Once Kevin's stupid chromosomes were identified, he could embark on a long, messy journey of experimental and invasive gene therapy treatments. Kidding; all he needed was a shot. "The treatment for me is an injection of testosterone substitute called Sustenon that I get via a muscle-mass injection (in the buttocks) every three weeks," he says. The whole time, it could have been that easy.
"Strap in. This is fifth grade through senior prom in a syringe."
He notes that it "has the side effect of making my piss smell like burnt matches," but it "was like having a whole new battery installed ... I went from being a slow, rather dull person to being a deal more incisive, bright, and talkative. I'm not saying that the injections magically created the energy, sharpened my brain, or conjured conversational ability out of nothing. Clearly, all of that was there, just waiting for a spark to power it up."
In visible terms alone, at the age of 34, Kevin head-on collided with puberty. "I started growing body hair," he says. "I'd had some already, but I went from having a smooth chest to tufty one. I have to shave my jaw every two or three days. Prior to the treatment, I could go nearly a week without needing to. Suddenly, all the manual labor induced physical responses in my body. My arms and legs became, if not muscular, then at least strong enough to carry me and to do things without me wanting to keel over. I'd had tiny, narrow arms that I could almost wrap one hand around before. Now I have muscles there. Physically, I'm still not much to look at -- still vaguely pear-shaped and with bum and thigh fat distribution -- but I feel totally different."
It would be hard not to feel different after this kind of change.
He felt so good, in fact, that "in a moment of pure 'What the hell?'" he decided to go back to school. "I've now got a first-class history degree, I'm a hobbyist writer, and I have friends who don't judge me on my physical appearance," he says. "I never would have done that without the Sustenon, and I did it on my own, with no coaching or pressure from outside ... I never would have had the confidence to do that, prior to treatment."
But there's a bittersweet edge to it, though -- what Kevin calls "its own little extra kick in the teeth" (you know, aside from the smelly pee). "Imagine growing up with learning difficulties, being labelled (and pitied) for being subnormal, and then getting better," he says. And not only that, but knowing you could have been better several decades ago, if only you'd known you even had a problem. "I suddenly realized what a hellish childhood I'd had, and that furthermore, no, nobody else felt like that. I'd grown up believing everyone felt sick and terrified and bloated and awkward in childhood, and that I just couldn't handle it for some reason. In short, I felt cheated out of my childhood."
The lesson? Don't let shame prevent you from seeking help, ever. You might not be a butt-shot away from fixing your whole life, but who knows?
Manna has a rich inner life which transcends hyperlinking, thank you very much, but also a Twitter.
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