Saturday, 25 August 2012

Adrenal Fatigue

     Having a relationship with narcissists will drain your adrenals. It's as simple as that. When at last I realised that my adrenals weren't functioning as they should, I blamed  it on the stress I had had for the three years before (I had moved three times) but now I don't think it was that at all. I think the stress was from being surrounded by people who just took and took and took, and eventually I had no (emotional) resources left. I was emotionally bankrupt and I didn't even know it. Having grown up in an Nfamily I didn't know any different. I didn't expect to have anything from other people but I always felt obligated to give to them. I can see now how this was a recipe for disaster. So in 1995 I had a really bad cold that wouldn't go away and after that I lost all the energy I had had before. In a book about adrenal fatigue it says that the cold or flu is what kind of catapults the adrenals to exhaustion but I think is the other way round: you get the really bad cold because your immune system and the adrenals are already exhausted and your defences are down.
      Back then there was no information on tiredness, no internet, nowhere to find why I was feeling the way I did. So I kind of plodded along, trying to keep head above water as much as I could, met a guy and got married. Then I really crashed. While going out with my husband we had had a lot of grief from the people around us and I just didn't have the energy or the insight to deal with it all. It was all so stressful and in a way it felt like somebody else had the remote control of my life and I could see it being fast forwarded without being able to do anything about it. After we got married we seemed to have a whole lot of people come and stay with us: parents, siblings, relatives, friends, friends of friends. It never occurred to me at the time to say no, sorry, it's not convenient or I'm not feeling so great or whatever. This went on for some years, but one thing I had started to pick on is that some people seemed to drain me completely while others made me feel better and have more energy. I couldn't make head or tail of why this was happening. Nobody I spoke to seemed to know the answer either. I would have to wait to 2003 to read in a book about Adrenal Fatigue (by James L. Wilson) that yes, people CAN rob us of our energy and it DOES have a physical effect on us. Unfortunately, even though I felt highly validated that the whole thing wasn't in my mind, I was disappointed that there was not a lot of information about why this is the case. The book called them Energy Robbing People and it said:

"It is not necessary at the moment to explore the reasons why they deplete you but just to become aware of who drains your energy."

I strongly disagree with this statement, I think the reasons why they deplete you are paramount to your recovery. Because I wasn't getting to the bottom of this, it took me a long time to feel better. I did try to follow the advice in the book, but I found that while I now knew what was wrong and I was taking all the vitamins and looking after myself I only felt marginally better, maybe one or two notches up, which isn't that great really. But when I got to the bottom of it (i.e. discovering that my FOO was narcissistic) and learned tools to deal with people differently, my health and energy levels improved considerably. Even in the last few months since I started my other blog I have felt a whole lot better. Yes, I still crash every now and then but I rest for a day and I pick up whereas before it might have taken me one or two weeks of rest to decompress and recover.

However, to give credit where credit is due, there were two ideas in the book that really helped me:

"Patients often tell me that they feel guilty for minimizing their contact with friends or family members even when that person is robbing them of their energy. But it is important for you to realise that nobody has a right to your energy. Your energy is your energy to use to stay alive and healthy."

To hear that nobody had a right to my energy really helped, it's almost like I needed permission to cut ties with some of the draining people in my life and that sentence just let me off the hook. The thing with draining people is that they're absolute masters of making you feel sorry for them and then they use your pity to keep you in a vortex of obligation and guilt. That creates a sort of double bind because if you spend time with them they'll exhaust you and if you don't, you'll feel guilty which is an exhausting emotion too, so either way you're stuffed. If you're stuck in that kind of dynamic with someone in your life, your adrenals don't stand a chance:

"researchers have found that rendering an animal helpless is one of the most rapid ways to deplete its adrenals".

No kidding. Being stuck in unhealthy relationships in which there seems to be no hope of improvement and no way out is the surest way to deplete your adrenals.



  1. Hi Kara,

    Very insightful. The emotional side is very connected to what happens to us as humans. I have seen this in myself but also in my NMiL. Before my trip this past month to break No Contact with my NM I had a cold and the day before I was to see her I got the flu. I was able to see her and then I traveled on to see my NMiL. After the week visit with the Ns I came down with another illness that required antibiotics.

    It is amazing how interactions with an N can cause physical energy to drain from your body. It is just more evidence that we should not be in unhealthy relationships.

    Well said.

    T Reddy

    PS - you mentioned you have another blog?

    1. Hi T Reddy,
      Good to hear from you and thanks for the feedback. I remember reading something about how people who bring you down can affect your immune system. I'm going to try to find it and will post it on the blog.
      I also went through a phase where every time I visited my parents I would get a really bad cold or an allergy that would deplete me for weeks afterwards. It took me ages to make the connection.

  2. Great post, Kara.

    I've been interested in the subject of adrenal fatigue for a while but have not learned much about it as yet. Your post was very informative.

    I have PTSD and over a period of several years, suffered almost constant hyper-vigilance due to the actions of my landlord. My anxiety was off the charts, I was so physically and mentally exhausted by this that I was about to check into a psychiatric hospital to get some relief. The landlord was bad enough but I'm sure that because his behavior reminded me of my intrusive N mother it was all the worse. It was so exhausting it was frightening.

    I'm glad you're doing better now.

    1. Thanks Elena, it's kind of crazy to think that I have more energy at 42 than I did when I was 29! Learning about Narcissism and being validated by my fellow bloggers has made a big difference to my health. It has been a long journey and now like everything is falling into place. Feel free to email me if you have any questions about adrenal fatigue, I'll be glad to be of help.
      I'm sorry you had to put up with a bad landlord. It must have been horrible.

  3. I love this post, Kara (although it's awful you went and go through all this). I had the same experience. Until I realized that my NP are, for me, "depressogens." They have a depressogenic effect on me. The energy I expend trying to put up with the narcissism drains me, sickens me and depletes me. Adrenal fatigue, how perfect. I love the line about no one having the right to your energy. I struggle with this since my NF expects me to fly out to visit him, even though he never comes to see me and I'm crushed with work. He'll be flying over me in a week. But he expects me to expend the energy for the gazillienth time to go out to visit him. Why? Because "Mohamet comes to the Mountain." The Mountain is flying over me for his thousand'th cruise in twenty years. But can't stop off to see me en route. Instead, I have to find subs at work, etc. UGH

    1. UGH, indeed! I know what you mean about the expectation that only goes one way. not only it's an impossible burden, it is thoroughly unfair too. I get a similar thing with my FOO. Because I am the one that moved to another country (and "abandoned" them), I should be the one visiting them. Never-mind they never paid me any attention while I was there or even when I visit them now.
      Your NF is really shocking, I remember you saying in one of your posts that they told you that they only fly to places that interest them. What a stab in the heart, (even reading about it hurt) and then they wonder why we don't visit them more often.

  4. I'm sorry it took me so long to catch up, but then again, this is exactly what I need right now. Thank you. I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue in 1995. I didn't realize yet the influence of the Ns in my FOO.

    1. That's ok Judy, you've had a lot on your plate. I really think Ns are the cause of autoimmune illness in a lot of people.

  5. Yes, understanding the FOO background is so important. I think that's why I love Alice Miller's books so much. She doesn't gloss over anything! LOL.

    Not all self-help books are created equal, that's for sure. If I get one or two epiphany thoughts out of a self-help book, I consider it a good thing. This book might not change your life, but the points you list here are important ones. Thanks for sharing them. XX00, Kitty

    1. I haven't read any Alice Miller though she has been in my TBR list for a while now, I really want to read her book "The Body Never Lies".
      I think that seems to be the thing with self-help books, that you get one or two epiphanies out of a book, and eventually you string them all together to make sense of your situation. I guess it would be near impossible to make a self-help book that covered all the instances, since each one of our situations although having a lot of common elements, it's also unique to our specific upbringing and make up.
      Thanks for the feedback Kitty, XXOO

    2. "I think that seems to be the thing with self-help books, that you get one or two epiphanies out of a book, and eventually you string them all together to make sense of your situation." I agree. Some are better than others, but few are completely worthless. XX00