Health recap

“I know this is a temporary state and I that I am strong enough to get through it. Life isn’t always easy, but I’m hoping that it won’t be long before I see the light at the end of this particular tunnel.”
06/08/18 webpage post

I’m on medical leave from work now, which is both a blessing and a curse. For one thing, it has given me way too much time to argue with people on the internet, as you can tell by my previous post. Responding to jerks on Facebook was not the topic I intended to cover upon my return to blogging after a long hiatus! Instead, I wanted to start writing about the reason for said hiatus in more detail. It’s been a long road so far, and I still have quite a ways to go.

I started documenting my health issues in May 2018 after my first sleep study, but the first onset of symptoms was about two years before that. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been suffering in one form or another for over three years now. It’s exhausting in more ways than one. At first I thought I simply had mildly irritating Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) brought on by a sharp increase in the number of miles I ran every week, but it escalated from there. The “twinges” and “shivering” I felt in my legs when I went to bed at night became full-blown cyclic muscle spasms and involuntary leg movements that completely prevented me from falling asleep. It took me hours to get to sleep every night so I was either late to work the next day or severely sleep deprived. When I finally sought medical help the first GP I went to ran some blood work and told me I was anemic and needed to take iron supplements. Even after I told her that I am a carrier for a blood disorder that contradicted her diagnosis she offered no additional options. Fortunately the next GP I consulted was much more helpful. She initially gave me Xanax (which made me feel sick) and then Ambien as a sleep aid. The Ambien put me to sleep very quickly, but I still woke up exhausted the next morning. That’s when the first sleep study was conducted and my case of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) was verified. What a relief that was. After ramping up on a medication for RLS/Parkinson’s Disease I got a much-needed reprieve from my limbs flailing about all night long.

However, my daytime fatigue persisted. As I wrote back in August 2018, “I can sleep all day, and it doesn’t feel like a choice I’m making. I just wake up in the afternoon/evening and feel depressed that I’ve lost yet another day to my poor health.” This wacky schedule was not at all conducive to being a functional member of society. I started seeing a neurologist shortly after establishing my PLMD to determine the right cocktail of medications to help me live a normal life again. Adding a couple of other nighttime anti-seizure drugs to my treatment (Gabapentin and Klonopin) didn’t seem to make much of a difference, but I faithfully took them anyway. Eventually I broke down and took a 3-month leave of absence from work in order to rest and hopefully recuperate. My third and current GP, who is seriously amazing, ordered more blood work during this timeframe to check for autoimmune markers, but none of the numbers were glaringly out of range. So I went back to the neurologist, but after another (Maybe my 3rd? I’ve lost count.) sleep study in January 2019 ruled out narcolepsy he was stumped. Not a good sign. His last ditch effort to restore my energy was to give me a prescription for a stimulant to help me stay awake during the day. And for a while I thought it worked! Every morning I would pop one of these “pep pills,” as I called them, and I felt like a normal human being again. I was elated! Just before the end of my leave of absence I was confident that although I didn’t have a definitive diagnosis, I was ready to go back to work full-time. I was wrong.

Even with daytime and nighttime medications that were supposed to alleviate my symptoms, adding 40-hour work weeks back to my routine practically put me back where I started. My body just couldn’t sustain 8 or 9 hours of work per day, plus regular exercise, and all of the other stressors of daily life. Even increasing the dosage of my stimulant by 50% wasn’t enough. I was struggling to do the things I absolutely had to do, and I was missing out on just about all enjoyable activities due to my extreme fatigue. Basically, I was miserable. It was hard to explain to my friends and co-workers without sounding seriously depressed, but I felt like a useless human being. I love my job, but I wasn’t pulling my weight there and it killed me. Then outside of work I wasn’t adequately taking care of myself or my home environment due to lack of energy. All I wanted to do was sleep for days, and even then I didn’t feel any better! It was so hard not to beat myself up for these failings, even though I knew it wasn’t my fault. If I had a choice I would certainly not choose to feel this way! Eventually I reached my breaking point again and took another leave of absence from work, and that brings us up to the present.

The bottom line is that something is wrong with me and I have to figure out what it is. I am suffering from some sort of difficult to diagnose chronic illness (or illnesses) and someone, somewhere will be able to help me treat it. I just need to find that particular doctor or facility. So far I’ve been out of work for two weeks. While it’s been such a relief to be able to sleep when I need to and as many hours as I need to, I am starting to feel disconnected with the world. I am lacking a purpose. I’ve been working on finding some comprehensive medical care while I’m on leave from work, but I don’t have anything definitive set up yet. It’s hard to get much done when fatigue is your constant companion. It’s a struggle, but I know I’ll find answers eventually. Being positive isn’t easy, especially on the days where I can barely drag myself out of bed, but imagining a future where I feel normal again and can be the engineer, runner, and friend that I used to be is what keeps me going.

Haters gonna hate

Much to my dismay I’ve found someone in the running for my second least favorite person on the internet. It’s another author/blogger/social media presence whose publicly-shared beliefs are in direct opposition to my own. To minimize the length of this post I won’t go into too much detail on this person today, but instead I’ll outline an encounter I had with one of her followers. Unfortunately this author attracts men who don’t have much of an opinion of women. At least not ones who refuse to conform to their own personal standards of how our gender should behave. I think you’ll see what I mean shortly.

I’m going to share, word for word, a comment that one particular man made a few days ago. I can’t remember all of the context that lead up to it, but it had something to do with women having minds of their own. The horror! This guy objected to my questions and decided to go with a personal attack rather than attempting to use his brain and engage in an actual conversation. That’s when you know someone can’t back up their statements. I’ve been called all sorts of names in online discussions, but this dude found my blog, read it for a substantial amount of time, and then crafted a Facebook comment in an attempt to shame me for my views.

I’ll address each of his allegations individually:

  • 40 something feminist (divorced) –> True! I happily embrace all of those labels.
  • Typical post-wall ‘Strong independent woman’ –> Partially true. I had to look this one up, but “post-wall” means past my fertility window. Since I’m not actively trying to get pregnant I have no way to verify this one. As for “strong independent woman,” hell yes this is true! Putting this phrase in quotes is meant to make it demeaning, but I am the living embodiment of all three of those words.
  • Free tax dollar funded college degree –> False! While I did go to college on someone else’s dime, I earned my tuition from the Bright Futures Scholarship, which is funded by the Florida Lottery. Not tax dollars. And how is paying nothing to earn an engineering degree from a highly respected state university in any way shameful?
  • Attacks other women that don’t agree with her twisted views –> False! I simply write blog posts responding to online content that I object to. Isn’t that what everyone on the interwebz is doing in one way or another? My “twisted” views, as this dude calls them, aren’t any less valid because he doesn’t agree with them.
  • Regularly see’s [sic] a neurologist for “brain” problems –> True! It’s no secret that I have I have health issues, and a neurologist does in fact treat brain conditions. Moving on.
  • Pushes ‘equality’ –> True! But with another bizarre use of quotations (the third so far). As if equality is a bad thing. Someone once told me that if you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression. To any men who feel “oppressed” because women are being given equal rights and opportunities, get used to it. We aren’t going away.
  • Gloats about her female privilege on her hate blog –> Maybe? I’m not sure what “female privilege” is, exactly, since women have so many well-documented disadvantages in this world, but there is a possibility that while writing about my life I have unwittingly described some benefit of being female. However, I do object to the “hate” descriptor being applied to my blog.
  • Has self esteem issues / emotional train wreck –> Partially true. Everyone is a mess sometimes and I have written about some of my lowest instances openly and honestly. It helped me work through the trauma of those deep valleys, and hopefully it also helped someone who is going through a period like that of their own.
  • Takes a cocktail of SSRI drugs –> False! One SSRI does not a “cocktail” make, but thanks for playing. I’m pretty sure Lexapro saved my life when I hit my emotional rock bottom a couple of years ago. I felt utterly helpless not knowing the extent of my health issues. I was crying on my couch while texting my best friend, and that’s when I knew I needed medical help. I would shout it from the rooftops that I take Lexapro if it would help normalize mental health issues.
  • Does “retail therapy” for depression –> True! As long I spend responsibly I’m not ashamed of this coping mechanism.
  • Can’t sleep –> Partially true. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping due to my Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), and other times I sleep 20+ hours at a time due to unexplained fatigue. Again, how is this something I would ever be ashamed of?
  • Totally loyal and obedient to her Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex masters, but can’t obey a man –> This one is really reaching and I don’t have the energy to unpack all of its baggage. As far as “can’t obey a man” goes, my former marriage obviously can’t be explained in a few sentences, but I’ll try. My ex-husband wanted me to do everything his way and never complain. I tried. I really did. I wanted my marriage to work so I poured every ounce of myself into making him happy. But it was never enough. He was always dissatisfied. Eventually I realized that I didn’t have to live that way and I divorced him. And out of all of the things in this insipid list, the one that I am least ashamed of is my divorce. Women don’t exist purely to satisfy the whims of men, and no one should be forced to stay with a person who believes that.

So if by some chance this dude manages to find his way back to my blog to do some more “research,” at least he’ll know exactly what I think of him. Nothing.