The other day it felt like my joints were pulling themselves apart. But I went to work anyway. And I didn't go to work because I needed the money, or because the place would fall apart without me. I went to work because if I stayed home every time my body failed me, I would only work maybe one or two days a week. On a typical day, any number of things can be going on in my body. I can have immense joint pain like the other day, I could be having digestive problems, I could be dealing with complete body fatigue, or I can have physical reactions and my body can be completely covered in hives and swelling, or my skin will be crawling. Frankly, my skin is always crawling, and I should count my lucky stars that's all it does most of the time. But that wasn't always the case.
Before my allergist figured out what was going on with me, every single morning I would wake up with clear skin. By midafternoon, I would have hives along my thighs, genitals(yes really), hips, sides, armpits, collarbone, hairline, and my feet. Sometimes, my lips would swell painfully, and my eyelids would too. I tried eliminating so many things from my life, trying to find the cause. It was always worse during the summer months as well. I thought I was allergic to almost everything but couldn't manage to pinpoint any of it. One day, my lips swelled so badly I gave up and asked my doctor for help. I was seen within two weeks by an allergist. She knew immediately what was going on, which from what I can tell, is a miracle. Most people with chronic idiopathic urticaria with angioedema spend years trying to find answers. My allergist actually specializes in it and allergy related asthma. Boy did I luck out with this one. She prescribed a medication that began helping the day I started taking it. She also told me to figure out what my triggers were. I've found most of them.
It turns out that summer is the worst for me because heat/humdity/sun is one giant trigger for me. If I get hot, hives appear everywhere. If I sweat, hives spread where the sweat is. If I am too stressed out, my feet turn into hives. My shoes cause pressure hives on my feet, my clothes cause hives, NSAIDs cause hives, so does dairy, caffeine (yep, and I drink coffee anyway), and gluten. The thing is, though, some of these aren't severe reactions, and my medication prevents these spontaneous outbreaks. But, there are other joys that come along with it. I have a lot of digestion problems. I could have a peanut butter and jam sandwich one day, and everything is fine. But a day or two later I could have the same sandwich, and my gut is suddenly a battlezone. It doesn't really matter. I can't really control it. The worst is actually the body fatigue. I sometimes am just too tired to do anything but sit. If I'm at work and I tell my boss about it, he's pretty great at shunting some of my duties elsewhere. He saw some of my more spectacular outbreaks and when I told him what I had, he felt so bad. Plus, it took FOUR MONTHS for my body to aclimate to the medication. I was a zombie. The joint pain is not a big deal, surprisingly; I have always had joint pain (probably a sign of this autoimmune disease) so I've been pretty good about just powering through the pain.
Oh. And I catch every cold that comes my way. So I get pretty irritated when coworkers come to work sick instead of staying home. This is why we have paid sick days off, folks. Keep clear of me. My immune system is pretty shoddy. Which makes sense since my immune system is constantly attacking itself. Thanks bunches, malfunctioing immune system.
But hey, most of the time, I get through it. It's been so long I don't really know what anything else is like. Plus, the people I work with are all understanding and great. And so are the people in my life outside of work.
I have a great appreciation for those with invisible illnesses. It sucks how many people don't understand it, but I do. I've got your back!