My weird health issues

Personal    2013-05-16

If we're connected on Facebook, you've probably already seen bits and pieces of this story. Is it weird to be talking about my health problems on what is ostensibly a tech blog? Maybe. But there are enough people who have been curious that I thought I'd better explain what's going on. I also don't want it to be a big surprise when I step back a little from organizing and teaching this summer. And when I don't end up submitting all the talk proposals I've been so excited about, it's not out of fear - I just need to scale back my travel plans for the foreseeable future.

Back in November, not long after I moved to Austin, I started experiencing some symptoms - muscle fatigue, dizziness, irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath. They were mild at first, but by January had intensified to the point that I was experiencing them daily, and by February it was almost around the clock. It feels like a blood sugar crash, or caffeine shakes, except that it can go on for hours and hours.

This isn't a case of burning out: I've just started a new job that I'm really excited about. And I'm on fire with ideas - workshops I want to teach, programs I want to start, presentations I want to give, all kinds of things I want to contribute back to the Python community.

It's not about forgetting to take care of myself either - I'm doing all the right things, they just don't seem to be helping. I've been eating a healthy diet. No caffeine, no junk food, almost no sugar, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I stopped working out for a little while, but I'm back in the gym at least three days a week now (I work out around lunchtime, the only time I have the energy).

I don't want to go to into too many details, but I've seen several different doctors over the last few months and had done just about every test known to man (have I mentioned how squeamish I am about having blood drawn?). It's not thyroid, hypoglycemia, celiac, B-12 deficiency, or anything like that. The only thing we've found conclusively is that I'm suffering from a heart condition that runs in my family. It's not dangerous, but it can be very painful.

I am taking medication for that, but that's barely put a dent in the symptoms. By the end of most days my energy is completely sapped, and I'm too exhausted to work on anything else. As far as anyone can tell, the stuff that's going on with my heart is annoying, uncomfortable, and tiring much of the time, but it's not at all life-threatening. Still, it's frightening to feel so weak and fatigued every night and have no idea why. I don't know how to make myself feel better, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

My doctors are stumped. The cardiologist doesn't want to increase or change my medication, and the GP has recommended that I seek second opinions, so that means finding a new endocrinologist and a new cardiologist, at the very least. I'm even considering going to a naturopath - I want to talk to someone who can look at the whole picture and come up with some new ideas, maybe see something that the medical doctors haven't.

So I've given it a lot of thought. I don't really want to step back from anything, but I'm going to have to cut back on some community activities until this gets solved. I don't expect much to change with Austin PyLadies - all our members are so motivated and involved that the group is practically running itself these days. I had planned on being very involved with SciPy when it comes to Austin in June, but I may have to withdraw from that. I have started putting together another beginner Python workshop for some time in July - that will probably go ahead, although I may be looking for some help. And PyTexas in August is probably off the calendar unless my doctors have come up with something helpful by then.

And DjangoCon? Well, we'll see about DjangoCon. I haven't missed one yet.