I first started getting ‘Hives’ when I was 14 back at home in Kolkata. Pink, tiny and bumpy, oval and circle like things started appearing on my skin. I went and looked in the mirror and screamed. ‘Yikes’ was the word, that came to my mind right away. Those tiny ugly irritations were all over my face (even eyelids). I freaked out. Initially it started with an itchy scratch on my thighs and knees. The more I scratched, the better it felt and in no time, I was scratching myself everywhere even my cheeks. My mother took to me to the doctor right away and I was prescribed an antihistamine. The reaction was almost immediate. Within 10 -15 minutes of taking the medicine I could feel a sense of exhaustion & dizziness along with my itching fading away. It was a relief. I was asleep for the next 3 hours. When I woke up and looked in the mirror again, I saw no bumps, just some mild patches. This went on for a week and then the hives disappeared mysteriously, as mysteriously as it appeared. This was happening to me every once in two years and then again go away.
Once when my husband and I were dating, the reactions appeared at a very wired moment. We had couple of drinks and were just about to make out. It wasn’t that I was feeling uncomfortable or there was any sense of itchiness. 8 or 9 minutes into the act, I randomly looked in the mirror to see “myself” that moment, as I wore my favorite ear studs and a new haircut. Within fraction of seconds my entire state of mind changed. This time I had long, sharp and patches on my back giving the appearance as if someone has scratched me with sharp claws. He acted as if he hasn’t noticed anything unusual, but I felt disgusted. Ugly. Ashamed and Stressed.
I have taken all kinds of allergy tests and in different countries; testing against all possible food, fragrances and unknown objects. However, not a single reason was determined as the actual cause of my allergic reactions. Fast forward after 15 years I had them again while I was pregnant, and I just did not know what to do. I was in my third trimester (already uncomfortable with my increasing body weight), had newly moved to Canada (did not have enough time to look for a home. Was staying at my husband’s business service apartment) and the terror was back. I was petrified that it might do something to the baby. However, everything was good and under control. The baby was born healthy and fine. Two and a half years later, I was doing the usual bed time routine with my daughter during the Christmas holidays when I realized the devil is revisiting me again. This time it was different, or rather I should say, I handled it differently.
- “It is Temporary” is what I said to myself – The very first thing an average human mind seeks during is anxiety is assurance. In my case the assurance was the reactions will go away. I am not saying this approach makes things easier or less painful, but for sure provides a direction to relief. For me, it helped to be on track and also focus on the next steps.
- Feel them instead of staring – The visuals were the only psychological trigger for me that would pause my ability to think. The first thing I did every time was look in the mirror and be self-critical and over judgmental; a harm which we woman often do to ourselves when in reality, people hardly notice ‘hardly matters’ shortcomings. So, this time when those bumps again broke out, I did not look in the mirror. I did not used to turn the lights on at night when I got up to pee. It gave me strength. I touched them, they were there, like any other objects in the dark. I went back and slept without allowing myself to mess with my mind.
- Discuss with people who have been through a similar experience – I was not the only one. When I spoke to others about my experiences, other stories surfaced. Helpful facts and tips were shared. From hearing those I realized, we can always do things differently in our lives.
- Be organized and plan better – Knowing our own body is important. Though there has been no particular substance I was allergic towards, but I remember indulging into too many deli meats and sugary items during the Christmas month just to honor the holiday season. (Naah!…actually to satiate my own desire) The quantity was not usual. I stopped doing that.
- Take Pictures and monitor change – From the point when I dreaded looking at them, I started taking pictures, not only to explain the irritation to the doctor but also to monitor the change. I did this every 12 hour. It gave me a sense of progress and a better control of the situation.
- Take actions – As this was nothing new to me, I knew what to do. I took antihistamine right away. When I got the itching sensation at work, I would go to the toilet and scratch myself everywhere till the point of satisfaction. It was not possible to take the medicine before or during work hours as it made me slightly dizzy. Bathing in super warm (as much as your skin can take) water also helped.
Life is full of unexpected bumps. I am sure I will be having these reactions again in the future, but this experience has taught me ways to deal with it. I learnt anxiety and stress will continue to come into my life in different forms but I can only overcome them and not let it into my space (something for which I work so hard) by having my mind organized.