31, tired, broken and numb

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Published: 17th August 2015
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I felt like I had been run over by a bus!

I woke up to my alarm, hit snooze 5 times before I could even start to move my limbs, and all the time I became more and more aware of the pain in my shoulders, neck and hips.

I used to stretch when I woke up and felt great! One morning, I stretched, heard a pop, and felt an excruciating pain shoot down one side of my neck all the way into the shoulder blade. It hurt so badly, my eyes teared up, and I had to support my head with my hand to get up out of bed.

I felt exhausted and I hadn't even started the day.

I still had a 10-12 hour day of work ahead of me at a job I dreaded. It was like the weight of it all was crushing my ribs and I couldn't move or even breathe without feeling a stabbing pain in my neck, shoulders and back.

At age 31, I felt like I was falling apart and I despaired at my future.

What was wrong with me? Was I working myself into the ground? But, it wasn't just the job.

There's always more: Relationships; crazy housemates; dysfunctional friendships; family members who judge and expect you to screw up everything you touch because that's who they think you are; credit card bills; loan payments; putting on weight; all the arguments and stupid things you've ever done on constant replay in your head.

Sound familiar?

When I turned 30, I was madly in love. I was starting a new job as a Project Manager in a totally brand new field and I was fit. I went ice-skating several times a week, ate well, and although I was tired most of the time, I still felt motivated and happy.

One year later, I fell apart.

I went through a long, drawn out break up. No one wanted to deal with my boss so I was the buffer for internal staff as well as external collaborators. And due to the long hours, I had stopped cooking. I was eating take out, drinking most nights and I was too tired at the end of each day to exercise. I barely saw my family and avoided seeing them because I was always in so much pain, which made them worry.

I had lost almost all the movement in my neck and I couldn't sleep at night. Every day, I would wake up in pain and more tired than when I went to sleep. I dreaded going to bed because I knew I would have to wake up.

Most afternoons, my face went numb and I felt like I was walking in a sumo suit made of lead. It was all so gradual I barely noticed. I had completely forgotten what it was to feel good, to feel alive and energised. I wanted to curl up in my bed and sleep until I had slept enough, but there was no enough.

It was in a passing conversation with a friend that I said, "you know how your face goes numb when you're tired?" She looked straight at me and said, "No. That is NOT normal. You really should see someone about that." I laughed it off and thought she was just being sarcastic. Now I know better.

So, I'm a pretty smart cookie. I was working as a Project Manager in a field in which I had no background. I have always managed to land jobs that others can't even get a shoe in. But when it came to my own health, I had missed something. And I had been missing it for more than half of my life.

"It is not normal to feel exhausted all the time."

When I sat down and thought about the last time I had felt good. I mean really good - energised and eager to get up in the morning and look at adventure in the face - my early teens was the last time. I had been living in a fog for more than half my life. I thought it was the normal progression of aging. I thought everyone else felt like this and they were coping fine. Suck it up, Sam!

I felt like a complete failure.

I lived in this state for 3 more years before deciding I had had enough. I gave notice to my boss with no idea of where I was going. I had a year to figure it out. Yes, you read that correctly. I gave my boss a year's notice so the right person could be found to manage the team. Of course, they waited until my last month to even think about advertising, but that was out of my control. I could only control my life.

I knew I wanted to work in a job that was flexible and allowed me to work predominantly from home. When I mentioned this decision to my physio during one of my visits, she asked me to meet with her and her husband, who is also her business partner. After a 20 minute catch up, they offered me a job managing their 2 clinics. A job landed in my lap at the perfect time and it offered me more of the lifestyle I sought.

I felt a little optimistic again. I offered to work both jobs part time for two months so one of my successors would have a decent handover. They had split my job into two full time positions. After two weeks, I realised I physically and emotionally could not do it. I stayed to the end of the first month and left my old job.

The pain and exhaustion finally overcame me and I spent the following two months constantly sick, and I mean scarcely able to breathe from coughing sick.

Fortunately, my new job allowed me the flexibility to work from home until I recovered. During this period, I started researching. I can't remember what I searched for, but I searched a lot. I read about food, supplements, exercise programs, how to gain more energy. I was so hungry for information I read late into the night - articles, books, websites, stories about other people.

I had no idea what half of the recommended foods and supplements were, so I did more research and one source was never enough. I had to read similar information in several different sources before I would even start trusting the efficacy of the food. I bought books, I subscribed to newsletters, I searched through article after article.

A spark ignited.

The change started slowly but I started to come back to life.

Little by little as I made one change after another, I felt that spark grow. It flickered and dwindled at times, but it doggedly stayed alight and month after month it got brighter and brighter.

One day, after I made another simple change, I woke up feeling like a different person. I changed from my feather pillow to a millet one. I would never have guessed that this one thing would have such an impact for me. I felt alert and refreshed. It was like a revelation.

I was still tired throughout the day but my face didn't go numb as often in the afternoon. Exercising was still hard. I huffed like a dragon when I skated. I watched the other skaters and couldn't fathom why they were so much fitter than me.

It had been a couple of years since my last blood work, so I went to a local GP and asked for some tests. They were revealing.

My iron count had almost flat-lined, my vitamin D level was dangerously low and that was just for starters. The GP wrote me a prescription for iron tablets, outlined the list of side effects, told me to get some sun, and sent me on my way.

"These pills will make you feel worse than you feel now, but it's all I can offer you." That's it?

There had to be another way!

It just happened that I found a doctor who is also a naturopath and nutritionist. To make a long story short, this doctor tested me for a huge array of things. My hormone levels were crazy high, I had had glandular fever, I was low on Vit D, B12, iron on top of a range of other things. She provided me with perspective and added to my education.

Since then, I have continued my own research, read articles, tried many natural supplements and helped friends when they needed information. I have also made head way in my emotional and mental health. I barely experience stress anymore. I wake up feeling refreshed. I have energy to exercise, skate, work and see my family and friends.

At age 31, if I had had an inkling of how good life would be in the future, I would have saved myself years of pain, frustration, torment and feelings of hopelessness.

All of this led me to nutritional medicine. I started studying, this year, but it will be a long slog before I'm qualified to treat or teach. I just couldn't wait the 6 years it would take me to finish the degree part time, so I started writing. Even if my articles help just one person feel less alone in the world, less hopeless, then it's worth it.

I will be writing articles about each of the discoveries I have made along the way and I hope they will be helpful to you or someone you know and love.

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