Like many of you, I like to push myself. As I noted in the Conan Introduction, I was working at a very fast pace and was juggling multiple assignments. I also had a wife in LE and children. Needless to say and as many of you know, this was a very taxing situation and a set-up for what became a downward spiral of physiological destruction.
How about some physiology?
I'd like to talk about the science behind my then impending downfall. In order to better explain the situation it's important to have a basic understanding of the physiological systems involved, specifically the endocrine system.
The endocrine system is responsible for just about everything you do. It handles sleeping, both the quantity and quality. It handles your immune response to disease. It handles the day to day ridding of bacteria and viruses in your blood. It regulates your body temperature. It regulates your mood. It regulates your sodium/potassium level inside your cells. It handles how your body processes and utilizes carbohydrates. It regulates inflammation inside your body and your body’s response to it. It regulates the water inside your cells and inside your blood. It helps us maintain mental focus. It handles your body's response to stress at the gym, releasing Testosterone, Human Growth Hormone, Insulin Growth Factor (IGF1). It handles your response to stress, readying you for a fight at a moment’s notice. It regulates your sleep, your digestion, your growth, body temperature. In short, it's huge!
Despite everything this system does, there are only a very few tiny glands that control all of this. They are the thyroid, the adrenals, the gonads (ovaries for women), the pineal gland and the pituitary gland. I am not a doctor, so please forgive me if I have omitted one or two endocrine glands or if I don’t use specific medical terms. I am writing based on the research I’ve done since I became serious about treating my ailing system. (As a side note, I found out our medical system is not really up to the task in treating this “system of failures” either! As such, I've had to become an expert at this and then to teach the medical professionals treating me. I have been fairly successful in this regard but it has not been without many false starts and failed attempts. I will discuss all of this in another post.)
It is the endocrine system response to stress, external and internal, that I believe started a cascade of events in my life. Stress can be caused from a very strenuous work out in the gym, an argument with your wife, a child misbehaving, problems at work, environmental factors, poor diet or even from constantly staying up late and getting up early. All these things “stress” the body and specifically the endocrine system.
Each stressor does not exist in a vacuum. They are additive and collectively are called our alliostatic load. Think of the alliostatic load as a big pile of laundry and each stressor as a garmet of dirty laundry. As we are exposed to more and more stressors that laundry pile grows and grows. We can only do the laundry (clear the stress) so quickly. Eventually, our ability to clear out the pile of dirty laundry is overwhelmed and laundry just continues to pile up. At some point our washer and dryer (Endocrine system) breakdown and we are stuck.
The Civilized World
In our more modern “civilized” era, when someone (boss, wife, co-worker, stranger) “pisses us off”, our body is activated to do something. Our endocrine system kicks into gear. Our heart rate speeds up, blood pressure increases, alertness increases, blood is diverted to major muscle groups in preparation for physical action, pupils dilate, etc. When we were running around the wild, this served us well. We could either stand and fight, killing whatever being threatened our existence or flee at a very high rate of speed. However, in our modern world, getting out of our vehicles and pummeling the idiot in front of us who refuses to move to the right despite the fact that you have lights and sirens blaring, is looked upon poorly.
This leaves us in a bit of a quandary. Although our bodies still produce these hormones in response to stress (and as a law enforcement officer we produce more than our fair share) a majority of the time we have nowhere to properly utilize them, i.e. our laundry pile grows. If we add to this our propensity as LE personnel to have this system, let us say, “more developed” than most, we can start to see more clearly why we, as a group, have a serious problem.
Conan Speaks is one officer's journey with a debilitating, potentially fatal, and largely silent condition, unknowingly shared by many in LE. Follow with us Conan's tale as he describes the events contributing to the condition, his denial and eventual coming to terms, and his long, complex and oft-times frustrating road to recovery continues to unfold. In reading, you may see yourself or someone you know. Hopefully, this could save you or your partner's career, marriage and even life.