Strange allergies

Many people have many different kind of allergies. I myself have allergies to cats, birds, and horses (although to make people give me a weird look I say I am allergic to zebras).

I have only heard of the basics when it comes to allergies – the seasonal ones where people are all stuffy in the summer and spring because of pollen; the fragrance allergies; and the animal allergies; but I bet that next to none of you have ever heard of someone being allergic to a temperature.

“That is not even possible.”

“Who would have an allergy like that?”

“Yeah, right…that would never happen to anyone. Who would even come up with a lie like that?”

I have heard them all, ever since the recent, and by recent I mean in May, discovery of my allergy…to the cold.

I have had people tell me a million times now that I am lying, saying that it cannot be true, and people who are completely incredulous.

Well, it is true, and trust me, it is as ridiculous and sucks as much as it sounds, especially since it’s not like we live in the most tropical hemisphere. I mean, who gets an allergy to the COLD in CANADA?

Oh, yeah! That’s right! Me! Because the weird one has to have the weird allergies. I am a touch bitter on the subject, and a little angry, because this allergy popped up out of nowhere, and I only started to notice the signs when I had my hands in chilly meat making meatloaf and then they started swelling. Then I had a pop can resting on my arm, and once I put it on the counter to purchase it, I had a huge welt.

Now, I know what you are saying – it could be environmental or some chemical in the meat. In fact, when I went to the allergist to have this looked into further, the NURSE didn’t believe me, saying that she doubts that it is actually the cold, and it is probably something else, and they will find it. I told her no, it is an allergy to the cold because I have had a myriad of things swelling because of the temperature changes (like rain or going from the hot air to the air conditioning) and it is a reaction because of the cold. She shook her head, put a sterile ice pack against my arm for 10 minutes, and, lo and behold, my arm had a welt bigger than my hand. She apologized after, but it was a nice HA moment.

The welt on my arm from the ice pack. It lasted 2 days.

The welt on my arm from the ice pack. It lasted 2 days.

I have been at work and talked to coworkers about it, and instead of trying to explain, I stuck a water bottle on my arm, and not even 5 minutes later, voila, nice welts appeared on my arm.

And this allergy, it isn’t like it has to be in a negative degree…it just has to be below 19 C˚. And in Canada, in Ontario, in our region, I want you to just think on how many times a year the temperature dips below that degree. I will wait…Yeah. That’s how much this allergy sucks.

I was walking to the car in the rain and wind one day, and when I got there my chest was welting, my lips were swollen like a bad Botox job and my face was welting as well. I was also blotchy and red.

No need to take my word for it, I took photos because THAT IS HOW WEIRD IT IS.

No need to take my word for it, I took photos because THAT IS HOW WEIRD IT IS.

And see the bad Botox lips? They are so delightful!

And see the bad Botox lips? They are so delightful!

I was drinking something cold before I really registered that this was a problem and my throat felt like it was closing up, but I just took an allergy pill and hoped for the best.

The craziest experience so far with this allergy was when I went swimming at a friends house. He talked to his parents, because he knows how much I love to swim and they cranked the pool to 30 C˚. I jumped in so happy to be able to swim again and when I got out, I almost passed out from my blood pressure dropping and almost going into anaphylactic shock. I had never experienced how it feels to not have control and not knowing what is happening. Feeling like I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t focus, and going in and out on consciousness.

I know this all sounds crazy, and if you haven’t ever heard of this before, then of course it is crazy. But cold urticaria is real, and it does happen to a large number of people. After I started experiencing this, I talked to my coworkers and one person’s roommate in college had this allergy. And another woman actually had it happen to her, but it was because of her thyroid condition.

It apparently can last anywhere from a few months to about 5-7 years, (7 years being the longest time with this allergy on record).

I don’t know exactly what I am going to do when the winter really comes to Canada, as I am already having problems and it is only fall.

I also don’t know what it will be like in an environment completely enveloping my body in cold…I am worried that I may not just have to carry my EpiPen everywhere, but that I may actually have to use it one day.

But I am trying to stay positive and I am trying to remember that I even have this allergy, because I forget, all the time, and still go and grab things from the freezer, and try and work with cold food, and then I get all welted and itchy.

I also keep forgetting when I am really thirsty and all I want to do is drink a big bottle of cold water, but I can’t.

This allergy also took away the rain for me, my favourite weather, that I love dancing in. I can’t do that now – all I can do is look at it from inside the house, because even standing under an overhang I will still start welting and swelling because of the cold air.

It is a ridiculous allergy and I would like to return it for a more normal allergy, like pollen! Why couldn’t I have just been allergic to pollen?

Keep your fingers crossed for me that this does not last for 5 years!

~ Andreah

For Cassidy Megan

It has been a year a half since my last seizure – and I am still scared shitless.

Every time that someone tells me that I am out of the woods, after all it has been a year and a half there is nothing to worry about, I secretly want to kick them and yell “DON’T JINX IT!” or “HOW DO YOU KNOW? DO YOU HAVE A CRYSTAL BALL?” and if they do have a crystal ball, why the hell haven’t I used it before!? I am so scared that it will happen again. Every time that I get sick with a flu or cold, the first sign of the sniffles, I panic. When my heart goes wonky because of stress, I immediately call my mom to take me to the emergency room. Every time I decide to have a libation after a rough day at work, I sip it gingerly in hopes of not triggering the sleeping monster. Because after all, that is what it is, a sleeping monster. A monster who lies waiting for me to be living my life, and then BAM!

This past episode of Grey’s Anatomy hurt my heart. A woman got into a car accident (well, the car drove through their house and hit her and her husband). She was pregnant and talking and fine and then all of a sudden she had a seizure and she was gone. She was gone and they delivered the baby. She was gone and the baby lived on while the father had some intense surgery. I fell apart while Cody slept soundly beside me. I messaged Julia who is my Grey’s Buddy…and she talked me off the ledge. It’s not just Grey’s though – every time that a character has a seizure on any TV show I hold my breath and then burst into tears because IT’S SCARY! My mind starts racing! Is this what my family watched? Did they hold their breath?

I am scared we won’t be able to have babies. Like, really scared. I am scared I won’t be able to, or that I will hurt them. A woman once thought it was a good idea to tell me that a friend of hers had a bath with her two year old, and while they were bathing she had a seizure and drowned her baby. I can’t get that out of my head. My mind keeps racing. What if I do that? What if some HORRIBLE accident happened and then I would lose my baby and Cody and my family and it just snow balls. Seriously – my brain, if it’s not seizing, it’s freaking out thinking of all the horrible things.

I have a coping mechanism – I make fun of my seizures to make it easier for me. I laugh about it, and joke about it and make it seem like it’s okay, but it’s scary. I will talk about them with anyone. I will answer anyone’s questions. I am not scared to do that. I am scared that it will happen again.

I am scared. 

Today is Purple Day, which is celebrated around the world. It is a day to raise awareness about epilepsy. My co-workers at my office are going to be holding a fundraiser tomorrow for it which is AWESOME! There are no other words for it other than AWESOME!  Purple Day was created by Cassidy Megan, a young Canadian girl, in 2008. She was motivated by her own struggles with complex partial seizures. She wanted people to know more about it and dispel myths. Purple Day didn’t become international until 2009.

I am going to be wearing purple, and putting my own selfish fears aside to support those who are going through worse than me. For those who suffer every day, multiple times a day. For you, I hope you find the treatment that works, find your trigger and live a life free of seizures! I wear purple for you, and know that you are always in my thoughts and prayers!

Purple Day

Purple Day 2014

~ Jacqui

I want to be happy for you

It happens all the time.

It happened on Tuesday when I went to the hospital for therapy.

It happened when I was watching The Social.

It happens every time someone announces their pregnancy.

It happens when I spy on my neighbours across the way with their new family of three.

It happens with every person I love who tells me they want to have babies.

It happens All. The. Time.

I feel sad and worried for them. I feel engulfed in feelings of anxiety and fear for them. I want to tell them it’s a decision that is heavier than the fun they had or will have making the baby. That once they make it, they’ll never be able to un-make it. That it will be so hard. And not just hard, but the hardest. I want to say to them that they should run away, stay single, stay a DINK, do anything but become parents, have babies, make a family. ANYTHING.

I don’t of course. I smile and act happy, act excited, act enthused. I sit there and bite my tongue and cheeks and teeth, praying that my experience, my history, my perspective doesn’t come tumbling out of me and scare the crap out of them, especially if they’re announcing they’re expecting (a little late for a change of plans, you know).

But it’s my truth. It’s my experience. It’s what I know. You get pregnant and you’re happy. SO happy. You are a walking miracle. And then you have the baby and it’s awful. Your brain breaks into hundreds of fragments and only the worst parts of yourself rise to the surface. You fight every day to stay in your skin, to get out of bed, to keep tiny bundles of need alive, to not lose yourself, to not break-up your relationship with your partner, your family, your friends, to learn to love your baby, to grow into a mother instead of the monster you’ve become.

You hide because you can’t stand the thought of people seeing through the façade you’re putting on. You run away from home every chance you can because if you spend one more second in your house alone with your infant you’re not sure you’ll survive it. You seek out crowds or stay in your room. You are the extreme of unhappy in what should be the happiest moment of your life. And you have no control over anything, least of all what your brain is doing to you.

I’m not sure if there will ever be a time where I feel genuine happiness for someone when they share their stork-schedule news. I don’t know if I’ll ever get enough distance between me and postpartum depression and mood disorders to be able to conjure up anything but dread for the couple that is leaving the hospital, walking around Wal-Mart like disoriented zombies, or showing off their brand-new baby. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be ‘normal’ when it comes to pregnancy or birth announcements.

But let me be clear.

I love my babies. It’s a love that I’ve earned and that for me was hard-won. It’s a love that is complicated and messy, fulfilling and exhausting, absorbing and alienating. It’s a love and experience I wouldn’t change for anything in the world. Ever.

Sophie and me

Sophie and me

I wouldn’t send any of them back or not have babies. It was in the game plan since before I can recall ever making a game plan and there is no other way I would have my life or any other way that I see my life.

Lillian and me

Lillian and me

I would love to have anything other than a mental illness every time I had a baby, but it’s not enough for me to wish all of my babies, my loves, away.

Isaac and me

Isaac and me

And when you do tell me that you’re pregnant, or that you want oodles of babies, or when I see your Facebook announcement that you’ve given birth to a beautiful new member of your family, I will do everything in my power to be happy out loud for you. To recall how I felt in the seconds after we found out about Sophie, Lillian, Charlie, and Isaac, in the seconds after I got to meet them, in the days, weeks, months after I learned to love them. To focus on the moment you are sharing with me, not the moments that might be for you and have been for me. To be present in your happiness, in your joy, in the experience that will change your life forever.

Babies and me

Babies and me

Because I want to be happy for you. I do. And I’m so humbled that you are choosing to share it with me, even though I’m a walking train-wreck PSA of what not to do when you have a baby.

So tell me. And I’ll hug you and pray that your experience is what mine becomes, that your love and health is present from the start and carries through, always.

I promise.

~ Julia