Monday, January 6, 2014

Why I'm not running right now.

I'm taking a deep breath and just putting this out onto the Internet. I have hesitated doing this for 7 months now, but since running is involved, and since my legions of readers (ha! hi Dad!) might notice something is up, I am going to start talking about this. It's really personal, but whatever. I need to talk.

In June, Nick and I decided we want to start getting ready to have a baby. I stopped taking the pill, and waited to get the ball rolling, so to speak. Well, the ball didn't roll. I saw my doctor, and she said my body was just adjusting, give it time. Fast forward 3 more months, and I still hadn't... "adjusted" (I'm trying to be non-TMI about the most TMI thing ever). I saw my doctor again, got a prescription that would hopefully kick start my body, and it didn't work. That brings us to October. I, of course, had spent many minutes of my life asking Dr. Google what was wrong before coming up with a likely diagnosis. I found out about hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA), which is a hormonal disorder where my pituitary, hypothalamus, and ovaries aren't talking to one another properly.

I said this has something to do with running, and it does. HA is related to exercise, body weight (specifically losing weight quickly), and stress. In my late teens and early 20's, I was overweight. I topped out at about 185 lbs, which is a solidly overweight BMI for my height. In 2009, I went through major life changes (broke off an engagement, lost my stable job, lived in a weird person's basement) and lost a lot of weight. In about a year, I dropped 40 lbs. I settled in at a steady 145-150 or so, and since then have slowly trended downward to about 135 (BMI of 20 or so). This is still technically a healthy weight for me, but my hormones don't believe that. The weight loss, plus lots of running, plus undereating make my body think that I am going through a lot of stress. If my hypothalamus doesn't know if it has enough energy to maintain my normal body functions, it most certainly isn't going to send out any signals to my ovaries to try and get me ovulating, which is yet another energy drain. Someone put it this way: if you're running 7 miles a day, the very basic parts of the brain think that maybe you're migrating, ergo, now would not be an opportune time to be knocked up. Exercise = stress, stress = put the baby-making equipment in a shut down state. Also, and more importantly for my long-term health, being in this hormonally screwed up state means that I'm putting my bones at risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis. That's a really scary thing to think about when you're 28. Even if I can never have a baby, I still want to be healthy and hiking and traveling the world with Nick when I'm older.

I have been seeing a reproductive endocrinologist about this, who confirmed that he thinks I have HA. He did a lot of testing and started me on some meds to see how my body responds. Unfortunately, this first round was a bust and now we're exploring our options for the best way to go in the future. If you read this post (I'm not Paleo, don't worry), I'm doing all those things... or trying to. The main things I'm doing are:


  1. Stop running. That's right. I stopped. My blog name is now inaccurate. My last run was December 26 (actually it might have been prior to that, I stopped keeping track). I have a lot of feelings I'm struggling with right now. I'll blog about this more later.
  2. Eat more. This is also very hard for me. I stopped tracking my food in MyFitnessPal, which I have used for years. This means I'm not counting calories on paper, but you better believe I'm still counting them in my head. I have a lot to say about this, and about how I got here, so I'll blog about this more later too.
  3. Sleep, destress, treat my body well. I might look like a "healthy" person on paper, but clearly, my reproductive system does not agree since it's not performing its evolutionarily required function. I am trying to sleep more. Because of my crappy sleep quality, I have some amount of chronic sleep deficiency. I am always tired. Iron supplementation has helped that, but being sleepy every single day gets really old. I'm also trying to drink alcohol less, and less frequently. Drinking a large amount, even once in a while, isn't good news for anyone. I need to stop that. As for destressing... well, infertility is pretty damn stressful, as is the number of doctor's appointments required for the diagnosis and monitoring of my condition. I can't decide whether being super educated about everything is helping or hurting with stress levels, but knowledge is power, so I'm reading all I can to educate myself in hopes of reducing the amount of stress I'm under just by feeling lost.

It is hard not to feel like I'm broken. It is hard not to question why trying to be "healthy" has made me dysfunctional. I find myself struggling with trying to figure out what the "right amount" of food and exercise is for me. I look at professional runners and other marathoners around me and cannot understand why they're pushing jogging strollers and I'm not. I miss running. Actually, I miss running and not feeling guilty about it. I am sad. I really hope there's a happy ending here.

**there is A LOT more to the science/hormonal side of this whole thing, and others have written in greater detail and with more technical accuracy than I can (check out here, here, and here). I'm paraphrasing, and I may have gotten 100% of this wrong. I might have a biochemistry degree, but I'm not an endocrinologist. 

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