The Nightmare Called Fear

I am scared to go to sleep.

My thoughts chase me, take me down, consume me. I run, but they catch up. They tear me down, rip me to shreds, leave me on a dark alleyway, lit only by a single streetlamp. Enveloped in fog, I lay on the pavement, in a puddle of blood, as I take labourious breaths.

My thoughts kill me.

I can only run so far, so fast before they catch up to me. And they jump on me, digging their claws into my flesh.

Tearing.

Is it the thoughts that I fear, or is it the fear that I am thinking? Am I really scared of my thoughts, or is my fear of something else what causes the thoughts in the first place? What came first, the fear or the thoughts?

Either way, I’m tired. I’m exhausted. But I’m scared to go to sleep. I’m scared that when I close my eyes, I will be chased again. I’m scared my thoughts will send me down the rabbit hole, spinning, falling, down and down.

My genes surround me in this hole.

The strands of DNA wrap themselves around me, tighter, tighter, until my fingertips turn blue. Breathing is difficult. The strand of genetic code surrounds me, tightly wrapped up by an enormous black widow spider. The DNA is her web, her silk, and I am now rendered immobile by the smooth strand of nucleotides.

My genes kill me.

The death is inevitable, for what else can follow life? But it’s caused by the mistakes in the blueprint, the accidental substitutions, deletions and additions that have added up to a broken building. There is no concrete that can fix it, no spackle can repair these walls. It is the house that I’m forced to live in, this broken building, with its crumbling foundation and shattered windows.

One day, this house will fall down.

Because exhaustion has taken over. I pray that my thoughts don’t chase me tonite.

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Medicinal Anthropology

So, I finally got most of that reading assignment in 1491 done last night, and there was one big thing that struck out at me. At one point in our lives, we are all taught that disease played a big role in the European’s conquest of the New World, but this book put it into a whole new light. It also made me ask a lot of questions:

  1. What exactly killed all these people? We all know about the smallpox epidemic, and that there was measles and influenza in there as well. We all know that due to the high rate of exposure in Europe, the conquerors had relative immunity to them and therefore weren’t susceptible to the diseases. But we sequenced the genome of the plague a few years ago, so why is this considered a non-issue? Why is it not important for us to use the same techniques to identify the bacterium and viruses that took these victims? We know roughly when many of the epidemics took place, so theoretically we should be able to start poking around after remains have been dated. In my opinion, knowing precisely what it is that killed who, and more specifically what strains, is just as important to our history and to anthropology as knowing what caused the Black Death.
  2. Were the native populations suffering from some kind of immune issues? I think they were, and here’s why. Mann brings up a very interesting point in the book, that it is not in the evolutionary benefit for bacteria/viruses/whatever to kill their hosts. They want to keep their hosts alive so that they can mutate and continue to infect, thus continuing the species. So then why on earth did such a large number of natives die of these diseases? Some estimates are as high as 90% of the population succumbing to disease, that just doesn’t sound like good Darwinian form to me. Kill 9 out of 10 people, the remaining 1 is now immune, just doesn’t sound to me like a good idea for the continuance of the species. Conventional theory is that the populations were so susceptible due to the simple fact that they had never been exposed to the microbes, but I honestly think that it is a gross oversimplification. The book goes on to give a rather good basic description of the immune system for non-bio folks, which was when the light bulb went off in my head: what if the native populations were immunodeficient? What if the problem wasn’t that the natives lacked the appropriate antibodies to keep away the smallpox, they lacked the ability to make antibodies to fight the virus once it showed up? The virus wiped out everyone unable to form these antibodies, everyone with these immune system problems, leaving only those with the strong enough genetic makeup to go on and continue the species.

I really have a strong urge to go sequence some native genomes. Many PIDDs have known genetic markers, and have known mutations. I wonder if we were to sequence these genomes, we would find that the native populations had more issues going on than being the “virgin soil” that Mann calls them.

Who wants to help me write grant proposals?

Don’t Panic

They want to do bloodwork on my siblings and daughter now.

“Don’t worry.” Those two words I heard at least three times from the nurse’s mouth. “Don’t worry. We’re just looking for genetic links.”

Lady, I’m a molecular biology student. I know what this means. I also know that there are unknown patterns of inheritance for CVID. So the question is, do I really have ARA?

To be honest, it doesn’t particularly matter. The treatment options are the same, and I’m done having kids. Baby Imp is healthy as a horse thus far, but I won’t object to getting her tested. My siblings both have champion immune systems (my brother’s is in overdrive, as a matter of fact).

I just wish I had a definitive name to call this. I’ve been calling it CVID thus far, just to give it a name. We’ll see what it really turns out to be.

The nurse should be calling me sometime today. I’m gonna straight-up ask her.

In the meantime:

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Image by VigilantMeadow on Deviantart