Saturday, July 30, 2005

Medical Jenga

This one is for Kathy and Ashley. Anyone else may want to skip this entry, as it will be a long list of medical issues I've compiled over the years to describe my "lemon" status to C. He just rolls his eyes at me. He says "everybody has their medical junk, you aren't as bad as you think."

I was born in 1969, before the medical world really knew about dairy allergies. I managed to loose an ounce and freak out my parents in my first month of life due to said allergy. Apparently I spent that entire month screaming the scream of "she who can't tell me why the hell she's screaming all the time." The Drs. at the time just kept telling them I was fussy. Not to worry. Finally, someone told them to start feeding me Similac (a soy alternative). My mom says the first night they did that I slept without so much as a peep, and for the whole night. It was such a dramatic change that she woke up in the morning and said to my dad, "Oh my god...she's ..." and she ran to my room. She thought I had died.

Lactaid. Wonderful invention, but not 100% effective. And considering the symptoms it is asked to prevent, I have no complaints. those are some ugly symptoms, and even a 50% success rate is good enough for me.

Jenga Building Block 1: Dairy Allergy - a.k.a Lactose Intolerant

When I was in 6th grade, I was riding the bus to school. I stared to get a floaty feeling, and my vision started to wobble. I had auras in my eyes and could only see about 75% of "normal". Being a weird child, I immediately convinced myself that I was dying. I just figured it was only a matter of time. So, not wanting to cause trouble, and because I had a math test, I went to class. During the math test, the headache part of the migraine hit and I was asking death to take me quick. I had never experienced anything that intense - nor did I have any clue there was a name for it. I finally told my teacher I needed to go home. My mom came to get me from school. When I told her what was happening, she said "Oh...those are migraine headaches. Your great aunts have them and it appears you do to." I rarely get them anymore, maybe once a year. But for a while I was getting them about once every two months.

Jenga Building Block 2: Migraine Headaches

When I was in college, I started to develop an evil case of anxiety attacks. Heart racing, palms sweating, overwhelming sense of doom and a feeling that at any moment, my body would run away from me out of control. This time I figured I was simply going insane. After all, what 20 year old can't drive on a freeway, can't ride in an elevator, can't sit in a room without choosing a chair close to an exit, and can't be alone for fear of her body "losing it"? These were the days before internet. My only resource was a library. Which is exactly where I went instead of class. I started reading and found out I wasn't alone. While that didn't fix the problem, I felt a lot better. One book I read called the situation "the screaming memes." I totally love that. It says everything, and nothing.

This caused me to visit approximately 3,243 doctors to try and figure out what the hell was wrong with me. Most of them just patted me on the head and said "avoid stress." One of them even said "If you find a good man, your problems will go away." Going insane or not, I KNEW that was a stupid diagnosis.

After visiting all the doctors, and none of them being able to find anything "wrong" with me, I had to go to a psychologist. I did this for 3 years. His name was Dr. Lee Solow. One day he said "Zoom, there is absolutely nothing mentally wrong with you that requires you continue to see me. [note the qualification] I've seen some new studies that suggest that panic attacks are linked to brain chemisty issues. Stop seeing me and go see a psychiatrist. I think that might help you."

This I did, and save my life it did. I am not going to get into the Tom Cruise debate here. All I'm going to say is that after finding a particular drug that blocks some somethin somethin in my head, my life returned to "normal." I have my life back. I can work like a normal person. I can drive on the freeway like a typical girl driver, all by myself. I can ride an elevator without hyperventilating, I CAN FLY IN AIRPLANES, and be alone. Turns out that panic attacks are a symptom of depression, which isn't a woe is me disease. It's a brain chemistry thing. And I have it.

Jenga Building Block Number 3: Depression

While I was trying to figure out what was causing my panic attacks, I took numerous blood tests. It turned out that at the age of 20, I had the cholesterol count of Homer Simpson. I had another blood test at 30, and it's still really high.

Jenga Building Block Number 4: High Cholesterol

So in order to reduce my cholesterol, I started to exercise and eat more fiber. That's all well and good, but this is how I found out I'm allergic to wheat, or grain, as well as peanuts. *sigh* After eating mini wheats and cheerios (sans milk) instead of crap for breakfast, I started to develop this hive type rash all over my legs. I would get an insurmountable exhaustion, and my head would hurt. Once I cut the grains, I reutrned to normal. Then I went back to the grains, and the same thing developed. I started to eat peanut butter with an apple as a substitute. The rash and the exhaustion returned.

This is precisely when I got REALLY bitter at my body. I can deal with the dairy allergy. It isn't fun, but ok. But don't give me MORE food to be allergic to!! That's not fair. Or fun. And right about here, I've seriously had enough of the medical drama.

Jenga Building Block Number 5: Wheat and Peanut Allergy

oh but wait...there's more.

Most of my teens and 20s I was on birth control pills. I was in steady, committed relationships and it made sense. In my 30s however, the weight gain and the stress on my already stressed Homer heart made it necessary for me to find alternative methods of baby blockage. C and I chose condoms. AND GUESS WHO IS ALLERGIC TO LATEX? Frigging hell. This one landed me in the emergency room with a team of medical school flunkees who diagnosed me with Scabies. SCABIES?! I had a rash, incredible inability to stay awake, general poopy feeling - but I hadn't been anywhere near a pirate ship. It was just a latex allergy. But they didn't figure THAT out until after the scabie remedy, which was covering my nekkid body from head to toe in some gasoline smelling goo for an hour. Which did nothing for my symptoms.

I also can't wear band-aids. My skin bubbles as if you poured acid on it. And itches like crazy. I now own Hello Kitty non latex band aids. Those totally rock.

Update after posting: C just laughed at me and said "Scurvy, honey, not Scabies. You get Scurvy from being on a pirate ship." Yeah well, Scurvy Scabies. Whatever.

Jenga Building Block Number 6: Latex Allergy

And here's where I start to hate my uterus with the fire of 200 suns. Turns out that I've got menstral cramps that can bring down an elephant. Because I can't take birth control pills (which covered that up for me all those years), I have to figure something else out.

Because I already take anti depressants, I have to find something that won't intrfere with those.

I now have to take Naproxin for two days a cycle just to function. Before I found that stuff, I would miss at least a day or two of work every month. I DON'T EVEN WANT KIDS. WHY IS MY UTERUS MAKING MY LIFE SO DIFFICULT? And I was always the first person to tel anyone that PMS or missing work for one's Girlie Issues was lame. I didn't believe in that stuff. Numerous medical tests showed that well, I'm just lucky enough to have severe cramps. wheeeeeee.

Jenga Building Block Number 7: Menstral Cramps

When I get a cold or flu, I have to be super careful about which OTC medicines I take. Becuase of the medication I may or may not be on at that particular moment, and the anxiety issues I'm already prone to - I can't take Nyquil. I did once, and had an episode of hallucinations that put me on the phone to my mother at 2 a.m. saying things like "Purple spiders and me I'm strung out....there's who? where am I?" And then I passed out only to wake up 10 minutes later and call her again.

Jenga Building Block Number 8: OTC Medication Roulette

Now, I don't want anyone to get the idea that I'm always flapping my pie hole about these conditions. I try to hide them as much as possible from people. When we are at a friend's house and they order a pizza, I just try to pick off the cheese or hope that the lactaid will work (a risk I take if I'm close enough to home only). If people do find out I'm allergic to cheese or milk, they apologize like crazy. I don't want that. I very much roll with what I have and work around it.

Sometimes I'm in a situation like last night. Happy hour. I couldn't have any alcohol due to my Naproxin useage this last couple of days. When people want to know why I'm not having a drink, I try to deflect the issue or say "I'm on medication" and hope they don't want to know more. Somtimes though I'm with people that know the reason and I can say "Stupid UTERUS, that's why.

And I also know I'm pretty lucky. I don't have any of these conditions to a point where a minor tangle with the things I'm allergic to is going to put my life in any danger. It's just annoying and inconvenient at times.

Life is good, even when I'm allergic to it.


Rev. Brandy said...

I love the last line, about life being good even if you are allergic to it. I thought I had some pretty severe allergies, but after reading your experiences (lightheadedness, migraines, hives, rash, hallucinations) --- damn! I'm counting my blessings over here in B-more!

My sister was diagnosed with IBS a couple of years ago. She's gassy by nature (I winced as I typed that, TMI? I guess . . . hey, WTF?), and now, she swears by Beano. Apparently, Beano is to IBS-ers what Lactaid is to lactose-intolerant-sufferers. Again, I am empathetic and glad I can't relate.

Your post makes me think of a movie that Julianne Moore made ages ago called, "Safe." Have you seen it? If you haven't, you might like it. It's deliberately vague and sparse and artsy, and at the same time, deeply disturbing. For no clear reason, Julianne Moore's character wakes up one day completely allergic to the world.

Kathy said...

I love this Zoom! I'd share it with Ashley but that would then reveal my blog...which is more information than I care to give the young lady.

Scabies, scurvy...what's the difference. Heh...great stories.

Thanks for sharing them! :)

ZooooM said...

Rev, thanks for the movie tip! That sounds like my kind of film. And there have been times when I'm feeling sortof sorry for myself and I think: Dang. One day I might just be allergic to everything. Except peas. Life would never let me be allergic to peas. Dangit. And don't worry about TMI. It's not an issue with me. Swear.

Kathy, I had no idea she didn't know about your blog. And I totally see your point. I wouldn't want to know if my own mom had one if I was her age. These days it wouldn't matter, but when I was younger it would have.