautiful home, a wonderful church, and excellent friends. But if I ignore my limits and try to do too much, regardless of how enjoyable it is at the time, there are inevitable consequences of ignoring the hazard. My challenge is to identify my limits in the way that peanut-allergic people identify peanuts: due care, or due consequences. I can resent my limits, but that makes for a pretty long-standing futile conflict.

If I had superior-being (“normal”) health and strength, I am quite sure I would do all sorts of different things, but I don’t know what they would be. I can hardly imagine. And when I try to imagine, I find that I am actually extremely happy to be doing what I do and to have the life that I have. And I don’t know whether that is just like everybody else or not.

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