May. 25th, 2014

mellowtigger: (crazy)
I've changed to a new job. Based on recommendations from 2 neurologists (at the same clinic), I'm still gluten-free and now I'm also taking a brain-affecting drug.

For years now, I've been complaining about my muscle twitches and low energy level. For months, I've noted that my blog has been rather light on substance compared to previous years, because my concentration and focus have been seriously lacking. I've mentioned that I feel better when I can get out bicycling, gardening, or drinking Wild Blue (blueberry lager). Not previously mentioned, I've also kept some dark chocolate chips in the kitchen (and by the sofa) to snack on. Also not previously mentioned, I've had zero enthusiasm, even failing for months on end to play any of my usually beloved computer games. I got my former database administrator hooked on Wizard 101, then I ditched her for half a year when I stopped playing all of my games. Turns out... all of these symptoms and behaviors may be related to a single underlying cause.

I left Dell, even though I was told I was doing a good job at software testing. I found a few really good software bugs while I was there, and I was proud of those discoveries. I'm sure the software is better now because of my efforts. After spending half a year testing a particular software release that finally went to customers, though... I couldn't muster any enthusiasm for that accomplishment at all. I knew that my poor concentration, memory, and motivation were going to lead to problems eventually, so I left while I still had a good legacy behind me. My bank account really liked my job at Dell, but I was constantly stressed there without really having a great explanation for why.

I decided to get back to technical support work, where I had not previously noticed any deficiency within myself. Tech support is a kind of work that focuses on short-term and immediate issues at hand, which is something that I need in my life these days. I now work at The Nature Conservancy. My new workplace includes many people who have spent a lot of years at the company, and it's reassuring to see that kind of longevity anyplace. Also, I like the purpose-driven environment much better than corporate culture. I think this job will be a good fit on several levels. I am once again back among the ranks of America's working poor, but I'll be making almost 25% more than I did at the Animal Humane Society. I think I can continue living at long-familiar subsistence levels without losing financial ground this time.

So, based entirely on my personal self-assessment, I have changed my life for this new reality that I find myself in. On my last week at Dell, however, the neurologists sent me for an all-day/all-night sleep study. I thought it was a bit frivolous, but I was glad that they were still taking me seriously after we finally ruled out multiple sclerosis as a potential diagnosis. Turns out... it may have been the most valuable test so far. Besides a snoring problem when I'm laying flat on my back (but not serious enough for the technician to put me on a CPAP that very night), they discovered that I have a serious problem with restless leg syndrome. That observation leads to a conclusion that could explain everything.

Restless leg syndrome tends to appear because of low dopamine levels in the brain. Low dopamine levels from various causes are associated with:
  • chronic fatigue
  • low motivation
  • poor concentration
  • anxiety, stress
  • fasciculations (muscle twitches), cramps, and neuropathy
The body improves its own dopamine function by:Do these points sound strangely familiar? I may finally have a sensible diagnosis! It'll be many weeks as we slowly increase dosage of ropinirole to see if it actually solves my constellation of symptoms/behaviors. Because this drug influences dopamine in the brain, which affects our seeking of rewards, it has the potential side-effect of triggering risk-taking behavior of all types (hypersexuality, gambling, anger/dominance displays, and other addictive/stimulating behaviors). In some people, it actually makes their restless leg syndrome worse. I'm hopeful, though, that I'll get to see some improvement in my life without any pesky down side. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I'm starting this new job; I forced myself to start some gardening this weekend (with many frequent breaks and naps); and for the last week or so I've gone back to playing an online game called RIFT. (Join me at this link for a few refer-a-friend benefits, if you want.) We'll see if I can maintain my interest while using this new dopamine drug.

Hopefully the coming months will see my focus, motivation, and enthusiasm return to normal.  It still begs the question why my dopamine would be low, but I'll take a respite if I can get it.

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mellowtigger

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