There was an interesting article in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times Magazine highlighting the diagnosis of a rare autoimmune disorder in a young girl. The girl went to her doctor after noticing that her hair was falling out, but did not have any other problems. After stumping the doctors and online community with her odd presentation of symptoms a website user suggested a disease which causes hair loss and extreme weakness. It was not until this diagnosis was made that the young girl realized exactly how weak she was. Before treatment she could barely lift a jug of milk but thought that it was normal to struggle with such tasks.
This article made me consider my own situation and others like mine: How is it possible to diagnose a medical condition when the patient finds nothing wrong? In this girl’s case and mine it took an outstanding symptom to force us to reconsider our ways of living: for her it was rapid hair loss, and for me it was sudden and severe panic attacks. As an immediate response to my symptom I was diagnosed with a panic disorder, but it was not until my doctors and I analyzed the situation further, noting that the attacks began during a major transition between middle school and high school, and that maybe I was not as socially mature as my peers as we had previously believed, and that I engaged in a few obsessive and compulsive activities, that we began to suspect something else. When I began to research Asperger’s symptoms I found that some patients did have problems with depth perceptions and with hypersensitivity. I found that some patients have reported synesthesia, meaning that they have two intertwined senses. My initial response was a confused one, as up until this point I had believed that everybody perceived music as I did, and that everybody saw the world in the not-quite 3-dimensional state that I saw (a perception I have taken to referring to as “2.5D”). Upon discovering this it became quite clear to me that I do have Asperger’s Syndrome, and that many of the daily nuances I have become accustomed to are really symptoms of the condition. It is amazing to me how our bodies can accommodate themselves so readily to challenges that are not ideal, and moreso that we can adapt to them in a way that makes them seem normal.