The Boss Babe Blog
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My Silent Struggle with Adrenaline Addiction:
Earlier this year, I realized that I have been struggling with an addiction. Adrenaline addiction. No, I’m not a skydiving, waterskiing, mountain climbing, scuba diving, adrenaline junkie. My addiction started at a very young age, and went untreated for a very long time. My adrenaline addiction looks much different than any other “drug” that you could pick up at the pharmacy or buy on the streets. My addiction doesn’t look too different than the mouthy teenager that you just sent to their room, or the high-strung coworker in the desk across from yours that never gets enough sleep. My addiction is essentially unrecognizable by the outside world. My drug is embedded within my brain, which makes it even more dangerous than anything you might currently recognize as harmful.
At a year old, my mother swears that I began refusing to take naps. I had never been a normal child, awake for twelve hours straight, and then asleep for the next twelve. Always wiggly, always alert, always responsive. You can only reprimand a child so many times before you realize that you’re getting absolutely nowhere, and all parents know this to be true. As hard as she tried, as much as she fussed, as earnestly as she begged, I could not nap and would not nap, so neither of us napped.
At three years old, I had what my parents would refer to as a “fit” at the time, and what we would later recognize to be a full-blown, legitimate panic attack. The walls in our kitchen were white. My entire life, the floors in our kitchen had been covered with brown carpet. Suddenly, my mother decided that it was time for new carpeting. Well, of course, no one explained this to the three-year-old living in the house. The new carpet turned out to be white as well. Obviously, I don’t remember much of this day at all…but I do remember the reasoning behind my “fit”. I remember feeling blinded. There was too much whiteness. Everywhere I looked, my eyes burned from the brightness of the white color. Later on, my mother would describe to me that I had “Run up and down the hallways screaming and crying, obviously seriously upset”. Apparently, all I could say at the time was “too much white”, “too much white”. At three years old, none of us knew my adrenaline levels were naturally too high and my senses naturally too heightened as a result…but that was the cause of my “fit”. The abundance of white meant an abundance of reflected light, and the abundance of light actually had been hurting my eyes.
At five years old, I was ready to start school. Everything was going great on my first day. I already had a few friends I had met at jump start a few weeks before. I was sitting at my desk in the back of the classroom and suddenly something unexpected happened: I caught a whiff of the most rancid smell, and actually gagged. While I was holding my nose and trying not to pass out, the teacher asked me what was wrong. I pointed across the classroom in the direction of the smell, and everyone else, dumbfounded by my response, turned to follow my index finger. Everything was normal until a girl raised her hand and announced that she had cut her finger on the paper she was coloring. Later on, I would learn that I had the ability to smell the iron in even the tiniest amount of blood if it was anywhere near me. It was a stench that I would grow to hate.
At 8 years old, I was due for a thorough eye-doctor appointment. I remember walking into the building with my fingers crossed. “I really don’t want glasses, God, don’t make me get glasses.” Sure enough, after the many tests and the annoying puff of air in my eye, God didn’t make me get glasses. In fact, the doctor, with a very surprised tone of voice, informed us that my vision had tested to be much, much better than normal. “Much better than perfect, actually”, had been his exact statement. Imagine my mother’s shock when she realized I hadn’t been joking about my ability to see pretty well in the dark.
At 10 years old, my mother held a big birthday party for me. I requested strawberry cake with cream cheese icing, and any kind of ice cream except for chocolate. When my friends arrived, they voiced their disappointment regarding the lack of chocolate ANYTHING. They thought: How could someone not like chocolate? What they didn’t realize was, I loved chocolate…but I couldn’t handle chocolate. The richness and sweetness made my throat feel as though it were on fire. The burning sensation was extremely unpleasant, and as much as I loved the flavor of chocolate, I hated the burning feeling more.
At 11 years old, saw 200lbs for the first time on the bathroom scales. I was active, participating in sports, eating as healthy as an 11-year-old could possibly eat, actually staying hungry most of the time…and constantly gaining weight. It was frustrating, discouraging, embarrassing, and everything else negative that you could think of. I didn’t have time to think of it, though, because I was participating on 3 different extra-curricular activity teams, babysitting my two toddler-age younger cousins, maintaining honor roll grades, and dealing with the divorce that my parents were undergoing at the time. Besides, my primary care physician said that I would be fine as long as my height continued to shoot up the charts alongside my weight.
At 12 years old, I stayed a week during the summer with my grandmother that lived about 45 minutes away. That week, I don’t remember sleeping more than 6-8 hours. I was sleeping in her living room, on her couch. On the wall across from the couch, there was a clock. Everyone in the family loved the gentle sound, some even said they couldn’t hear it at all. For me, it was distracting. Tic. Toc. Tic. Toc. Tic. Toc. Tic. Toc. It was enough to make me cover my head with the blankets during the night and pray for it to stop altogether. Toc. Tic. Toc. Tic. The exasperation was even stronger when I began to hear the sequence backwards. Toc. Tic. Toc. Tic. Toc. Tic. Sometimes, I would become so bothered that I would cry uncontrollably. Still to this day, the near-silent ticking of the clock is the soundtrack of my nightmares.
At 13 years old, I became angry. Out of nowhere, a rage would bubble up inside of me. Suddenly, I would feel the urge to lash out at anyone nearby, especially loved ones. The smallest, simplest things were triggers for me. If someone laughed at a statement that I had not meant as a joke, if someone didn’t give me any recognition over something I had been working my ass off on, if someone believed different politically or religiously than I did…I was trigger-happy. In my mind, I didn’t want to lash out at these people. Take my mother for example, I lover here with all of my heart. I hate fighting with her. However, I couldn’t stop myself, no matter how much I fought with my own mind, I couldn’t control my actions. At the end of each fight, we were both left crying and she would ask me “Do you LIKE fighting with me?” My answer would always be no, because I truly didn’t, but my body craved the adrenaline rush that anger provided.
By the time I was 14, I had learned to control my anger, somewhat. It was in 2014, though, that I got caught up in a vicious cycle…also known as bulimia. Binge…Purge. Binge…Purge. I’ve written about my battle on this blog before. This is something that I hid from the world, even hid from my mother at the time, but it isn’t something that I hide any longer. I’m recovering. However, 2 years ago, I was a complete mess. I would consume large amounts of carbohydrate-rich foods (adrenaline trigger), in amounts that sometimes exceeded 5,000 calories. Then, I would force myself to throw it back up. This created a head rush, and sent adrenaline coursing through my body, despite the fact that I was dealing with serious body-image issues.
15 years old, and they finally got my hormone levels leveling out. I say “leveling” because it would be a long process, but we were finally on our way. No more fighting, no more binging, no more anxiety. For a few months, this was the case. Then, it started happening again, much less frequently, but my anxiety became much worse. I would let all of my problems simmer and bubble inside of me until I couldn’t hold the pain in any longer. It was still dangerous. “I feel like an addict going through withdrawals”, I told my mother. “I just need that rush. I don’t want that rush, but my body thinks that it is needed.” My mother thought on it for a while, and then she asked me… “Do you think adrenaline could be addictive? We already know yours was far too high…” That was it. Looking up the symptoms, it was very clear to see. I had been struggling with high levels of adrenaline for years, not just months. It wouldn’t be as easy as popping a pill every morning to lay down the angry habit.
So, this is where I find myself. However, this isn’t where the story ends. I’m going to be making some much-needed lifestyle changes as advised by my doctor. I need to get my sleeping habits straightened out. I need to start meal planning and sticking to a stricter diet. Cutting carbs out (mostly) shouldn’t be too difficult, because I’ve gone gluten-free before, but that obviously didn’t last…I need to stop over-exercising myself and then avoiding exercise altogether for days at a time. 40-60 minutes a day, vastly weight training, less cardio. LESS ELECTRONICS! That is going to be huge for me. I’m not the type to sit in front of a television all day. In fact, our television has only been turned on twice in the past week. However, my laptop is my work and my education. My phone is my socialization and connection to the outside world. Cutting these out at least an hour before bed should make an incredible difference.
I tell you all of this not because I want you to try to diagnose yourself, and also not because I want you to feel sympathy for me. I tell you my story because I want you to be more aware of your surroundings. When someone is “bigger”, or let’s just say it…fat…it doesn’t always mean they are stuffing their face with fried Twinkies and Cheetos every night. Sometimes, people have serious health issues that they are struggling with…and sometimes, they aren’t even aware they’re struggling with it. If someone gets angry for no reason, they may not just be trying to be a brat…they may not be able to control themselves. Sometimes, when people are scared of everything or they overachieve and overthink, they’re hurting inside and don’t want the world to see. We need to stop assuming the worst with every individual we encounter. Be a little more compassionate, because you never know what battle someone may be silently fighting. Just keep that in mind, dearest readers…