All in My Mind? 4 Steps to Advocating For Your Own Health

"Well, perhaps you should see a counselor as this is obviously not a physical issue."

I sat and stared at the doctor in disbelief. I was a young wife and mother and had been suffering debilitating fatigue for months. At first, I had been told it was postpartum depression. I doubted this diagnosis, but I thought the doctor must know best – right? The overwhelming exhaustion and feeling of death that hovered over me did not go away, and I repeatedly went back to the doctor for answers. I knew something was seriously wrong – why could not I get a doctor to believe me?

I considered myself a normal, upbeat, high-energy person. My husband and I were working hard to get his chiropractic practice off the ground. We loved each other and had two beautiful daughters. My life was good, my family was well-adjusted, and I thought I was the last person to be pushed away or deducted by a physician, but here I was at a dead-end. I felt betrayed and disillusioned by the medical profession. Was not it their job to figure this out and not just tell me it was all in my mind?

My experience is much more common than I ever could have guessed. Millions of patients walk out of their doctor's office each year feeling frustrated, hopeless, and ready to give up. It is not that doctors have become uncaring; it is that they are taught to rely so heavily on tests and diagnostic tools that they can miss something if it is not identified by their normal procedures. If your issue does not fit in that box, then it may be difficult to find answers.

In my case, I was suffering from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. The adrenal glands sit atop each of our kidney, like a small hat, and they control the release of adrenalin and other vital hormones which affect our energy level and certain other functions of the body, such as blood pressure. The problem with this syndrome is that there is not a routine test that a doctor can give to provide a definitive diagnosis. The only standard testing they have is a test to determine if the adrenal glands are functioning or not – but it does not determine if the glands have been significantly decreased and are at low function. Adrenal fat falls into a broad category of nonspecific symptoms that doctors have a hard time understanding, and if they can not offer a specific diagnosis, many doctors will assume that the patient is seeking attention or is a hypochondriac.

It is very common for patients with Adrenal Fatigue, Chronic Fatigue, or Fibromyalgia to be told that their symptoms of fatigue and pain are all in their mind. I knew that was not the case for me, but how do you convince a doctor? I had never had to be an advocate for my own health care, but I also knew I was not crazy. I felt terrible and could barely function at home – how could that possibly be fake?

I took my anger and frustration and became committed to finding answers – whatever it took. In the process, I learned a great deal about being an effective and positive advocate for my own health and well-being. You can do the same. There is nothing worse than sitting in your house worrying about what your next step should be and fearing that you are doomed to suffer for the rest of your life. No matter what your particular medical issue may be from migraines to botched surgery, you can take control and start your own journey of discovery by employing a few simple techniques.

Believe in yourself

This is the hardest part. I literally spent years going from doctor to doctor knowing I was right and they were wrong. It became very difficult to maintain confidence. It is as if you are telling someone that the sky is blue, and each time they say, "No, it is red." After a while, you wonder if really it is red! There were times, I would even consider if I were going crazy and that maybe the doctors were right. Was it possible I had created a problem because I was a drama queen? Then, of course, the symptoms would appear again, and my body would reel with the effect. I held tight to the belief that this was a real problem, and I had to find answers or die trying.

Educate yourself

Today there is no end to the information available, especially about medical conditions. There are many books, and most libraries have medical journals that may be helpful. The internet is a wonderful resource and allows you to do extensive investigation. You can research traditional tests and therapies to discuss with your doctor, and you can also research many nontraditional or holistic possibilities. Educating yourself about all the possibilities is very empowering and can give you more confidence when you do talk to a medical professional.

Be a Detective

Ask questions! Many of us are taught to accept the word of a doctor without question, but in order really to adhere for yourself, you must accept that it is okay and necessary to ask questions. I encourage everyone to keep a journal of how you feel, what you eat, what medications you take and when, and any symptoms that result. This is how I began to really help myself. Through much trial and error or what I call the "guess and test" method, I was able to discover what helped me improve and what did not. Adrenal Fatigue, as with many syndromes, involves complex chemical reactions in the body, and there is almost never a magic pill or perfect therapy. It is a combination of approaches which can be different for every patient. Your own detective work will give you many of the answers you need to help you feel better.

Be Persistent

This is vital. My journey took nine years and a lot of perseverance. I went to many doctors and tried therapies too numerous to mention. Through that journey, I also empowered myself to find answers, although it was not easy. I can remember lying on my bed one night while my family was out at an event my children were involved in, and hoping the mattress would just swallow me and end my physical and emotional anguish. At the time, very few people believed I was sick, even though I was constantly missing events and time with my family: I just could not get any answers. It is easy to get cooked up in the negativity, especially when you physically feel bad, but you must focus on the fact that one day you will have your life back.

The quest to find answers for any medical issue can be isolating. I felt alone, as if there were no one else who had ever experienced these same horrible symptoms. Now, I know that is not true. I finally got my life back, and I am once again living a full life. In many ways, I feel that I went through this experience so I can encourage and help others on their journey. I discovered that no one is going to be more interested in your recovery than you – not your doctor, your family, or anyone else. They can not do it for you, as they will never have as strong a commitment to finding answers as you will. You can take control of your own health and help yourself find the answers you need. I encourage you to start today toward your new healthy life.

Fibromyalgia Questions and Answers

These are some more of the questions I'm constantly asked about Fibromyalgia. Over time, I'd like to cover the range of different questions and my answers as there are so any. I hope this is of some help as Fibromyalgia is probably the most misunderstood illness. The majority of people and doctors (for that matter), really do not recognize it, do not understand it and do not know what to do with it. We do!

1 Why are Doctors so hesitant to treat people with fibro and why do they say it's all in your head. If you have Fibromyalgia, you understand how debilitating it can be, not just the pain, but the other symptoms including the "fog". Doing a full Fibro history is and should be very time consuming and many doctors just do not have that much time, especially in our culture of managed care. Other doctors and professionals get frustrated by their lack of knowing how to treat this illness. Still others do not have the patience necessary to treat a Fibro patient as it takes a lot of skill and empathy. It's easier for many docs to just toss a prescription at the patient. This is not to say that Doctors are bad, they are just very over worked and feel very vulnerable due to their lack of Fibro knowledge. Lastly, I'm in no way condoning this; It's just the reality of a very broken medical system.

2 Why is not there more research being done to find a cure for Fibromyalgia? Very simply, fibro is not a "glamorous illness", there is no Nobel Prize waiting for the scientist who finds a cure. Most scientists need to rely on grants from institutions to further their research, run their labs and research is very very expensive. Pharmaceutical companies will fund research if there is a huge profit potential in the future, otherwise they will not spend the money. Another reason is that Fibromyalgia is such an unknown illness among most people. The average person has not a clue as to what fibro really is about or worse, they believe that it's some kind of pain problem. It is also very difficult if not impossible to really explain to another how you are feeling with fibro. The old saying is true, "Unless you are in a fibro body, you'll never understand it." Lastly, you'll never see: "Rums in the Par for Fibro" etc until people with fibro start making a fuss and yelling, the irony being that most with fibro are too sick to do this, so maybe it is up to their loved ones.

3 Are Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome the Same or Different Illnesses? The jury is out on this question; my personal belief is that they are the same as the symptoms seem to be identical. As I run and own the Fibromyalgia Relief Center of the Bay Area in northern California, I've seen people with Fibro and people with CFS respond in an identical manner to treatment and get better. One issue that I've seen again and again is that the Fibromyalgia Associations and the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Associations are both vying for money from the same institutions and so it looks difficult for the two to work together. There are also people whose lives are devoted to running web pages and Facebook pages on these two illnesses and they are very protective of their own turfs. They are not scientists but feel that if the two were really one illness, they lose a lot of their reason for waking up in the morning. I know that this sounds harsh, but it is true as I've encountered this on a number of occasions. I've seen people answer this to where you'd think they would physically start fighting. Crazy … Huh?

4 What is the story with the XMRV virus? Does it Cause Fibro or CFS?

What I find really interesting is that the research has been out for a while providing that there is no connection between this virus and Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The definitive large scale study was published in "Science" a very prestigious Journal last September 2011, again offering indisputable evidence that XMRV does not cause these illnesses. Yet, people keep insisting on the connection between the Virus and the illnesses. This, most probably due to the fact that they have not read the research and only go by what is in the popular press or on a web page. This is dangerous as the popular press is no longer the way to find the current news. With so many sources of information bombarding us on a daily basis (it is estimated in the thousands, without our being aware of it), we know long have the luxury of a Walter Cronkite reporting the real news. Any person with a computer can post whatever they like and have it look professional enough to be very believable. News has also really become opinions further agendas such as the liberal television stations, the conservative television stations and everything in between. In summary, there is no link between Fibro and or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the XMRV virus. This is indisputable fact.

5 Is Fibromyalgia Terminal? Absolutely and positively not! I realize that for some of you, suicide has been considered as Fibromyalgia has a large suicide rate (after all the pain alone can be so unbearable); however Fibromyalgia will not kill you. It tends to run in an up and down way, meaning sometimes you feel better, sometimes you feel worse. You may be at one level of symptoms for days, weeks, months even years and all of a sudden, you crash and become worse. All in all the progress of the illness is downwards, with ups and downs along the way. I have never seen a patient recover from Fibro by themselves, though that does not mean it might not happen. One thing is true, meds, will not cure Fibromyalgia, they might make you feel a bit better, but will not cure you.

6 My doctor told me that children can not get Fibromyalgia, is this true? This is absolutely wrong, anyone, male or female at any age can get Fibromyalgia. I've seen children; seniors and everyone in between develop fibro. I'll always ask a new patient if they had leg pain as a child which was diagnosed as "growing pains" and at least 50% of the time, the answer was yes. This was most probably the opposite of the Fibro. I also watched a woman who was 68 years old and had fibro since she was three years old recover in my office. She had Fibro for 65 years! If your child is complaining of leg pains, do not accept growing pains as an answer! I can not stress this fairly enough!

How to Identify the Right Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Treatment

If you are searching for the right chronic fatigue syndrome treatment, you may face many challenges. Chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS is a complicated medical condition that is still considered to be quite mysterious in the medical community. Individuals that suffer from this condition often experience an extreme degree of exhaustion. Doctors have been able to establish that both mental activities and activities that are physical based may increase the severity of the symptoms that the CFS patient experiences. While there are endless theories surrounding the origin of this sleep condition in patients, a definite cause has yet to be established. This is the reason why it may be quite difficult to find the right chronic fatigue syndrome treatment.

Naturally, a doctor's first line of defense when it comes to combating chronic fatigue syndrome is to prescribe medicines. There are many medications that you may be prescribed if you suffer from this condition. The first type of medication that you may be prescribed is a sleeping pill. Many doctors may also prescribe medication for anxiety and medication for depression. Unfortunately, these types of medical treatments may cause you more trouble than you are currently experiencing. You may suffer from gastrointestinal complications, coordination issues, cognitive impairment, and even physical issues. It is important to avoid a treatment that involves the use of potentially dangerous dangerous chemicals.

If you are searching for the right chronic fatigue syndrome treatment, it is important to look for a product that offers natural solutions and strategies to falling sleep, staying asleep, and getting the right amount of sleep on the whole. There are natural methods that can be successfully used in order to teach yourself how to sleep appropriately. Not only will the techniques that you learn last a lifetime, they will assist in increasing your general level of health.

Candida and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is an autoimmune disease, which can begin after a minor illness such as a cold, or an intestinal bug. It also strikes people during periods of high stress; it may develop graduated with no clear illness or other event precedent it. CFS symptoms are painful and pesky – headaches, tender lymph nodes, fatigue, weakness, muscle and joint pain, and the inability to concentrate, may intermittently plague an individual for more than six months. The disease can also be stressful for friends and family as it primarily affects the central nervous system and depresses the immune system of the individual. The disorder may develop as a consequence of the following issues: female hormonal imbalance, repeated administrations of antibiotic drugs in childhood, magnesium and zinc deficiencies, recurrent vaginal yeast infections, and diets high in sugar and alcohol.

Due to the fact that CFS is is often times the disease health care providers clinically diagnosed after everything else has been ruled out – many patients become extremely disheartened. Unfortunately, CFS is often misdiagnosed as neurotic or psychosomatic. There are no specific laboratory tests or clinical signs for CFS and diagnosis is primarily determined through symptoms alone.

Over the past ten years, holistic healthcare providers have developed a new outlook on CFS; they believe that there is a Candida-related fungal connection to CFS. While it is unclear whether Candida actually causes the disease, many suffering from the illness have benefited from natural, anti-fungal remedies. Holistic health practitioners aim to balance the body and heal the cause of the illness, so that the symptoms disappear completely. In addition to an accurate prognosis of CFS, holistic health providers recommend the following lifestyle management tools to aid in the treatment of CFS: a sugar-free and nutritious diet, natural anti-fungal remedies, an unpolluted home and work environment, acupuncture, massage , chiropractic care, and emotional support. Nutritional supplements and herbs such as: magnesium, essential fatty acids, zinc, Milk Thistle, Licorice, Dandelion Root and Leaf, Oregon Grape, and St. Louis. John's Wort are often prescribed and may be implemented in the healing process.

Origins of Fatigue

Fatigue is a huge issue in our fast paced world, where it is all too easy to "burn the candle at both ends", eat too many fast foods, live a sedentary life and ignore our built-in time clock (the circadian rhythm) . Sometimes, despite doing all the right things, we, however, can still be affected by persistent fatigue that can cause great disruption in our life. An investigation by the Working Group of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians has found that prolonged fatigue which lasts longer than 1 month is present in 5-20% of the population. Chronic fatigue, lasting greater than six months, is prevalent in 1-10% of the population while another 0.2% to 0.7% is diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

While some types of depression are linked to fatigue, mild amounts of stress have actually found to be stimulating to our mitochondria function, which produces our cellular energy. High stress, on the other hand, can cause magnesium loss. Magnesium, zinc and iron deficiencies are both common causes of low energy production and should be investigated early in any corrective treatment, especially given that the deficiencies of these minerals is present in around 60-85% of the US population. These minerals are available available and could be tried before investigating other possible causes of your fatigue. Resveratrol , found in your favorite red wine, also has a stimulatory effect as CoQ10 and L-carnitine .

So what do you do if you have tried all of the stimulatory supplements without any resolve of your fatigue? My suggestion would be to investigate whether there are any underlying gut issues (such as bacterial overgrowth or candida) or problems with thyroid function. An overgrowth of candida albicans can frequently go undetected due to its often vague symptoms. A simple test – blood test or stool test – can detect the presence of candida overgrowth. This disorder can be treated effectively with the right natural health products and dietary intervention.

Similarly, an under functioning thyroid can also go undetected and untreated. This is large due to the fact that borderline blood test results can still be considered as 'normal' by some practitioners. New evidence though suggests that subclinical hypothyroidism (where there is elevated thyroid stimulating hormone but normal thyroid hormone levels) is a common disorder found in 7-10% of people and can be responsible for a reduced production of energy in the mitochondria. It is there before important to be treated for hypothyroidism, even if your results are viewed as 'borderline normal'.

I ask my patients to give me a score out of 10, to help me evaluate what their energy and fat levels are like. A score of 10 is equal to the amount of energy needed to perform all of one's daily activities and 0 is not enough energy to get out of bed. I consider that a consistently low energy level with a chosen score of 6 out of 10 or below is abnormal. Try keeping a diary of your energy levels. If you are feeling a little 'flat' and record energy levels of 6/10 or lower, you need to investigate why you feel this way. Do not put up with less than optimal vitality. Remember that your fatigue will have an origin or cause, which can usually be easily identified and rectified, when you receive the right advice.