I Didn’t Think It Would Ever Happen To ME!

My story goes like this…

It all started in 2009. I was celebrating fifteen years in practice as a Chiropractor, but the truth is I wasn’t happy in my career. I wasn’t fulfilled.

So in 2009 I went back to school—Naturopathic school.

It was a tough decision. I moved from Canada to Chicago, leaving my husband, my dogs, and my patients behind. They all gave me their full support, and I needed it!

I took on the biggest course load they would allow.

I loaded my schedule full of courses. I was in class thirty hours a week—morning, afternoon, and evening classes.

Plus study time…

Plus writing term papers…

Plus giving presentations…

Plus preparing for exams.

Plus traveling back and forth to Canada to treat my patients.

I was in class all week…then fly out Friday night to Ottawa…work all day Saturday treating my patients… and again on Sunday…then straight back to the airport…to be back in Chicago Sunday night…for Monday morning classes.

It was an insane schedule! And a lot of pressure to succeed. Thinking back on it, I don’t even know how I did it all!

I was the definition of “burning the candle at both ends.”

It was one of the most stressful times of my life.

Lots of late nights…lots of tossing and turning…lots of knots in my stomach…lots of coffee to make it through my day.

About six months in was when the fatigue really hit me.

In the beginning I just shrugged it off because I knew the fatigue was from stress.

Between semesters I went to my family doctor. She ran blood work.

She said my thyroid was low and followed that up with, “We’ll just watch it. I’m sure it’s nothing.”

I said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa—wait a second. What do you mean my thyroid is low? How low is low?”

My TSH was 7.15. Ideal is under 2.0, so I knew this was bad.

The next thing she said was, “We don’t usually do anything about this until your numbers are into the double digits.”

And I thought, “What? That makes NO sense! You’re going to WAIT until I get worse before you do something?”

I asked for more testing—to find the cause.

Actually, it was more like a debate, because that concept—find the cause—seemed foreign to my doctor.

(I honestly don’t mean to doctor bash. They do their best, but their hands are tied by the system. So it can be really frustrating, even for me, to deal with doctors.)

From a functional medicine standpoint, the two most common reasons for low thyroid are

  1. high cortisol levels from stress; and
  2. the autoimmune thyroid condition Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

I said, “Let’s rule out Hashimoto’s. I want antibody testing—thyroperoxidase antibodies and thyroglobulin antibodies. And a vitamin D test, too.”

My doctor said, “No. It’s not necessary.”

After debating with her farther, she finally gave in and ran the tests.

(Honestly, I think she just gave in to shut me up!)

The test showed I didn’t have Hashimoto’s, so that left me in the cortisol and stress scenario as the cause of my low thyroid.

I thought, “All right. I’ll take better care of myself.” I started a vitamin and herb regime.

Then I headed back to the grind of school.

And the stress kept building.

I told myself, “Carri Ann, this is short-term pain for long-term gain. You just have to suck it up! Suck it up so that you can get that diploma and practice natural medicine. This is your dream! Just keep your eye on the prize!”

So that’s what I did.

I worked extra hard…

…and paid my dues…

Until graduation day!

By the time that day came, my batteries were nearly dead.

energyI was both physically and mentally exhausted!

Next came Board Exams.

More studying…

More stress…

More sleepless nights…

And more pressure than ever!

Afterwards I basically slept for three months – ten hours at night plus two-hour naps every day. I thought, “I just need to recharge my batteries. Sleep will fix me.”

Except more sleep didn’t help my fatigue.

I started taking more supplements…more herbs…more everything. It only helped a little.

Once my ND license arrived, I could finally test myself.

I started applying Functional Medicine to myself.

I did a saliva test for cortisol. These are my cortisol results:


My saliva cortisol test results

My cortisol was LOW all day long I was in Stage 3 Adrenal Exhaustion!

No wonder I had so much fatigue!

I completely changed my vitamins and herbs. I also started a gluten-free diet.

After seven or eight weeks, my energy was a little better, but I still had a long way to go.

So the next thing I did was a stool test.

Bingo! I found a parasite! Cryptosporidium parvum, a very common parasite. I probably got it from my dogs. They lick everything, including me. I treated the parasite with herbs.

My energy got a little better again, but I still had a ways to go.

Besides the fatigue, I was also struggling with my brain. I think going back to school fried my brain! Seriously! Stress—or cortisol—actually does kill off brain cells.

I had foggy brain, poor memory, lack of concentration, lack of motivation, lack of drive, and I was distracted easily.

I relied on sticky notes and lists, otherwise I would forget.

I’d ask my husband a question and forget his answer, so I’d ask him again.

He’d get upset and thought I wasn’t listening to him.

The reality was my brain just wasn’t working! I felt like I had adult ADD—Attention Deficit Disorder. I’d start one little project, and I’d get distracted and go to something else, and then I’d get distracted again and go on to another thing. And nothing was actually getting done!

I was worried.

As a doctor I really rely on my critical thinking skills, especially with Functional Medicine.

I thought to myself “Would I ever be normal again?”

The last piece of my fatigue puzzle was fixing my brain.

I tested and determined the right combination of amino acids to balance my serotonin and dopamine at optimal levels.

It was a lot of capsules to swallow, and the testing was rigorous.

But once I found the right combination for me…

It was like a light bulb turned on inside my brain!

My brain was clear…

And I felt fully present again…

And my fatigue was GONE!

fullI finally felt like my old self!

Being on those amino acid supplements to keep my brain in balance—that was the biggest part of my fatigue puzzle.

My advice for you is…

Don’t give up!

You should have hope.

There IS a reason why you have your symptoms.

My other advice is…

Be patient.

It takes time to figure fatigue out.

For most patients there are multiple reasons why their health problem is there.

Like for me—the low cortisol, the gluten sensitivity, the parasite infection, the brain imbalance. That took a lot of time to figure out, let alone fix.

Sometimes it really can be a needle in a haystack.

But that needle IS there, waiting to be found.

Keep digging for it – you will eventually find it!

And then feel normal again, and get your health back, and get your life back!

You’ve got to find the cause, and then fix the cause, so that you can feel normal again.

Functional Medicine can help with many different health problems.

Find a Functional Medicine doctor to work with. They will help find the needle in your haystack.

Thank you for reading my story. I hope it helps you or someone you love.

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