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Life story
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Published: 18 years ago

Life story

Hello Shelley and friends,

I was going to include some speculations as to what caused my various conditions, but figured that it'd just be nonconstructive and pointless. Instead, I'll see if you can hazard a guess based on my own observations.

It's hard to pinpoint a time in my life when things began going out of order with regards to my health. In early and middle childhood, I did have a tendancy to get strep throat once or twice every year, but that's it with regards to any serious medical conditions. I never had any major dental work, surgury, or taken Antibiotics (with the exception of pennicillin(sp?) earlier this year, when I had a few teeth pulled.).

In early highschool (first and through second year) I began exercising by jogging an hour or so everyday. Before then, I'd been pretty inactive and had been steadily gaining weight over the years. Eventually, I became obsessed with fullfilling the routine of exercise and added a severe, reckless dieting method of eating once a day or skipping meals for the entire day (The only healthy thing about this diet was that I kept away from snack food and soda). Eventually, when I lost the energy to maintain the routine of exercise, my dieting habits became a borderline eating disorder, and I became almost like a skeleton. The danger of my eating disorder hit me while I was on the phone with my god father and blacked out. My sister told me that I probably had low blood Sugar or some such. Soon after this, I began eating whatever I wanted when I wanted (This didn't become a fixation, however.). I never resumed exercise as religiously as I had after this (Although I tried many times to reincorporate it into my routine.) Anyway, that's the end of that chapter.

I'd always been pretty shy/aloof/awkward in social situations, so school naturally made me nervous. It never reached a breakdown point, however, until my high school year. My grades had been slipping from honors in my freshman year to out and out failure in my senior year. On top of my growing complacency and poor study habits. Then, as if that wasn't enough to break my resolve, somehow, even though I didn't notice it myself, I got the impression that my classmates and some of my teachers were disgusted by me. At first it was rather ambiguous, but as the year went on, I realised that they were detecting some sort of smell that was coming from me. I became so embarrassed and ashamed that I skipped entire months of school at a time, just so I wouldn't have to deal with it. Luckily, the school officials were nice about it, and eventually (after I failed to reintegrate myself into the school) allowed me to finish my senior year by completing extra work at home.

I did undergo therapy and psychiatric analysis in the summer afterward, and was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (I was too embarrassed to mention the smell. A part of me thought that it might have been imagined (no one ever called me on my supposed odor, and family members certainly didn't notice it), or a part of some sort elaborate hoax created by the other kids. Anyway, between talk therapy sessions, I was put on a dosage of prozac, which actually helped alot. I ceased analyzing everything that was going on around me, and wasn't nervous anymore. The follow fall, my mother's connections landed me a job at a video rental store. While there, I noticed the same, subtle hints and body language in my coworkers that previously might've made me freak. On the prozac, however, I was able to ignore it all. But that didn't last long after I cut the dose. At some point, I decided that I had learned what it felt like to be calm and could maintain that state by virtue of my own willpower. I was wrong. For the first month or so after cutting the dosage, I remember being a little bit off, but not severely handicapped. The third month of my employment (January) was the worst. It was like senior year all over again. Based on all of the hints that other employees were giving me (one actually approached me and conveyed to me, in not so certain terms, that I stank.) I felt like I was making most of my coworkers seriously sick. I didn't even have the willpower to give two weeks notice before quitting. I felt like I was doing them a favor, even my boss, who relied so much on me because I took up so much of their schedule. One day, in early february (2001), I just didn't show up, and hid the fact from my family for weeks.

Since then, my employment troubles have gotten worse. I've had a few jobs here and there, but a combination of a lack of energy, stress, and Body Odor forced me out of all of them very early. My problems have been worsened even further by my expansive mental fog, which makes it damn near impossible to conduct a good interview (not that I'd be able to keep the job anyway).

The mental fog may have been there for a while without me noticing it. It became apparent when my liesure time activities (I used to enjoy writing creatively from 2000 onward, and was a fairly good reader) and previously good memory became affected. It was toward the end of 2002 that I really began to notice it. At this point, I was on the verge of a complete mental breakdown. I became obsessed with every little thing that seemed out of place, from irregular heart beats, mild testicular pain, to light flashes and auras as well as strange headaches... a kind that I've never experienced before. It felt like the outer layer of my brain was on fire, and the sensation radiated from front to back, meanwhile making me nautious(sp?). The general feeling of sickness made me lazy, and I found that I couldn't focus on household chores and other tasks like I used to. This particular symptom would come on and off in the next few weeks and, for some reason, was slightly alleviated by eating. After a few fruitless doctor visits regarding conditions that I didn't have (and being diagnosed with cluster headaches) these flu-like symptoms eventually passed on their own. Sometime after this, I noticed a round sort of rash growing on my right thigh. There were two layers... a darker pink inner circle surrounded by a light pink, slightly indefinite ring (Ok, I'm gonna break the rule I set at the beginning, and tell you that I thought I had Lyme disease at that point.). It had a single, minute bite in the middle (At least, I think it did, it's hard to remember clearly/exactly), and so probably wasn't a spider bite. It hadn't really dawned on me before then, but I was at a high risk for being bitten by ticks, living in a heavily wooded area (although I rarely ventured out into them) and sleeping with a cat that routinely brought the buggers into the house. Not to mention that I live in an endemic area for ticks that carry Lyme disease (Rhode Island). Around this time, I also developed a stiff neck, and could barely move it for a week... That may have been before or after the rash appeared. This entire period has been a chaotic jumble of events for me, and I'm not 100% clear on the exact sequence. If I had to make a guess, I'd say the stiff neck appeared before the rash and possibly before and during the flu-like symptoms. Sleeping became a chore. I would get head-shocks just before I'd drift into sleep; most probably it was anxiety from the feeling of 'falling under'. Also, when lying still and trying to sleep, sometimes I would twitch violently, my knees jerking upward. I also developed muscular twitching centered around certain parts of my body (I can't remember exactly which. Usually, it'd be my feet when I was laying down.)

Throughout all of this, my mental fog grew from a slight dumbness at the beginning, to full-blown stupidity and lack of imagination that persists to this day. Not to say that I was any kind of genius before all of this happened... Before the mental fog came over me, I would have constant internal dialogues and movies playing through my head and had a decent imagination and level of creativity, but was always sort of irrational and not too smart or witty. Now, my mind is much quieter, and I count myself lucky if I'm feeling in the flow and getting a steady stream of images and ideas. This never happens, however, and most of my thoughts and daydreams are redundant in nature, almost like echoes (Probably a concious response to try and commit things to memory, which, by the way, isn't very effective.). My repetoire of phrases and words used to be very varied. Now I'm limited to writing in this somewhat bookish manner. Otherwise, if I had full access to the phrases I knew, I'd be able to write more casually, in a more natural language. As is, my english is very limited. My reading abilities plummeted after the fog hit me... I used to be able to just take written words sentences at a time and automatically they would register with my brain. Now, I have to sound it out mentally to comprehend, dramatically decreasing my reading speed. My memory is pretty much ruined... Before, if someone asked me to recount my conversation with another person, or to remember their monologue (if it was mostly them talking), I'd be very exact and accurate in my recollection (not perfect though... most of the time I just made do with getting the point across). Now, I can't even sum it up. I draw a complete blank, and the same effect applies to my ability to spark spontaneous communications. There's nothing there. I just end up mumbling like a *%#&§?ß*. I've also developed stereotypical, automatic responses whenever someone speaks to me, with 'I dunno' being the most prominent. I used to have the ability to at least bs about general things rather than appearing blatantly ignorant.

A couple of other things I noticed: Very dramatic weight gain from the fall of 2002 to spring of 2003. About forty pounds, all told. The doctor said that it was most probably because of the holiday season, but I have trouble buying that, especially taking all of my other symptoms into consideration. At the very least, my metabolism had slowed down, because I've never had such a rapid weight gain. Even my face changed... I began looking very ugly with much less definition to my face (a weak jawline and bloated cheeks).

After awhile, many of the symptoms disappeared. The spasms when I sleep are much less frequent than they were, but the twitching is still there. I don't have a stiff neck, and haven't had flu-like symptoms since the first few episodes subsided. I don't have headaches or auras/light flashes anymore either. A new symptom that popped up about a year ago, was this musty smell in my nose (and nausea to accompany it).

Two diagnoses that I've received are hypothyroidism (my doctor tested going solely by my TSH at first) but my levels are supposedly normal now (They only checked free T4 and TSH, not free T3 or the thyroid antibodies or whatever they're called.). Glucose is also normal. I haven't had the medical coverage to go for other, more extensive tests (in particular, the ones to determine Lyme disease, which aren't even that accurate from what I hear, and rule out nuerological conditions.). My pyschiatrist diagnosed me as having Asperger's Syndrome, but I'm not sure that's right. I have a few Aspergian triats, but have a good ability to determine another person's intent, as well as an understanding of body language. So that makes for a strong arguement against AS. But lately I've been hearing it's not neccesarily a yes or no condition. At any rate, whether I have it or not isn't important, as it's merely something that you're born with.

Ugh... I'm too tired to go on. There's probably something that I forgot to mention, but I just can't keep things in a wide enough perspective to recall. Thanks for reading this far.

Todd .F.

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