I have learned something new; and here it is!
I don’t know if you remember when I was previously writing about the three-worse-three: third day, third week and third month.
My ‘cruellest month’ is not April (thanks T.S. Eliot) but December. I woke up one day, about two and a half weeks after having quit also nicotine (no patches any more, thank you very much) and my body was in agony. Every thing was an effort, every thing was in pain. I felt like if a massive steamroller had been parked on my bones the whole night, and as if a constant electric current was creating spider webs linking my knuckles to my wrists to my elbows, to my knees to my ankles: I felt a decrepit, old, agonizing puppet.
Even my hair was hurting…
Could that have simply been cold or flu? Possibly, but I had no temperature. Either my body decided that it was time for me to experience rheumatoid arthritis to a whole new level; or, I was about to die.
I am not the kind of person who runs to the GP immediately, so I spent about 10 days trying the usual supermarket remedies, topped by herbal concoctions I remembered from home. I still went to work but believe you me, everything was an effort! I didn’t feel like eating, I was also sweating, tossing and turning in the middle of the night… I was feeling really poorly. I went through menopause before and I saw the other side of the tunnel, but it really felt I was experiencing that all over again.
One day I decided that I couldn’t take that pain any longer and when two friends also commented on the shade of pale white my face was displaying, I went to see my GP, who confirmed that if felt like if I was fighting some kind of inflammation: there was a battle going on and we needed to understand where and who was winning.
I went through a series of detailed blood tests which came all back negative (thank you very much), except for the hormonal one: I was in menopause. Well, I knew that!
What I didn’t know was that nicotine affects hormones balance. I was really experiencing menopause again; or, better: I was now experiencing it fully for the first time. Besides my breast feeling tender and painful (and having grown an extra size: thank you very much!) the pain I was feeling in my joints and nerves was due to the imbalance (or new balance) of the level of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone produced by our body in response to both mental and physical stress and it is also the hormone our body uses to fight inflammations. Now that I wasn’t smoking nor introducing nicotine any more, my body had to find a new balance in the production of cortisol and a whole new way to fight inflammations. Not to mention that my years and years of smoking were a constant inflammation in itself and my body, not receiving nicotine any more, had to get rid of it. During the process of quitting, the body tends to shut down the immune system, since the body is going through some massive changes.
nicotine = creates and manages inflammations
no nicotine = no managing of inflammation and immune system on holiday >>> me = pain!
Cortisol imbalances due to inflammation, can also cause fatigue. I was telling my friends, as a joke, that where you put me, there I would have fallen asleep. Because cortisol is designed to keep people alert in times of stress, it can then cause insomnia; and hence, the lack of proper refreshing sleep will make you tired.
What did I do in the end?
I took two full days off: sofa, bed, books, soups and warm water, teas and tears. I slept all the hours I needed, I took regular anti-inflammatories as suggested and provided by my GP, I let tears roll down my cheeks and I hydrated myself with veg soups, chicken stock and warm water.
I am not a doctor, which means that I am not suggesting (never, ever…) that if you are in pain after quitting, this is what happened to me and hence, it must also be what is happening to you: please, go and see you GP! This is simply what happened to me: now I feel much better, I sleep all the hours I need, I set aside more time to recharge my batteries and I enjoy taking care of myself. I consider the word *self-respect* my new mantra and I take a day at the time not only in the process of quitting but also (and now especially) in the process of recovery, recuperating and regenerating.
Sending good vibes and do take care out there…