Restless Legs Suck Ass

Some of my first memories are of restless leg syndrome. Being in the back of the car, in an airplane, and feeling the discomfort.

That was in the 70’s and 80’s.

I’m one of the (approximately) 10% of people with restless legs syndrome who experience it as pain, and that’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I went to doctor after doctor trying to find out why I hurt at night, why it seemed to be “reverse arthritis” (it hurt when I didn’t move). Nobody had any answers. For years.

Because I experience it as pain, it’s not just that I’m kept awake. The pain also means that it’s hard for me to concentrate, think, or otherwise use the time in any meaningful way. Daily, this would keep me up past midnight – and on bad days up to 4 or 5 am.

To put that in context, for the last 15 years or so, I’ve had to wake up for work somewhere between 5 and 6:30.

This means, of course, that the next day I’d be worse than useless. I’d make stupid “tired” mistakes. It’s a miserable thing. And then it would often repeat again the next night.

Last night was bad. I don’t know why.

From eleven pm until about four am, I was only able to doze at most in 3-5 minute periods before the pain in my ankles woke me up again.

Yet I know there’s people who think they have RLS who probably don’t. The number of people I see who use RLS as a “reason” they can’t hold still for a test has gone up dramatically in the last ten years. I’m sure there’s some people who find it convenient, or suggested the disease (or treatment) to their doctors.

But damn, do people have to be assholes like this guy?

There’s a lot of things springing up in our society’s health. I have no doubt that patients go to doctors convinced they have the latest fashionable disease or need the most heavily advertised pharmaceutical.

But at the same time, we’re radically altering our environment. [1] Plastics did not exist at all until after the Civil War, , for example. But now they’re everywhere – and even small amounts of offgassing could, over time alter long-term health. We don’t know. There’s no real way to prove it. We do know we have drugs in our water, and we have drugs in our food that weren’t there years before. Hell, there’s a significant body of research suggesting that our cleanliness and sanitation comes with the drawbacks of asthma, allergies, and bronchitis. [2]

When we have these new syndromes and diseases, realize that our world has changed, in very fundamental ways. Maybe some (or even most) of it is driven by pharmaceutical companies trying to make obscene profits.

But when you’re mocking and being judgmental, don’t forget the very real people who actually do suffer.

[1] And I’m not even talking about global climate change, etc.

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