Friday, September 12, 2003

Where have I been lately? What's happened to the blog? Jeez, where do I start?

First of all, I'm fine, and life is good. Mostly. But I've had some health issues that I've been waiting to write about until I knew more about what was going on. And then there's work, which has been a lovely mess of hard work and stress, made worse by someone who apparently doesn't think that just doing good work is challenging enough on its own, there should be as many barriers in the way as possible. So I've had two major sources of stress eating into my downtime, which meant that my downtime was largely spent recovering (mostly by basking in the love of a good woman and playing with power tools).

I'm not gonna talk about the work stuff here, because this isn't an anonablog. I'm dealing with it, and it's all a good lesson in applied spirituality. Besides, I've got a great boss, have interesting projects, and work with a bunch of very cool people. Every once in a while I have to deal with a crazy person, but life isn't supposed to be all chocolate and puppies, is it?

Speaking of puppies, it turns out I'm allergic. Also to cats, which sucks, as I actually have one of those. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I never had allergies as a kid, but a few years ago I started getting sniffly in the summer. My doctor put me on Allegra, and I was fine. Started getting sniffly in the house, but I got an air filter and put a dehumidifier in the basement, and I was fine. Got a sinus headache everytime I went to visit friends in Springfield, but I popped a Claritin and I was fine. Clearly I had allergies, but I was coping and hardly thought it worth the trouble to get allergy tests. It's not like I was getting sinus infections or anything like that.

About six months ago, I broke out in hives. That sucked. A lot. But I popped a Claritin and they went away in a couple of hours. I made a mental note of what I'd eaten and done that day (went to Murry's with Christie, had a burger and a beer, took a walk, got bitten by a bunch of mosquitos) in case it happened again, then moved on. A month or so later, I'm sitting at work on a Friday afternoon and start to feel a little itchy, and my tongue starts to feel kind of thick. I look down at my arm, and sure enough, there's a hive popping up. I don't feel like getting all swelly at the office, so I head home. I pop a few pills, then call Christie and tell her what's going on in case things get worse: "If you get a phone call that sounds like the Elephant Man, it's me calling to ask for a ride to the emergency room because my tongue is swelling up."

After that, nothing for a month or two, and I'm starting to think I'm done with hives. Based on the reading I've done, that happens sometimes. In fact, more often than not, they never figure out what's causing the hives, and they go away on their own. And then I get them three weekends in a row, starting with the weekend of my grandmother's funeral. Christie was there for the first two weekends, but I was alone for the third, which was the worst of the three (they've gotten progressively worse with each occurence).

This last time, I'd gotten crunchy tacos from Taco Bell at about eight. By one-thirty, hives were popping up. At three I woke up unable to catch my breath, and decided that maybe a little visit to the emergency room was in order. Stood up to go call 911 and ended up on the floor on my hands and knees, where I could finally get a decent breath. It felt so good to get enough oxygen that stayed there, sweat pouring off of me, until I felt the tacos coming back up. I won't go into detail, but I will say I made it to bathroom, so there was no mess to clean up. I was breathing fine now, so I picked myself up off the floor, washed my face, drank some water, and passed out in bed. Of course, I'm still covered in hives, so I didn't sleep long. The next day I spent alternating blissful hour-long naps with wide-eyed periods of Not Scratching.

As would be the case with any reasonable person, this scared the shit out of me, and I went to see a dermatologist who gave me lots of drugs, wrote me a script for an Epipen so I won't die if it happens again, and recommended an allergist.

I hadn't really thought it through, but allergy testing meant going off antihistamines for about a week, which scared the shit out of me. Basically I was afraid to eat. But I made it through with no hives, though my sinuses got pretty violent with me and are still recovering. And now I know that I have very mild allergies to chocolate, beef and lamb (but that those are nothing to worry about), am slightly more allergic to molds and a few pollens, and pretty seriously allergic to dogs, and almost as much to cats. That's what causes the snifflies. The hives, based on how long it is between meal and reaction, are most likely a reaction to the byproducts of digesting some food additive or another, possibly a hormone or antibiotic used in large scale cattle or pig farming, as it's only happened with restaurant food. Unfortunately, you can't test for allergies to food additives because the mechanism is different than standard allergies (different antibodies). It's also possible that the hives only show up during a sort of "perfect storm" of allergens, when my immune system is already freaked out. She didn't say so, but I'd imagine stress is a factor as well.

So that's what I've been up to, and that's, to a very large degree, where my time has gone. Being on your hands and knees grasping for air in the middle of the night has a way of driving other thoughts out of your head, but I couldn't quite bring myself to blog about it. Part of it is that I had just blogged about a migraine and my grandmother's death, and I didn't want this to feel like a "poor, poor pitiful me" blog. Most of it is that I hate feeling sick, I hate feeling weak, and I hate feeling fragile. I want to be able to do what I want when I want, and when I'm taken out of the game by migraines, hives, or whatever, it drives me crazy.

But like it or not, this is my life, and for whatever reason, this is the body the universe has seen fit to equip me with. Most days, I'm rather fond of it, and I probably don't treat it as well as I should. But I can't help but wish it found a way to register its displeasure that didn't take me completely out of the game.

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