The adrenal glands, as it turns out, control EVERYTHING in your body.
For those that are unfamiliar, Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a condition where extreme strain on the body’s adrenal glands causes complete exhaustion — they just give up!
After a period of extreme, prolonged stress (whatever type of stress it may be — stress comes in many forms), they are unable to produce the adrenal hormones and neurotransmitters necessary to keep your body running properly.
After spending two years in the rigorous Graphic Design program at Arizona State University, my doctor diagnosed me with severe AFS.
This program is set up (purposely) so you feel like if you are ever not working on your studio projects, you should be — or you’ll fail. They tell you this over and over again.
“Oh, you’re spending time with your friends? Well, I guess you don’t take your Graphic Design career seriously.”
“Wait, you only spent 25 hours on that project? It’s shit. Start over.”
“You’re going to brunch with your family on Saturday instead of coming to school for 8am office hours? Your work is going to reflect that. You should be working on your studio projects instead.”
(This is an example of the Leaf Project that took upwards of 200 hours. I stopped counting.)
If that sounds extreme to you — it is.
There are usually 200-400 people that apply to the program, but after the 1st year, only 44 continue. Fortunately, I was one of the 44 that made the cut, but by the time the 2nd year was over, the program had obliterated my health.
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome changed the entire course of my life.
This all started back in 2012. I started experiencing a snowball effect of negative health problems and was forced to take temporary medical leave from ASU for two years. I went from being perfectly healthy, to battling depression, digestive issues, anxiety, weight gain and inability to lose weight, inability to retain information, pre-seizure episodes, unwavering fatigue, and just about every symptom you can think of. (Which seems like an exaggeration, but it’s not.) These are what my adrenal levels looked like and why my health was deteriorating.
The most frustrating part was that it took almost a year to even figure out what the hell was wrong.
As you can probably imagine, all these symptoms turned me into a completely unrecognizable person. So, during that time, everyone kinda thought I was losing it. I kinda thought I was losing it for that matter.
The best news after 9 months of wild goose hunting was that I knew the beast I was dealing with. Then, I was able to begin the journey to recovery which ended up taking about 3 years. I had to completely change my diet and lifestyle because AFS is a condition that, if you don’t take care of it properly, will follow you for the rest of your life. Prescriptions or surgery won’t fix it.
The years that followed were the most difficult and trying years of my life.
The worst part was knowing there was no guarantee that I’d ever get better and the long, slow process was incredibly discouraging. I won’t go into detail about the 2 years of recovery, but feel free to ask questions if you’re curious.
Now that I’m able to look back on it, I’m really glad this happened for 5 reasons:
1. If I had stayed in the Graphic Design program, I probably would have been incredibly unhappy with the decision in the long run.
The stressfulness of the program is what had caused AFS, and I resented it for that reason alone. More than likely, I would have gone back to ASU to finish the last 2 years in the program and sent myself back to square one with health issues…and possibly not have been able to recover the 2nd time.
2. Losing friends as a result of AFS was a rude awakening.
I wasn’t selective about what friends I invested time and energy in. They were mostly fair weather friends that only appreciated what I could do for them (like buying food and alcohol or giving rides). AFS taught me that the energy you have to give to people is limited and you should spend it wisely. It’s better to have 5 really good friends than 50 wishy-washy ones.
3. The third thing I learned is to TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH.
It’s a much more fragile thing than I ever admitted, and that mentality obviously led to some serious consequences. Extreme prolonged stress will wreck your body if you’re not careful. I’m thankful I learned this at 21 years old, not 50.
4. Bad jobs can show you where you don’t want to go.
During the time off, I started bartending to pay my expenses. After a while, it was clear that most people I worked with had no ambition, no goals, and no intention of changing. They were happy with the bar scene because it paid well and they could party all the time. Nothing wrong with this lifestyle, but that’s not my mentality. That’s what finally led me to take a personal assistant job for the CEO of Coplex, a startup studio. It quickly transitioned into working as a Community Manager at the company itself. This job has been one of the best things to ever happen to me. I get to work as a (now) Content Strategist with highly intelligent, innovative people who love to solve real-world problems every day. Not many people get to say that.
5. Work with what you’ve got.
Finally, If it weren’t for AFS, I would have never developed food allergies that prompted me to start writing a cookbook to accommodate. Without AFS, I would have never discovered my hidden talents, cooking and recipe writing. My blog, Sharing Every Bite, would never have been born. Now, cooking and blogging are now some of my biggest joys in life, and I have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome to thank for guiding me into this discovery.
The Moral of the Story
Even if something looks like it might be your darkest moment in life, it could turn into the best thing that has ever happened to you. Don’t give up.