There are moments that my hyper-fast cognitive processing and ability to find patterns is a burden, particularly when I am trying to engage in a balanced and fully engaged conversation with another human being. Often times, during discussions, my mind takes me outside of the conversation into a realm of what ifs, what could be, what isn’t, etc. Likewise, the outcomes of my cognitive functioning and abilities can leave me victim to autistic inertia, emotional and sensory overload, and intense, paralyzing empathy for the world. My mind processing is akin to a healthy tree branching out on hyper-speed–its lifespan filmed over 100s of years and then depicted at 1000% fast motion. Time-lapsed images of branches upon branches, buds upon buds.
This day, I am thankful for the way my brain processes and the way I exist on this planet. I am thankful for my mind’s ability to hone in on small details that others might miss or pass by, my capacity to collect these details in various memory banks, and the ease in which I fashion finite patterns. I admire the way in which my mind plays a hopscotch of sorts, leaping from one box to the next, until a final box is reached, and I bend down to collect the stone marker.
In the way I am made, I am capable of overlooking what would seen obvious data to others, such as the pattern within a blanket or the colors within a greeting card. Somehow, I just don’t notice, or perhaps I do, but the viewing doesn’t register at a conscious level. I could not tell you the pattern on most of the throw pillows on my couch, nor recall the design of my favorite blouse. I remember with emotions: I like it. It brings me peace. It makes me calm. I don’t always remember with sight.
My working memory is deemed ‘less’ when compared to a typical person’s aptitude for recall. I cannot hold onto new facts without much effort and repetition, unless my emotional state and want for knowledge is peaked. Unless there is a cause, a purpose, and a rhythm. Some universal beat I am following: the collective unconscious, faith, cause, betterment. I cannot recall or describe the simplest of visual images. For instance, somewhere in my mind, there is a secret agent of sorts, informing another equally evasive agent, that the observation I recently made of the yarn-mane on my stuffed animal (named ‘Uni’ for unicorn) being pink is not essential data to either recognize, take in, or remember.
In the same lines, I have an uncanny ability to move beyond certain stimuli and information, even when it is literally staring me in the face. Similarly, I do not readily comprehend the nuances of social niceties given new people and new surroundings and circumstances. And in being not only autistic, but dyslexic, even the written and spoken word becomes cloaked and unrecognizable.
I believe that my way of information gathering, in how I overlook what is smack in front of me (including your face), transfers into other areas of my brain, enabling me to see both sides of an argument, the flaw in the certainty, the lack in the evidence, and even the light in the darkness.
I also surmise that because l have gifted-intelligence (diagnosed as an adult), this ability leads to a pronounced connection to the unknown and spiritual world (a common phenomenon cited in research of individuals with gifted-intelligence; see the book Living with Intensity.) Because of the way I am connected, I have a capacity to see what is unseen, to hear what is unheard, and to know temporary truths beyond reasoning. All this in combination, can lead to a calming sensation, in which the world slows down, and I am left soaring along an expansive freeway, clear sky above, smooth road below, moving as bullet train.
This day I am soaring . . .
Years ago, I knew innately, through listening to my body, seeking out patterns, and using reasoning, that my coughing, resulting from the onset of late-age asthma, was due to fluctuating hormones. I noted the times the coughing occurred and frequency, and tracked it to my monthly hormonal cycle. I knew without ever reading one medical article or without having had any doctor validate my thinking. I reasoned the fluctuation in estrogen and progesterone played a part in my airways and inflammation. I know this to be fact, today.
In a similar way, I knew at a young age, back in the late-1980s, that my body rejected that one birth control pill for a reason, that in the future we would discover the way in which hormonal replacement can damage the body. Again, later in life, as a young mother, I knew to cancel my scheduled hysterectomy, even with the doctor’s strong recommendation to proceed. The primary go-to treatment for advanced endometriosis at that time was to ‘take everything out.’ I knew it wouldn’t be good for me. Knowing now, I have a connective tissue disorder that leads to complications in healing and I have a strong reaction to mild anesthesia, I am glad I trusted my gut.
When my eldest son was in first grade (He is now 22.), I felt strongly his asthma was gone. I knew one day, clearly, that it would be okay to take him off his weekly allergy shots, inhaler, and steroids. And following that day, his asthma never came back.
Another example: From the findings in an old, out-of-publication book, I understood that women gain weight leading up to menopause for a reason. I realized, looking upon my Sicilian/Maltese ancestors, and European grandmothers around the world, that fat cells collected in our stomachs, hips, and thighs for a reason. The fat is there to store estrogen to carry women through in later years. This made sense intuitively, so much so that I often squeeze my belly pouch and say, “This is my estrogen storage.” I observed the weight patterns of my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother in photographs. I noted the heaviness of their 50s, and then the gradual release of weight as they aged.
I surmise what is best for my health and my loved ones from a combination of instinctual observation, analysis of data, and knowing.
I woke up this morning with a lit runway beckoning my mind to travel. I felt called to research hormones, as they relate to my recent flareup of asthma and recent bout of lingering respiratory illness. I’d never researched asthma and hormones before. Never felt a need. My first stop led to ordering some highly-consumer-rated progesterone cream from Amazon.
In perusing through 100s of articles centered on the world health crisis, COVID-19, in the last weeks, somewhere along the road my brain had hyper-focused on the sex hormone and asthma connection. These facts had been on slow-bubble on the back burner of my brain. I followed the road, and my thought processes branched out. I was lead from past memories and thoughts, to modern research and new ideas, further recollections, and more thoughts.
The mind scaffolding had commenced. I knew that endometriosis and asthma were related. I have fourth-stage endometriosis, a painful disease condition in which tissues that line the uterus during the menstrual cycle grow outside the uterus into other parts of the body. My tissues and lesions have been found on my bladder, intestines, and so forth. I knew one cause of endometriosis is the fluctuations of estrogen and the imbalance of sex hormones. I’ve been actively praying for the onset of menopause.
I read and read, collecting the fragments of paragraphs: a sentence here, a sentence there from multiple articles. My brain formed connections . . . Chains in my mind’s eyes that came alive, like flashing beacons: Asthma – Hormones – Estrogen – Endometriosis – Heart Disease – Disease – Virus . . . Words popped and glimmered.
Research of over 3 million women indicate that females with endometriosis are 10% more likely to develop asthma than females without endometriosis. Progesterone and estrogen might be an important regulator of airway inflammation. More studies are needed.
I collected more data . . . estrogen can decrease the risk of heart disease by creating changes in particles that carry cholesterol in the blood stream. Men carry more fat deposits around their heart.
I found information on how estrogen improves the blood vessels functioning, which has the potential to support the immune system and counter atherosclerosis. Both estrogen and testosterone can influence immune cells.
I circled back to the estrogen pack on my belly, how it is there for a reason: to help with immunity, pain receptors, bone density.
I read more. I looked at research studies, medical journals, and followed a path. I leapt from asthma, to sex hormones, to endometriosis, to heart disease, to gender differences that affect health, to chromosomes, and back to sex hormones; with COVID-19 always lurking on the outskirt, as if tracking my every move, down an adjacent path. Some stranger paralleling my journey. A glance here. A glance there. Patterns of words from one article led to the next.
Concerning the COVID-19, the records coming out of Italy indicate men accounted for 58% of 13,882 COVID-19 cases during parts of February/March and that 72% of the 803 fatalities. Data from other countries also indicate men are a higher risk for death from the virus. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention report the mortality rate among men who contracted the coronavirus infection was approximately 65% higher when compared with women who contracted the infection.
The more I collected data, the more a pronounced pattern appeared: men and women have different levels of sex hormones and they play a role in the different ways the immune system responds.
A virus creates illness in the body by entering a host cell and making copies of itself inside the host cell. Less replication of the virus means the individual infected will feasibly experience less disease or is less likely to spread the disease to someone else, reported Sabra Klein, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University.
In response to certain viruses, male cells and female cells respond in different ways in how they produce a ‘cascade’ of anti-viral proteins (interferons). These proteins are a vital part of the early process that activates immune response.
Evidence indicates estrogens promote the production of these specific proteins during a respiratory virus infection.
The greater the capacity for producing interferon could lead to a great capacity for the amount of ani-viral proteins.
Now I knew what to search for: COVID-19 and interferons.
Which steered me toward more complex medical journals.
“CoVs are enveloped, positive-stranded RNA viruses with nucleocapsid. For addressing pathogenetic mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2, its viral structure, and genome must be considerations. In CoVs, the genomic structure is organized in a +ssRNA of approximately 30 kb in length — the largest known RNA viruses — and with a 5′-cap structure and 3′-poly-A tail. Starting from the viral RNA, the synthesis of polyprotein 1a/1ab (pp1a/pp1ab) in the host is realized. The transcription works through the replication-transcription complex (RCT) organized in double-membrane vesicles and via the synthesis of subgenomic RNAs (sgRNAs) sequences.” (source)
And next, I found this:
“Hospitalised patients in the UK will inhale the interferon beta 1a (IFN-β) formulation or a placebo to see if SNG001 is effective against the COVID-19 coronavirus. . . They stated that positive initial results from the 100 patient pilot phase could see the trial expanded to more hospitals.”
Only about an hour had passed in total, and I’d gathered the beginnings of understanding of how to approach the COVID-19. The process was a way to alleviate my anxiety. It is and was my jigsaw puzzle. It is and was how I think in this world.
Maybe I ought up my tofu consumption. Next stop: Amazon Pantry.