Everyone knows that this is a particularly stressful time of year for me. After 10 years of working in higher education retail the fact that Back-To-School means running around, long, long (Did I say LONG?) hours, little sleep, horrid eating habits, hiring, training and scheduling a host of temp employees and trying to please the world is well known to me and all of mine. It should big deal right? I am usually pretty good at keeping it in perspective and watching for the light at the end of the tunnel but this time was a little different.
I guess that when you add in the major personal issues that I have been dealing with for the last 6 months, moderately freaking out over the diagnosis of 5 discs in my back being in bad shape, and the usual pain and fatigue of living with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia and I was ripe for something to go wrong. And it did- big time.
Late last week I was working as usual when I started to get itchy. I didn't think anything of it. I knew I was at least slightly dehydrated because the first thing that goes is subbing back in lots of coffee for water and I could physically see in my skin that I was getting "dry" and I needed to fix that. As the day went on I started feeling flushed and then cold off and on and somewhat queasy throughout the day. Toward the end of the day my assistant said something to the effect of "Oh my goodness! Are you feeling okay?" I told her that I was feeling flushed and she said "That's probably because your face is all red and it looks like you are breaking out in hives!" I finished up the online order that I was working on, went to the ladies room and was shocked. It looked like I had had a major allergic reaction to something. Instantly my mind raced to figure out what it could have been. The only thing that I had eaten all day was bread products so my mind went to "Oh no! Not a gluten allergy!" I went back to the store and my assistant offered to close for me and sent me home. I stopped for some Children's Bendadryl, went home, took it, and crashed.
I must have scratched all night in my sleep because when I woke up, in addition to the hives I had long, red welts on my shoulders, neck, face, arms, legs and trunk. I looked like I had been on the losing end of a battle with a cat. That said, other than looking horrid and itching like crazy- I was no longer feeling nauseated or flushed so off to work I went. I put in about 8 hours before I finally gave in and called my physician who told me to get to the Urgent Care immediately.
The doctor checked to make sure I wasn't having trouble breathing and then took a look at the mess I was in and told me that in addition to the blatant hives I was showing signs of Dermatographic Urticaria. Essentially my body was, because of how badly and quickly the histamines kicked in was showing every area that I had scratched in a big way. He then said that because I was not having problems breathing, his instinct was that this had been caused by stress rather than an allergic reaction. He sent me off to the pharmacy with an RX for a double dose pack of Prednisone and told me to also get Zyrtec. We are now 7 days in to treatment and the hives are gone but the scratch marks, though fading, are still very evident.
The lesson here is simple. Even when you think you are handling the challenges in your life- you may not have it as together as you assume. When you try to push things aside and get caught up in the day to day without really dealing with things- your body knows and will let you know too!