In hindsight, I should’ve listened to my skin sooner. I kept getting itchy, very itchy – and once I scratched, it tripled in itchy and turned into hives. My nose and cheeks flush red. Anything rubbing or touching my skin snuggly triggered the itch areas worse. I had no idea what was going on.
So after nearly two weeks, I called my doctor. She observed and said it could be a viral infection. ‘When you start to feel it come on, take a Zyrtec. Call if it gets worse.’
I felt silly like I wasted a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t even think of taking allergy pills. I was using anti-itch cream on it, the clear calamine kind used for bug bites, but I wasn’t bringing it with me and using it as hand sanitizer all over. I didn’t like carrying a purse.
I knew of Benadryl, but it also makes you tired, it’s the key ingredient in those sleep PM pills. I ain’t got time for that.
So I didn’t know to use Zyrtec. I was kicking myself for going to the doctor versus you, know, saving $75 bucks and trusting the internet and self-diagnosis with no training. But hey, at least you can now put a price on peace of mind, right? That’s what I keep telling myself as the bills racked up this year!
Luckily she prescribed the Zyrtec, called Cetrizine and it saved me ten bucks from buying Zyrtec in the store. This reinforces to me once again that big pharma is out of control. So is insurance. So is medical. It will break you.
I hope this story will convince you as the reader how vitally important it is to believe Rachel Hollis when she says you have to take care of yourself, you have to take the oxygen mask first on a plane before you can help the person next to you.
So I’m taking these hives in stride, popping the Zyrtec like breath mints and still adjusting to my new normal. I feel awful, but I felt awful when I was sent on my way sans $75 and didn’t want to go back.
Until one day, I felt my throat tightening. Closing. It scared me. So I made another appointment. It’s worth it because something is wrong.
During this period of unknown, uncomfortable hives, I discussed them with my brother Adam, because he had chronic hives in college that got milder over a few years. He said his doctor tied it to a horrible case of strep throat he had. My grandma Viv had it for a few years but her lips always swelled up and she wasn’t sure what caused it. Still, it’s a weird phenomenon we all share and has no name associated with it.
I couldn’t pinpoint a change in my lifestyle or health that had triggered this. Whatever it is.
My doctor ordered a full allergy testing with a specialist that was highly recommended.
I learned so much from him. While he was doing section panel poke things all across my back that resembled what a Barbie-sized bed of nails would look like. It didn’t hurt. Since you can develop a resistance to something at any time, especially during ‘changes’ at my age…
He did a couple of extra tiny needle under the skin on my arm for dogs, cats and I think pine or grass. I had to sit and wait, I don’t remember if it was ten or fifteen minutes but I remember it feeling like twice that.
I hadn’t taken any Zyrtec that day and I was well past when I normally should’ve to stop itching. My entire back and arm were begging me to scratch them. But I wasn’t supposed to touch them. I thought oh dear God don’t let me be allergic to everything.
I can’t keep taking 2-3 pills every day when they say 24 hours on the bottle. He told me to quit that immediately. Who knew? I was just told to come back if it gets worse. It’s been the same since.
Anyway. He comes in and I am on fire I want to scratch it so bad, that everywhere else that I touch on my body reacts. I’ve covered in hives. My face looks like rosacea and it’s hot to touch.
Who knows what my back looked like.
He studies my back and tells me my allergies. I already knew latex and sulpha-based meds. Now I can add mulberry bushes to it. That’s about it.
So what the heck is wrong with me.
I have Dermagraphism Urticaria he says. It’s good news and bad news. Good news, it can and will probably go away someday. Any day. Could be days or years, worst case ten years. If that already included time served, my worst case is closer to 9 years. He said a virus could trigger it. That would make sense for Adam, he was probably stressed out at college and then got bad strep infection.
I hadn’t had any. I was having a lot of stomach/gut problems but I figured its stress and alcohol with a touch of poor diet.
Little sleep, too. I slept fine, I just wasn’t allowing myself enough of it consistently.
He suggested with the severity of mine, that I strongly consider this monthly injection. He said, no joke, it was like $1k a shot before insurance but I could call my carrier first while determining if it’s right for me.
The idea of not popping pills every few hours and feeling the tiring effects of it could sway me to tighten the budget and make it work – if it was at least half that. But who knows. All insurance is now is like buying those dang local football cards for $20 that have all the coupons on the back.
Free drink when you buy sandwich stuff. We pay hundreds in premium each month so we can get a 20% discount off our bill. Every now and then you get a surprise that some medication is free. Instead of $7.
I didn’t want the injection because you have to schedule it and plan three hours. They have to monitor you every time for three hours to make sure you don’t go anaphylaxis. That sounds safe. The other point is, how will I ever know if it’s gone? I’d rather take pills as needed until I don’t need them versus doing that and not having downtime in between to see if it’s gone or not.
I’ll never forget what he said. He thought mine was rather severe and it’s March. My histamines are constantly angry and fighting. He said he’ll be surprised if I am not back by July. The heat will make it worse. I spent more than $1,800 for all of this out of pocket so I had to figure out how to fix this affordably.
I wanted to try the cheaper, less scary way. So the pill party it is.
I kicked off my day with a Cetrizine. Then, midday I took a Xyzol. If around supper time I feel it coming, I take famotidine. At bedtime, I take my favorite. The only one you couldn’t buy yourself for a little more at Costco. The knockoff Singulair – Montelukast. It helped me not wake up in the middle of the night itching. It was the strongest, and getting a full night of sleep was crucial to stress relief.
Living this way taught me a lot of changed behaviors. Some good, some not.
- Underwire bras were gone.
- Bracelets were missed.
- Foundation makeup irritated my face.
- I had to use a purse and carry meds and allergy pen.
- At work I had to wear a Fitbit and track 1.5 Million steps in 10 months to qualify and no matter how loose I wore it, it was irritating.
- Anything that put any pressure on my skin had to stop because it would trigger the fiery itching.
- I was wiped out with energy and avoided irritants at all costs.
This story isn’t all about the downside – here’s some good things I discovered while facing this.
- Leggings, yoga pants, and cotton dresses were my new friends. I always liked the flowier- bohemian professional look, and now I embraced it. They had big pockets to hold a Fitbit, too.
- Sports bras are quite cozy.
- I gave away or tossed or donated all of my smelly lotions, body washes, and face cleansers. I realized my skin, the largest organ of our bodies, was very angry with all the chemicals I was dumping on it.
- I am a believer in the pure, no chemicals added coconut oil for lotion. Real bar soaps. Shampoo and conditioner free of chemicals.
- I use Norwex face cloths that require no soap at all. They work. I got them for my kids and husband, too.
- I spent my energy reading, researching and trying to detox my skin – which is our biggest organ.
- I started drinking ground lemon, chili powder and honey in my water to cleanse my insides too.
- I realized I allowed stress or constant disappointment in others to eat at me internally and it was my fault, no one else.
- I began to read, learn about mediation, find positive podcasts and also dig deep into myself to find out why I was so upset for so long.
- I disengaged from the things that were triggering deal breakers in my values. I learned to stop my reactions until I could decipher what was creating the heat inside, possibly flushing the heat to be visible on the outside.
Look, I’m still not perfect. I’m not chemical-free. Neither will probably ever happen, yet I will continue to strive for wisdom to gain my best possible health.
Living with Dermagraphism Urticaria allowed me to start a huge shift to changing what I could while getting to the core cause of it. I was tired of being tired, especially when all I was doing was supressing the symptoms to something wrong deep inside me. Once I compiled horrible chest pains and hypertension prescription cocktail experiments, it was like I’d been driving full speed with a check engine light, oil light, and battery light warnings flashing.
Thanks to curiously observing my surroundings and what triggers different pains, I’ve learned alot about myself. I’ve learned new things to have my internal voice tell myself to recognize it rationally and curiously determine the motivation of the other person first.
Add in the release of writing, finding new places to be creative, determining where my passion lies within my career and where it doesn’t, plus a lot of positive podcasts, books and videos that if anything, validate.
The last couple months, I’ve taken more vacations. Let go and Let God. Examined what I love and what I don’t. I’ve stepped back from trying to be everything and realizing that no one cared anyway.
I spent more energy on the people who do care and can see the bigger picture beyond themselves.
I want to be a better mother, wife, sister, daughter, family and friend. I want to be debt-free.
I want to be present and keep my eyes, ears and heart open to what I need to do to make the biggest impact in the lives around me that actually want me to.
I started Oh Hey Heather. I decided if one story makes one life better because they read it, then that is more important than talking to out loud and not feeling heard.
I’m happy to announce that these past two years since it began, were a wake-up call I thank God I can reverse if I try hard enough. Many people find out after it’s past the point of repair. I pray I keep knocking out the why’s and treat myself better on all consumptions – from food and drinks to negative feelings like stress.
I’ve also realized that all of this is my fault. Not my job, community, or family’s fault. Mine. I allowed the warning lights to happen and fester unnoticed for far too long.
I haven’t taken the full regimen of pills in more than two months. Sure I have to take one here or one there and still have outbreaks, but I am so much further from insane hives than I was back then.
I’m finding my voice again. I’m trying to be curious and not furious any more.
If anyone is fighting dermographism or has before, I’d love to hear about it. This is my story on how I am getting better, and I have no idea if it would work for anyone else with it.
At least after about $5k in tests and screens to let me know I am ruining my body, my vessel, over things I fester in my mind, I guess it’s money well spent.
Up next…trying to fix my blood pressure and consumption.
Thanks for reading,