My Badass Journey After an Adrenal Crisis


This feels difficult to write. As I sit here, I want to hide from the picture that my horse trainer took yesterday; but, I decided no. I’m gonna take the win because sometimes those first steps are the hardest. And these are my vulnerable first steps.

I train with a 17hh warmblood horse partner. He’s a Holsteiner/Thoroughbred and a former Grand Prix Jumper. I haven’t been able to ride since December, when I experienced my first real adrenal crisis. It’s a condition that can become life threatening within 30 minutes. The treatment is steroids and slow increase in stamina. My horse is central to my life. Not being able to ride has been among the most challenging aspects of my healing journey. I’m lucky I survived it. Many aren’t as lucky.

The fatigue that comes with pituitary dysfunction is indescribable. Mine was slow to fail after a traumatic brain injury six years ago. It wasn’t until I was hypothermic in the emergency room that we finally put the endocrine pieces together.

As I’ve rebooted my body, I’ve slowly developed the ability to move again. Forcing myself to move would just lead to a crash. So I rehabilitated slowly. It started with feeding my goats every day back in February. Then getting the mail. Then driving. Then mowing. Then hand-walking my big horse. Then grooming. And finally, after six months, I finally got to ride again!

Riding him is like doing yoga while running up a mountain carrying 2000 pounds between my legs and 50 pounds in my hands – that’s because I can’t just pleasure ride on my big boy. He’s a literal war-horse. He’s big and powerful enough that he could kill me if he wanted to, but sometimes the things big enough to kill me are also the things big enough to heal me.

Woman riding a horse.

So that’s not the vulnerable part. The hardest part is not recognizing myself in the pictures….I have what’s called a Cushingoid appearance from the steroids. That means my neck and tummy are swollen with water. I have to get four liters of IV fluids every week because I also have Dysautonomia, which just makes the swelling worse. It’s temporary, but it’s where I am. I feel like hiding sometimes. People can be judgmental, but that matters less than my own judgment. I’m coming to unconditional self-acceptance. That’s the badass journey!

The truth is that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I’m not going to wait to embrace the joy. It’s this moment that matters…and in this moment a gorgeous deer just bounded into my yard where I’m sitting in the sun after mowing my lawn. And I’m alive.

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