Saturday, January 1, 2011


About two years ago I was working as a well paid senior programmer and systems analyst at a mid-size banking services company.

After staring at a computer screen so much during the often 50-60 hour long work weeks, it appeared that my profession was finally taking it's toll on my eyesight. My eyes often hurt by mid afternoon, and my vision was becoming noticeably blurry. I went to the optometrist and he prescribed glasses for the first time in my life. Since I had always had 20/20 vision, this was new and strange to me, but I thought: "oh well, I guess I'm getting older or something."

Not to be outdone, the rest of my body began doing strange new things too. Horrible insomnia plagued my nights, coupled with seemingly random pain severe enough to render me completely unable to function at times. By the end of the year, I had used all my sick leave, and every scrap of my vacation time as sick days. I had just turned thirty and was starting to feel like I had somehow skipped a couple decades where my body was concerned.

Not surprisingly, the relationship with my employer became rather strained over time. I couldn't blame anyone for wondering what was wrong with me... I wasn't particularly happy about it either. Eventually, despite frequently being recognized for my actual work performance, I was invited to seek employment elsewhere.

Next I went to work for a cutting edge digital media firm. It was a very dynamic and fast-paced environment, with high profile clients, interesting projects, and charismatic senior developers who were often found jetting across the country for important design meetings or technology conferences. This was the type of job I could really sink my teeth into. I was very excited.

But I was having a hard time concentrating, and unusual difficulty remembering things. Names and facts that I normally should have been able to recall instantly, often took me 5-10 minutes to bring to mind. I couldn't type as fast as I used to, my hands were always aching and my overall output was just plain sub par. Something was not right. My coworkers seemed to like me just fine, and were impressed by my work, but contrary to my normal level of performance- I just wasn't keeping up with the pack. A month later I was laid off in a "reduction of force".

So now what? It seemed there was a trend developing which I was having a hard time getting a grip on, let alone knowing how to "fix" it. I had no idea what was happening to me, but clearly something was wrong. I felt stuck in an intensely frustrating state of limbo: unemployed and battling the fear that when I went back to work it would only be a matter of time before I was rejected again. Months passed by with plenty of doctor visits, a few job interviews, and no answers.

In my early twenties, I had an accident that left me with a lower back injury, causing a lot of pain and functional issues in my legs over the years, but what was happening now was different. I had already experienced over a decade of learning coping methods for my back problems, becoming extremely familiar with my hips, legs, and spine. So when new problems arise that I have not experienced before, they stand out to me quite clearly.

I have numbness, weakness, and pain in my arms and hands on a regular basis now- usually lasting several minutes, sometimes lasting hours, or even days. One evening I was standing in the kitchen having a conversation with my wife, and my fingers decided (on their own) to stop holding the drinking glass in my hand- sending it crashing to the floor. Then suddenly my hands and forearms were overcome with waves of painful muscle spasms. It felt like having a "charlie horse" in every muscle of your hands, all at once.

All this trouble with my body is really starting to scare me. I am finding myself in need of help with the most mundane tasks, because parts of my body are not working properly, or due to overwhelming pain. Admittedly, I am particularly bad at asking for help, especially when it involves something that I feel I should be able to do myself. Thank God for my wife, though- she is an amazing person. She has this super-human aptitude for taking care of others, she wants to be the person to render aid when she sees someone in need. So despite the difficulties in my journey thus far, I have definitely been blessed in many ways.

So anyway, here I am... taking one day at a time, having no idea what my life holds in store, needing answers... learning more about the significance of the "serenity prayer" than ever before.