I went to a local atheist meetup group for awhile. I didn't have a good time there, partly because there was a dogmatic pathologist there who gave me grief with his derogatory comments.
I was chronically somewhat sick and I didn't know why, and I spent a lot of time online trying to figure out how to make myself better.
This pathologist basically informed me that I was foolish to try to understand or solve my own medical problems, since I don't have medical training.
Yet the opposite turned out to be true - that it was crucial for me to take the initiative to figure out my problems.
The fatigued and fuzzy-headed feeling I had was consistent with allergies, except that in the beginning, I was only sick during the early part of the day, and I felt ok in the evening. My allergic reactions hadn't been like that in the past.
I went to various doctors. I got all sorts of testing from my family doctor, but no explanation. They did find out I have Hashimoto's (autoimmune thyroid disease). But the result was that I wasted a year hoping that optimizing my thyroid levels would make me well, as the doctor slowly adjusted my dose of thyroid hormone.
I went to a couple of allergists - only to find that according to allergy testing, my allergies had mostly disappeared! One thought I might have a zinc deficiency and I took a zinc supplement for a few months, which didn't help. He gave me a brain MRI to see if I might have a brain tumor, which can cause changes in consciousness - but that was normal.
I tore apart large sections of my house because the allergist thought I might be sick from mold. He apparently felt you could be sick from mold even with negative allergy tests, even though he denied that could happen with other allergens.
But that also didn't make me well.
I stayed in a no-pets hotel for a few days, thinking I might be sick from my house. But that didn't help either. Later I found there was mold in my home grain mills. Cleaning them did help some (mold in food can make me very sick).
I thought - for all this laborious search for mold, there is one allergen I KNEW was all around me, in great quantities - dog dander, since my dog was living in my house. Finally in June 2011 - I had been sick about 4 years by then - I went again to stay in the no-pets hotel.
This time I did get well after 5 days. Then I went to the SPCA and cuddled dogs for a couple hours.
I got very sick! I was walking very slowly after that, my mind was jumbled, I couldn't read very well. I spent a lot of time in bed the next few days, sleeping in the hotel.
An excellent medical test! It told me I had some kind of allergy - ruling out at one stroke all sorts of other explanations like a brain tumor or a thyroid problem.
Later I went to the motel again, got well again after 5 days, then tried a much more mild exposure to a dog, in different circumstances. Again I got sick - so I knew for sure it was dogs I was so allergic to, not something else.
The diagnosis is crucial. And I had to do that for myself!
After that, I read a blog by a CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) sufferer. She said she had been diagnosed with immune system activation - that was all she knew about what was wrong. I kept telling her that the problem might be some kind of allergy - that you can have "local allergies" that don't appear with allergy testing, they're local in the nose; that delayed food allergies cause CFS-like symptoms; that she might have celiac disease or some other autoimmune problem. And that if it was an unconventional allergy, diagnosis would be mostly up to her.
But it seemed to fall on deaf ears. She was relying on medical research to find the answer (even though there may be multiple causes for CFS), relying on doctors and their tests, and not spending time trying to figure it out.
I have spent most of my time sick since 2007. It's a horrible waste of my life, I'm slid in my 50's while being sick ... And I have wondered, how could so much sickness have been avoided?
Partly, I was delayed by being a passive patient - waiting while the doctor tweaked my thyroid meds for a year, hoping it would help, etc. etc.
And I wasn't able to think well when I was so sick, living at home. Allergic rhinitis is known to cause cognitive impairment.
I would think, when I was so sick: maybe I should go traveling - rent a car and make a trip with my dog, then another trip without my dog, and see what helps ... But I felt too sick to drive safely or to do the work to organize a trip.
Probably, the same was true of the CFS sufferer I met online.
Now I've finally taken drastic action to get well. I put my dog in a kennel, I moved out of my house and after a lot of chaos, I rented a NEW mobile home (no dog or cat dander in it), in a park that doesn't allow dogs, and no cats live nearby.
But still I've been sick almost all the time from allergic reactions. Mold on food, dogs in cars that pull up next to me ...
Having an allergic reaction almost all the time for years at a time, messed up my body. In those years when I was sick without knowing why, bad things were happening to my body, that made my allergies a lot worse and did other unknown damage. Maybe the cognitive impairment caused by allergies, also causes brain damage long-term.
Being chronically ill without knowing why, has to be regarded as an emergency, and I could perhaps have suffered less if I hadn't tolerated being sick for so long. I spent a lot of time reading The Road to Reality in 2009 for example - when I was sick and didn't know why - and maybe if I had devoted my effort to figuring out my sickness instead, I wouldn't have been sick so long.
This is rather unique to my situation, with poorly understood autoimmune/allergy problems. Likely if someone has cancer, it's more a temptation than a help, to spend a lot of time trying to solve it. A lot of cancer sufferers waste their money and time going to various clinics, hoping to find in one, a miracle duck with magical quacks.