Health & ME/CFS, This Crazy Life

Adrenal Dump: From Wolf to Quivering Rabbit

Note: Yesterday I miscalculated when & how much to eat, was caught off-guard by The Hunger, and wound up having two adrenal (adrenaline) dumps. One was while sitting in the car in front of the grocery store.

This is the story of what I experienced.

I’m sharing this because I know there are many ME/CFS patients with adrenal stress syndrome or adrenal exhaustion, some of whom have yet to be diagnosed. A doctor unfamiliar with adrenal issues might consider these types of experiences to be psychological in nature, perhaps calling them panic attacks or anxiety attacks, when their roots are in adrenal malfunction.

If what follows sounds familiar to you, I suggest you talk to your doctor about it, ask for an adrenal stress test (a saliva test), and do some research. I found Dr Lam’s site to be very in-depth on adrenal stress & adrenal exhaustion.

Adrenaline Dump: From Wolf to Quivering Rabbit

I am sitting in the car while Rhiannon & Ben do the grocery shopping, writing a FB message to my mom about the adrenaline dump I had earlier in the day:

“I didn’t realize I was even hungry – starving – until I was in a full adrenal dump. It just comes on so damn fast. Suddenly I realized had to have food immediately.

“But by then it was too late. I started trembling all over, physically shaking, my heart was pounding, fingertips tingling, mind racing & not thinking at all clearly. Every sound is amplified, and I feel like I am about to jump out of my own skin.”

Reading over it, I notice I have written the last sentence in present tense.

A jacked-up car with a loud muffler goes by, and I startle in fear. I have an almost overwhelming urge to crouch down & hide.

Oh, my god. It’s happening again.

Yes, my stomach is feeling empty, even tho’ I just finished putting 24 ounces of protein shake in it a short time before.

I feel the rush of adrenaline through my body.
I again feel ready to jump out of my own skin.

How can it happen so damn fast???

I am not at home.

I cannot go curl up in bed, and close the door.

My heart is pounding, and I feel the blood pounding in unison throughout my body. My fingertips have the now all-too-familiar feeling of tingling, and my lips, too. I am quivering all over.

My eyes dart frantically around the car for anything to eat, but there is nothing.

With shaking hands I pick up the phone & call Rhiannon, tell her to have Ben buy a LaraBar, and bring it to me NOW.

I do not ask Rhiannon to cancel the grocery shopping. I know she has a while to go yet. The cupboards are bare, one reason I’m in this fine mess, and I will get through it… one breath at a time.

I try to sit still, breathe very slow & deep. This is very hard.

I try to work on my message to my mom. Perhaps I can focus on it, and distract myself. It doesn’t work too well. I cannot look at the phone for more than a few seconds at a time.

My body has ramped up: I am in full-blown fight or flight mode now.

I feel what a rabbit feels, chased by a hungry wolf.

I tell myself over & over that there is nothing to be afraid of; I am perfectly safe. It is daylight, I’m parked in the handicapped spot right in front of a large grocery store, and there are plenty of people around.

Rationally, I know that to be true.
But I am not rational anymore.

Rationality has taken a backseat to instinctuality.

Every sound is magnified, and makes me twitch, my muscles spasming, uncontrollably.

I hear everything.

I cannot block anything out, the way we usually do.
Nothing is “background noise” to me.
Everything must be identified.

There are so many sounds, and I hear them all, painfully loud:
Every car’s engine.
Every person’s conversation.
Every car door slamming.
Every song playing on every cars’ radio.
Every car and truck passing on the road.
Every rattle of shopping cart wheels, squeal of brakes…
Every. Single. Sound.

After what seems like forever, Ben emerges with my bar.

I have a very hard time resisting the urge to stuff the entire bar in my mouth. I force myself to slow down, to chew it, to drink water.

I notice what my body & mind is doing all on its own, and I am very impressed. I try to “step outside” and just watch & feel without attachment.

Every sense is heightened.

My eyes nervously scan the parking lot.

Every person there is being tracked and evaluated for their level of possible threat.

I notice every single thing about every single person within sight:
Their sex, age, fitness level.
What each person is wearing, even what type of jewelry, and the women’s purses.
What their facial expressions are.
If they are headed close to the car they get even greater scrutiny, but even those at a distance are being surveyed.

I keep track of every single person, every car moving in & out. My eyes are in constant motion.

A woman has walked by the car twice, talking on her cell phone. She is late 40’s, deeply tanned, and thin, wearing pink shorts, striped tank top, & flip flops, with gold jewelry. I dislike that she is close to the car, but don’t think she poses a threat.

A couple get out of their car and start having the most gawd-awful fight. They are both screaming loudly, and he calls her a slut & a whore. He is definitely a threat, ‘though to her, but I want to cringe down & hide anyway.

A grocery store employee, male, young, walks directly towards the car. My rational mind says he is coming to collect carts & that I’ve seen him before. But I am not thinking rationally. I’m all instinct now. There is something about him, the way he walks, his disgruntled expression, that fills me with fear

There are many, many, more.

(I can see them so clearly in my mind today, 24 hours later.)

It ever, ever, so slowly gets better:
I am twitching less.
Still trembling and shaking, but not so hard.
Still afraid, still evaluating every possible threat, but not as overwhelmed.

I try to be still, to focus on my breathing.

It is forever (actually, a half hour) from the onset until Rhiannon and Ben emerge from the store, to my great relief.

Even after we get home, I am still twitchy, hands still shaking, still nervous & jumpy at sounds.

This is going to take some getting used to, and some dedication to feeding my body often so as to avoid having it happen in the first place.

A dear friend and fellow ME/CFS patient is having adrenal dumps every day, multiple times a day, and I don’t know how she does it. Sweetheart – this post is dedicated to you.

5 thoughts on “Adrenal Dump: From Wolf to Quivering Rabbit”

  1. I can’t “like” this because I feel so bad that you have to go through this, my friend. I have learned a lot and will ask my own dr. about the saliva test. Most of all I am sorry that you had to experience it and that you felt so afraid. please carry snacks with you at all times, always be prepared, with food, meds, water, etc. Feed your body, and your soul. Thinking about you. Love, your friend Laurie


    1. Thank you, Laurie. I am learning how to deal with this, as it’s a new “symptom” for me, just started the last couple of weeks. It’s always happened at home, and I have always had food – and my girl cave – to “treat” it with.
      Rest assured, I am eating every couple of hours, now. Since I have only about 3 to 5 minutes between the first hunger pangs and the adrenal dump, and those pangs often go ignored if I’m involved writing or on the ‘net, I’m trying to avoid even getting hungry in the least!
      And I sure won’t be leaving home without a stuffed full tummy as well as a purse full of snacks!

      I’m glad you’re going to ask for the adrenal stress test. It’s very simple, and all the major labs offer it now – used to be speciality labs only. You’ll get 4 vials with cotton rolls in them. You but them in your mouth at designated times (something like 7am, noon, 4pm, 11pm) and soak them with saliva. They measure the levels of cortisol & other hormones in your system, to see how your adrenals are doing, as they are supposed to
      release certain things at certain times of day.

      I wrote about adrenal stress syndrome in this blog post:

      *gentle hugs*


  2. ASH- Thank you for your description of this horrid experience. I just realized what has been happening to me but to a lesser extent. With ME it easy easy to misinterpret what happens to us. I just thought that I was having a weird reaction to hunger. You frequently help me just by telling your story.


    1. I’m sorry to hear you are also experiencing something similar, but glad that hearing my story had helped you. When this started for me a few weeks ago, it was first, just getting ravenously hungry. Then, it was getting so intensely hungry (and so suddenly) that I felt like I might kill anyone who stood between me and food, and i’d just stuff crap in my mouth, rather uncontrollably. I would be seeing myself doing it & be asking myself “what in he!! is wrong with you?”
      But each “dump” seems worse than the one before it, so in addition to eating a LOT, I think this calls for an extra visit to my doctor…
      Thank you for reading & commenting!


  3. Thank you for sharing this. I am a sufferer of many Dysautonomias and experience this and similar episodes on a daily basis. Thank you for spreading awareness from a been-there-done-that point of view. Gentle hugs.


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