In August when I stopped writing my blog, health was the primary reason. As one of my doctors who is great with imaginative analogies put it, “Your adrenal gland factory neglected to call its workers back from vacation when you stopped taking prednisone. The workers need to come on-line to create natural cortisol and they haven’t done that yet.”
I’d been on prednisone, an artificial cortisol, to reduce inflammation and keep my lungs functioning. By August, all the prednisone was out of my system, but I wasn’t producing enough on my own. I became weaker and weaker until it was hard to climb stairs, breathe, walk around the block, meet friends for coffee, go to church, and write my blog. I felt as weak as when I was with heart failure. None of the strategies I’ve learned for my heart and lungs made a positive difference.
That’s because the problem wasn’t in my heart or lungs–it was in my adrenal gland. When I finally consulted a doctor (I hate going to the doctor!), he gave me a path forward. Now I take small doses of prednisone again, adjusting the amount as it seems necessary, with the goal that as I decrease my dosage, my adrenal gland will kick into gear fully.
Evidently the human body needs a baseline of cortisol every day, and an extra boost for physical activity, stress of any kind, mental engagement, and anxiety. Now that I’m intentionally walking the cortisol balance beam, I have more energy again. The biggest trick is to decide when my lack of energy is a lack of cortisol and when it’s natural fatigue.
At the same time, I’ve begun a bigger experiment. I analyzed what skills, interests, and gifts I need to engage in order to feel fulfilled, useful, and joyful. Then I looked for activities in which I could express these parts of myself and that I could adapt to my health and energy levels as needed.
Here’s what I’m doing: I resuming my blog. I’m providing limited pastoral care during a colleague’s sabbatical and chairing the education ministry of the church where I worship. I’m coordinating a 60th wedding anniversary party for my in-laws who live in Idaho. And, now that I no longer need to be non-partisan as a pastor, I have jumped with both feet into organizing phone banks for a presidential candidate.
I consider the cortisol imbalance a detour and an opportunity to learn more about the human body–a detour and lesson that will continue. And I consider this new path of different activities an exciting excursion into unknown territory. Remember, I love adventures.
Wish me luck as I see how this new adventure goes. I’ll keep you posted.