11 Symptoms Of Vagus Nerve Dysfunction

11 Symptoms Of Vagus Nerve Dysfunction

Something many people have, but few people know about.
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Not many people really know what the vagus nerve is so first, let me explain that. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body that regulates the gut and also affects the cardiovascular, immune, endocrine and respiratory systems. That means it's a pretty major nerve in the human body. So when that nerve is dysfunctional, you can imagine it can have some pretty ridiculous side effects.

This past autumn, I figured out that my vagus nerve is, somehow, dysfunctional. And it turns out that a lot of people have a dysfunctional vagus nerve. When you struggle with vagus nerve dysfunction, you can be perfectly healthy for a long time, catch a cold or hit a wall, and then your body will take months to recover. I got so sick that I didn't have the energy to even get out of bed for days and probably would have withered away if my mom didn't bring me food. Living with vagus nerve dysfunction is something that you have to learn to live with because there is no cure. So if you have a friend with a dysfunction vagus nerve, please try and understand them and read through these common symptoms that come with it.


1. Chronic Nausea

Unfortunately, this means there isn't a lot that seems appetizing to eat.


2. Weight Loss

Due to not wanting to eat from the nausea, you can lose significant weight. At my worst, I unintentionally lost 15 lbs. in about three weeks.


3. Weight Gain

Most likely due to chronic fatigue, depression and anxiety.


4. Bradycardia and Tachycardia

Otherwise known as decreased heart rate and increased heart rate, respectfully. This can make simple things like walking or standing for longer periods of time difficult.


5. IBS

Constant stomach pains and nausea generally means constantly feeling uncomfortable.


6. Depression

Not only just because it's connected to your brain, but always feeling down and sick definitely takes a toll on your mental health.


7. Anxiety

I still sometimes get panic attacks at the thought of leaving the house because I might have a terrible dizzy spell in public again.


8. Chronic Inflammation

It just sucks.


9. Chronic Fatigue

There's a difference between feeling tired all the time because you're a college student and feeling tired all the time because your body is sick.


10. Heartburn

All I have to say is no thank you.


11. Dizziness/Fainting

We try our best to not stand up too fast because that'll make it worse.


While there isn't a cure for vagus nerve dysfunction, there are a lot of things we can do to manage it. Some of us take medications for our mental health and nausea. Yoga is always great for increasing our muscle function. And massive intake of salt and water is vital (we drink a lot of Gatorade). But that doesn't mean that we don't have bad days. So try your best to be there for your friends with dysfunctional vagus nerves. Instead of always suggesting to go out, maybe just ask if you can bring over a lot of Gatorade and salty snacks and binge Netflix. It will be greatly appreciated.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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What Having Type 1 Diabetes For 11 Years Has Taught Me

When I was diagnosed, the only thing that I could think about was that whatever this "diabetes thing" was — it must be really bad. Little did I know that, almost 11 years later, I could look back at this "diabetes thing" as something that has been really good for my life.

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In the middle of July in 2008, I started drinking an average of two or three gallons of water a day, going to the bathroom two or three times per hour, and losing a ton of weight. On July 21, 2008, after my parents pretty much self-diagnosed me at home with extra ketone strips, my doctor came into the room with tears streaming down her face and the news that I had Type 1 Diabetes. Everyone in the room, including the doctors, was crying. The only thing that I could think was that whatever this "diabetes thing" was- it must be really bad. Little did I know that, almost 11 years later, I could look back at this "diabetes things" as something that has been really good for my life.

Over the next couple days, I experienced a lot of new things- learning how do to seven to eight injections a day in my stomach, eight to fourteen finger pricks a day, a lot of big medical words, a lot of tears, and thankfully the knowledge that this all was not my fault. I found so much comfort knowing that I had diabetes because my immune system that killed all my beta cells, and knowing that there was nothing that I could have done to prevent it.

At that point, I knew God wanted this for me for some reason.

In the week following the diagnosis, I loved having diabetes. I felt special because I was different and my friends wanted me to talk about it all the time because they were fascinated by all things diabetes related. However, as I continued to have injection after injection and count carb after carb, I began to question why this had to happen to me and began to question why I should even take care of myself because, after all, this taxing disease would follow me for the rest of my life.

My perspective completely changed as I sat down to watch the 2011 Indy 500 with my dad. Watching the Indy 500 had been a tradition for my dad and me since he first showed me the sport in when I was nine. I loved the history, the loud engines, and the high speeds of it all and became a big fan of Danica Patrick, before she went to NASCAR.

The 2011 Indy 500 seemed like any other race, but little did I know that it would be the last Indy 500 I would watch on the couch.

As they introduced the drivers, we watched as Charlie Kimball, a rookie, waived to the crowd. By the time he had finished waiving, my dad was in tears. This was because as Charlie was waiving to the crowd, they announced him as Charlie Kimball, the first IndyCar driver to drive with Type 1 Diabetes. This was absolutely unheard of and it seemed literally impossible that he could race at more than 220 miles per hour while having diabetes, an extremely unpredictable disease. With tears in his eyes, my dad turned to me and said words I will never forget.

"You're going to meet that guy, Mary Clare. I want you to know that you can do anything with diabetes."

Meeting Charlie for the first time in the pit of the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. June 2011. Photo Credit: Mary Clare Halpin

Later that year, at a race in Newton, Iowa, my dad's promise was fulfilled as I met "the first IndyCar driver to drive with Type 1 Diabetes"- Charlie Kimball. Charlie took my sister, my dad, and me into the pits on race day to show us his race car and how he manages his diabetes inside and outside of the car. He told me "the diagnosis of diabetes has been a speed bump, not a roadblock." I decided in that moment to make diabetes my speed bump and that I wasn't going to let it slow me down; after all, Charlie can go 220+ miles an hour with diabetes.

In the days following the race, I wrote Charlie a four-page thank you note explaining all that he done for me. I did not hear anything back from Charlie until the next May, when my dad got a call from ESPN. They were calling him to asking him if I could be a part of the piece that they were doing to show how Charlie inspires kids with diabetes for the pre-show of the Indy 500. We obviously said "yes" and a few weeks later an ESPN crew came to Kansas City to interview my mom, my dad, and I and to film me at lacrosse practice and dance class.

After they finished, the producer told my family that they wanted to finish the piece, which aired before the start of the race, by filming me live in the pits talking to Charlie before the Indy 500. We made the trip out to Indianapolis that Memorial Day weekend, a tradition that will always be extremely special to our family because what Charlie has done for my life. Charlie brought us to dinner with his family and friends on Friday night, brought me with him to ride in the race parade the day before the race, inspired me through the way he helps those with diabetes, and introduced me to the all the traditions and the magic of the Indy 500, something that means the world to me.

Talking in the pits with Charlie at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before the 2012 Indy 500. May 2012. Photo Credit: Mary Clare Halpin

Because of Charlie's living example and light he brought to my struggle, my life has been changed forever. I no longer look at diabetes as something that hurts me, but rather has helped me. I feel lucky that God chose me to have diabetes because I wouldn't have met Charlie and I wouldn't be the person I am today. I have not only been able to experience incredible things and a positive outlook on something difficult I have to deal with every day due to Charlie's impact on my life, but I have learned two extremely valuable lessons at a young age — bring light to others and find your "why."

I try everyday day to bring light to each person I come in contact with because I know it can change lives, just as Charlie has done for me. I try to bring light because we all have something that affects us every day and it just takes one person to change our "_____ thing" into something really good.

When the injections get to be too much, or I do not want to get up in the middle of the night to treat my low blood sugar, I think of my "why." Finding the deepest desire of my heart, to be a good wife and mom someday, and using it to motivate me to do the simple and the big things has made my life so fulfilling. I know that, as I am enjoying my life with my own family someday, I will be thanking the nineteen-year-old me someday that I did the work to make my dream possible.

However large your "roadblock" or struggle may seem, know that I am rooting for you. If you just change your perspective and use it instead as a speed bump, you can slow down and use improve your life. And you'll win your race.

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