I was in eighth grade and not yet diagnosed. My friend’s mom knew of a fancy dinner party that could use a few middle schoolers to act as “waiters.” We would be required to wear black pants, a white button up top, and walk around the mansion with platters of hors d’oeuvres serving the guests. It was touted as a fun experience where I could earn a bit of cash and interact with fancy people.
My friend and I agreed to do it.
I vividly remember my anxiety before the event. Was I wearing the correct outfit? I think these pants are black, but are they black enough? Would I show up at the right time? I know she said to arrive at this time, but did she really mean this exact time? What do I say after I ring the door bell? What if something goes wrong? Why did I sign up to do this? I just want to go home.
One of my many signs of un-diagnosed Adrenal Insufficiency included psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety and depression. When my cortisol is low, I have uncontrollable and crippling anxiety. To quote a case report published in March of 2015:
Psychiatric manifestations of Addison’s disease were first reported by Klipel in 1899 defined as “Addisonian encephalopathy” . A few case series (n = 25) were published during the 1940s and 1950s revealing a high association (i.e., 64–85%) between psychiatric disorders and Addison’s disease [6–8]. However, nowadays this association receives little attention.
I wish more doctors were aware of this association.
As the night of the party wore on, I had an increasingly difficult time comprehending simple instructions spoken to me. I also began to grow even more dizzy. We were discouraged from taking breaks in front of the guests, so I would retreat into the kitchen. Eventually I was discovered and forced out with another plate of food and a reminder that I was being paid to work and not sit. I tried to put on a smile, but I felt at any moment I would collapse.
After the party ended, I was required to help clean. I remember being scolded for not using warm enough water to wash the dishes. I tried to explain that the hot water was causing my hands physical pain. The man in charge checked the water and told me it wasn’t that hot. He believed I was just trying to get out of work, but that was not the case. Eventually I was to just dry the dishes, what he considered an even simpler task.
Except, my coordination was off. The group soon realized that they were much more efficient without my help. They finally allowed me to rest on the couch while they finished the job. I wish I could have explained to them the type of fatigue I was battling during that moment. No amount of mental effort or will power, no pep talks or even physical threats would allow my body to move.
That night, I came home slightly richer but in a foul mood for the next several days. I felt beyond miserable, but I did not have the capability to fully express how awful it was. This was how I always felt, and I believed it was “normal.” I did not know any different.
I received my diagnosis of Adrenal Insufficiency about a year after this incident. Needless to say, I am doing much better now in terms of my health. I continue to learn and adjust. I continue to live. And I continue to fight to remain Clearly Alive.
- Julia de Lima Farah, Carolina Villar Lauand, Lucas Chequi, et al., “Severe Psychotic Disorder as the Main Manifestation of Adrenal Insufficiency,” Case Reports in Psychiatry, vol. 2015, Article ID 512430, 4 pages, 2015. doi:10.1155/2015/512430