Hyposensitivity, Self-Awareness and Health
“Do you realize how very hard it is to push your body so hard that you get a clinical diagnosis of exhaustion?!” The Doctor’s voice was tense and stern as he waited for my reaction. I just sat there looking at the wall, confused, annoyed and very, very tired. I had no words to offer him and I just wanted to get out of there. I hate doctors. They never understand me and often just plain do not believe me. He lectured me some more, wrote prescriptions for physical therapy, some medicines and instructed me to rest, eat, etc. This was the third time in my recent life that I did this sort of thing to myself. I cannot even remember the times over the past decades. This latest one followed a 3 day weekend of farm work and very heavy lifting, pulling, cutting in the 100 + degree weather on my farm. When I do this sort of thing, my friends and neighbors call me an “idiot” or just shake their head at me. They cannot understand why anyone with as much intelligence as I seem to otherwise have would do such stupid things to my body. The common sense part of all of this is completely missing. Sitting there reflecting on events leading to this, I am highly confused. I did not feel anything. There was no warning that I was pushing. I like the heat and I was in top physical condition for the work. I was careful to get proper nutrition and fluids. I spent years studying nutrition, exercise and even got a certificate in Personal Training just so that I could prevent this sort of stuff. How did this happen again?
I have always told people that I am going to leave this life (AKA die) from some stupid infection in my body that I know nothing about until it is too late to fix it. It is the case that I will often not know I have a bladder infection so will not catch them until I am passing blood and the infection has moved into my kidneys. I break bones and don’t know it except for the fact that my limbs are not functioning. I once broke every bone in my right ankle, my tibia and my fibula all in one freak motocross crash. At the ER, the triage team treated me as a non-critical patient because I was not showing signs of pain. One of the nurses who triaged me came into my ER room with his jaw on his chest after seeing the x-rays and informed me that he was so sorry for everything and that he was calling the surgeon for me ASAP. He kept saying that he did not know and mumbling how it simply wasn’t normal for anyone to take that sort of pain so well. I once broke my finger playing football and after 2 weeks of normal use, my neighbor looked at the finger and the weird angle and suggested I go to the hospital for an xray. You know, just in case. The break was an astounding 30 degrees and required a lot of special wrapping to grow back properly. When I broke another finger in that same season, I opted to just play with it broken which I did without issue.
Other anomalies are that I had to take intensive private instruction in nutrition and learn to track food daily in a software program in order to feed my body properly. This is due to the fact that my hunger cues do not seem to work correctly. I learned this after having multiple sports related injuries and episodes of overtraining. Other athletes where able to do the same or similar workload but I kept crashing while they were fine. I spent years trying to understand this and finally I learned that I under eat if not tracking calories. Of course I tried to solve this problem initially by forcing food and then discovered that I overeat if I try to feed myself more than I think I need. Apparently the “full” signal is also not really there. My body temperature is also not like other people. I am always cold. Even in 80 plus degree weather, I usually have a jacket on. In fact it can almost not be too hot for me and I constantly get teased by my friends about being a lizard of some sort.
All of these unexplained oddities over the course of the past 47 years have caused me to have mostly very unpleasant experiences in Doctor and other medical professional offices. How does one explain that they do not feel a 30 degree break in their finger? What words are there for me to use as an excuse for allowing a bladder infection to travel into my kidney? How do I justify a bleeding ulcer from overwork, forgetting to sleep or eat? Some Doctors just look at me like I am completely weird and others are rude to me. None of them seem to understand and to be honest, I largely don’t get them either. How can I know ahead of a visit what is going to happen? The Doctors touch me and prod me and nobody tells me what they are doing. When I ask them what they are doing, I get mixed but never “good” reactions. In addition, the rules do not logically make sense. Why do I have to go into the Doctor to get treated for a simple sinus infection? I get these all the time and I can tell when it is time for treatment.
Over the years, I have developed strategies and habits to largely avoid the places where Doctors tend to be. I do things like buy antibiotics in Mexico and just ignore all the standard recommendations for checkups and treatments. I have not been seen by a “girl” Doctor for 15 or more years and I will reluctantly go to the dentist when I think there is something very wrong (usually every 5-10 years). Emergency Rooms tend to be the best option because they are generally pretty quick out where I live and I can just ignore all the follow up recommendations. I tend to get less criticism from this crew for my perpetual health failures.
Of course all of this was prior to my ASD Diagnosis. Now I do have a word to describe these oddities. That word is “autism”. I can add the words, Hyposensitivity and Hypersensitivity. I can put into words why I am tense in a place where I don’t know the rules and don’t know what is coming next. I can blame anxiety due to autism. What difference does this new reality make? To be honest, I do not know. Autism is such a relatively new phenomenon that there are literally no Adult Medical Doctors in my area who advertise themselves as ASD savvy. Even in the cognitive science medical field very few Doctors know or care about adults with ASD. It seems that all these professionals are focusing on the kids. So for now I keep on keeping on but with my own eyes more open. Some of this is hyposensitivity but some of it is probably self-awareness. I can continue to improve my self-awareness skills. After years of tracking my calories every single day, I can actually feel hunger. It still sneaks up on me so I am trying to learn to heed this signal and catch it earlier. I also now realize that I can no longer rely on my self-awareness to make physical decisions. The next 100 + degree days, I will stay indoors with the “normal” people and work quietly. I will be more careful to get in rest and treat myself a bit better. I will try to remember that I have to work a bit harder than most other people and as such may not be able to do what they do.
I also now realize that my avoidance of Doctors is no longer acceptable nor is it the most intelligent thing for me to continue to do as I approach 50. This could easily result in failure to detect a life threatening but preventable thing. I need to get myself treated and checked like all the other people. It only makes sense that I heed these guidelines. But yet I hesitate. I cannot bring myself to just do it. The past is so hard to let go. The future may be different but it may not. I wish I had someone to help me get there, to make sure I do what is right and that I am okay. Perhaps next week I will make some appointments?