It’s been a while! I’ve been out of commission on many days over the past 4 months, and haven’t been writing much. I’ll tell you why, as I think it’s a good lesson for all of us about the incredible importance of blood testing.
In a post a while back, I told you that I thought all of my health maladies (weird neurological stuff, fatigue, and serious depression) were due to stress. Just plain old stress of having just had surgery, moving around the country constantly, changing career paths, family, etc. I thought it would all go away if I just chilled out.
Weird Stuff Still Happening
Well, months have passed since then, and it hasn’t just gone away. In fact, I still have occasional tingling and numbness in my hands and feet, my muscles twitch like crazy, I have these weird flashes of light in my eyes, I’m tired as heck some days, and the depression. Oh, the depression. Lots of crying around here…
It all started two weeks after my surgery when I was tingling all over my body. I’d feel weird surges of electricity in my hands, face, legs, feet, butt, and arms. Sometimes it felt like somebody was tickling me and then it would just stop (or not). Sometimes my leg would go numb.
I went to a neurologist, who told me he’d never seen anything like it and that I should get my B12 tested “because people in Boulder often take too much B12.” He also said he’d give me some anti-depressants if I wanted them. I went to a GP who told me, after an extensive physical exam and an MRI of my brain, that he had no idea what was wrong. But I could have some anti-depressants if I wanted them. I went to the ER thinking I was having a blood clot (because my legs were feeling so weird). They told me that it was not a blood clot, but they had no idea what was going on. They took some blood and checked my white and red blood cells and sent me on my way with no answers.
I went to my naturopath, who’s helped me so much in the past. He took a little blood, testing my thyroid and a few other markers, said he didn’t see anything and that it was probably the anesthetic making its way out of my body.
The tingling didn’t stop.
Then the muscle twitching started. My hair started falling out. Then the ocular migraines and weird flashes in my eyes. Then a few days a week I was so tired all I wanted to do was sleep. I was dizzy and confused and felt a little crazy. Then I became so overwhelmed that I was having panic attacks and anxiety/depression almost every day. It was the worst.
Finally, just a couple weeks ago, I went back to my naturopath in desperation. “Please test me for everything,” I begged. “And in the meantime, please give me something so I feel less anxious about all of this.” He gave me some B vitamins, SAM-e, 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, and I felt a little better within a couple days. I was still having symptoms almost every day, but I could handle them a bit better some days without so much worry. Other days not so much.
Then we got my test results back.
All along I had a feeling it was just something simple we were missing. Something big but simple. Well, it turns out that I’m extremely anemic – the kind that comes from iron and ferritin deficiency. Incidentally, the symptoms of anemia are:
- tingling in the hands and feet
- muscle twitching
- brain fog and confusion
- feeling light-headed
- hair loss
- dizziness, among other things
I also have no detectable testosterone in my blood. And my thyroid markers are off (functionally high TSH, low reverse T3).
So… that would explain all of the “unexplainable” symptoms I’ve been having.
Why Is This Happening to Me?
After all, I take such care with my diet, I exercise regularly, I get enough sun and relaxation time, and my life is generally really good. Why is this happening?
I eat a lot of meat, so you’d think that my iron levels would be high. However, you only get nutrients out of your food if you’re absorbing them, and it’s possible my HCl and enzyme levels are insufficient. It’s also common to become anemic after major surgery (I had shoulder surgery). I also looked back at my records and found that I’ve been in the normal low range of ferritin and iron for a while, and that’s probably partly because my periods are rather heavy.
The testosterone thing?
I’ve been reading up on it, and it turns out that iron deficiency is often found with low testosterone, so I don’t know which one affected which, but it’s possible that as my iron goes up, my testosterone will rise, too. Also, thyroid levels can affect testosterone, so that might be throwing things off, too.
I don’t think it matters how diligent you are about your diet and exercise: everyone is susceptible to thyroid weirdness if they’re stressed out. And stress has been my middle name these last few years. Plus, I think at times I’ve exercised TOO much, and not eaten enough because, well, I’m a climber and we can sometimes get obsessive about our weight when we have big goals.
Is all of this being caused by something bigger and deeper? Well, my naturopath is testing me for a mold intolerance (he swabbed my sinuses and took some indicative blood tests) and we’re still waiting on the results of those. Could be that I have something that’s wreaking havoc on my liver and immune system.
I’m going to see him again in 2 weeks, and I’ll be put on a grand plan. For now, I’m taking lots of iron in many forms, and things are already improving after 5 days. Fingers crossed they keep getting better and better.
I started seeing an Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) therapist named Teri Mattingly, and she has single handedly changed my life. EFT is also called “tapping”, and basically you tap on certain acupressure sites on your body while you acknowledge (out loud) the stress/pain/anxiety you’re feeling, and then systematically let it go by accepting, forgiving and gaining a deeper understanding of the situation.
Sometimes just acknowledging what’s going on and saying it out loud can take the charge away from a situation. I haven’t had a panic attack since our first session and that is completely because of the tools I gained from her. I highly recommend her, and she works exclusively over the phone, so you can see her from anywhere.
Moving On From Here (And What You Can Take From This)
So. That was a lot. It feels a little embarrassing telling you all of this, since I’m a health professional and I should have my shit together, right?! Well, that’s just not the way it works. We’re all human and we all deal with our health in one way or another I guess.
If anything, this is teaching me even more about the importance of blood testing right away when things go wrong and being more adamant with doctors about running them. If that first GP, the ER doc, the neurologist, or my naturopath had just run a big blood panel on me – the kind that they do for any annual exam – they would’ve found this, and I wouldn’t have suffered for the past 4 months.
Also, from this I’ve learned better how to manage my stress levels, and to be nicer to myself (in the form of taking naps when I need them, lowering my expectations for myself, and trusting that this, too, shall pass).
I hope that this helps you in some way: that’s really why I wrote it all out. I want you to know that if you’re having weird health issues and nobody can tell you why, keep pressing. Don’t just take the anti-depressants and call it good (they seem to be really attached to their anti-depressants in the medical world). Keep pressing until you find answers. Find a doc who will actually do a thorough review of you and your blood.
If you have a similar story, I’d love to hear about it! And if you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading this whole thing!