Life always finds ways to make things interesting, doesn’t it?
A few weeks back, I went to the doctor to get a few things checked out. Honestly, considering the way some of my problems were adding up, I was worried it might have been lupus, even though House episodes tell me that’s never the case.
I got the results of the battery of blood tests the doctor sent me for. Turns out House was right. It wasn’t lupus.
It was a severe vitamin B12 deficiency.
One that typically takes about 20 years to get this bad.
One that could have killed me in about 10-15 years, after disabling me by essentially destroying my spinal column and my mental faculties.
Got to say, that was a bit of a shock.
Evidently, since I’m not vegan (sorry, everyone who insists that humans were never meant to eat animal products, but meat, dairy, and eggs are pretty much our only source of vitamin B12), am not a heavy drinker, am not over 50, and have never had parts of my digestive system removed, the only thing that could have caused this is a problem with my innate ability to properly absorb the B12 that I ingest. This isn’t going to change. I’m going to have this problem for the rest of my life. I am going to have to take supplements (in case I still can absorb some B12) and injections until I’m dead, to keep my levels from getting this critical again.
The good news is that B12 deficiency is a slow decline, so once my levels are normal, I could not take a single supplement and it would still probably take years and years to get this bad again.
The bad news is the damage being deficient in B12 can actually do. Turns out that fatigue issues, depression, and concentration problems? They’re the tip of the iceberg. Vitamin B12 is essential to making your DNA function properly, so without it, you run the risk of nerve damage, dementia, heart problems. As it is, I’ve already noticed some issues crop up over time that could well be explained by me being so low in B12 for so long. Numbness in my fingers, a weird tendency to having my nerves be permanently damaged after trauma or injury (I have 3 spots on my body where my nerves have 2 modes: no sensation, and OW, IT HURTS, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!), and my long-term depression already comes with a side order of psychotic issues like delusions and paranoia when it gets really bad. All of these could be because of the B12 problem.
Some might be reversible. The fatigue and coordination and brain fog? Apparently totally fixable, and the doctor says that a few weeks of B12 injections should have me feeling loads better. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m looking forward to that!
I also can’t begin to tell you how weird it is to know that I have been on a steady decline pretty much since I hit puberty, if the doctor is to be believed about the timeline. That my whole adult life has been spend unhealthy and getting worse in drips and drabs, and through nearly all of it, I’ve blamed myself for letting myself get this way. Too tired to get exercise? Don’t want to put up with the pain and fatigue that going for a walk will bring? Pfft, everyone pushes past that, so you’re just lazy. Logically, I know that mentality is BS. But when you’ve heard it from so many people for so long, you internalize it even as you know it’s wrong. You take in those comments that you’re a hypochondriac, and the follow-up comments that say everybody has these problems, and you don’t let them go.
Doubly so when they’re said by doctors. (I once had a doctor blame me for being anemic when I was continuing to lose blood quicker than I could replace it, thanks to a tumour. It’s not hard to blame yourself when everyone else seems to be blaming you too.)
Funny enough, for as long as this has been going on, for all the times I’ve gone to doctors reporting symptoms that fit the profile, none of them tested my B12. I didn’t fall into any of the risk categories, really, but it’s one quick blood test, and then a dangerous possibility could have been confirmed or ruled out.
So yeah, now I’m on a treatment plan that’s not only easy and tolerable (weekly injections for 6 weeks, followed by monthly injections, plus a daily supplement), but also cheap (it’ll cost me about $20 every 3 months). That should stop the decline and wipe out a lot of the problems I’ve been facing for years and possibly reverse some of the more severe issues to boot.
Let’s just say I’m now a strong advocate for people getting enough vitamin B12 in their diets. Because seriously, if you don’t have an absorption problem, then making sure to eat some eggs or drink a glass of milk every day is definitely preferable to early-onset dementia followed by your heart giving out before you’re 50.