Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: allergies

You have the right to….breathe

Today at Ask A Manager, there is a question about a scented product. As someone who is allergic to almost everything under the sun, it was of keen interest to me. At Ask A Manager, she asks that we take the letter writer at their word. That doesn’t mean we can’t question the LW about their perception, but we are to accept that what they write is true to them. I think this is fair. What I’ve noticed, though, is that a good writer can slant things completely in their direction (whether they mean to or not).

In this case, notice the description of Jane and how the LW leans on the fact that she thinks Jane is having a tantrum (basically). I’ll get to that in a minute, but first, more about me.

I am allergic to everything under the sun. I was recently lamenting on Twitter as to how all I want are unscented (but I mean fragrance-free) products. They are so fucking hard to find and, no, ‘spring rain’ is not an acceptable substitute. One of the worst reactions I’ve ever had was to a Febreze scent called Spring Rain or something like that. I was trying to mask the smell of cat piss, and I figured that would be the closest to nature that I could get. I sprayed it and I could not breathe. I ran from the hallway and opened up all the windows in the house. I was gagging for the next hour.

Another example was that my brother recently got into essential oils. He carries bottles of them with him and sniffs them to calm himself down. He thrust a bottle at me once and told me to smell it. Like an idiot, I did. I said like an idiot because I knew it was going to be something that
I would be allergic to.

When I was a kid, I got allergy shots every week. I didn’t know why; I just knew they made me miserable. I’d get the shot, sit for half an hour while my arm swelled up like a balloon, and then was allowed to leave. This happened every week until suddenly, it stopped.

It wasn’t until much later than I realized (when I was able to Google it) that they were injecting me with whatever I was allergic to in order to try to desensitize me. They probably stopped when it didn’t work. It never got smaller. My arm just stayed swollen for the whole half hour before we left. Any time I got the dreaded allergen test, it was thirty or so dots on my thigh. All of them would swell until it was one huge swollen bubble. I cannot tell you how awful that made me feel and how much I dreaded it.

Back to my brother’s bottle of poison, er essential oil. I unthinkingly smelled it. My head snapped back, and I’m sure I grimaced as I thrust the bottle back at my brother. It was lavender, which was something I was most decidedly allergic to. Had I known it was lavender, I would not have smelled it at all. I don’t care how natural it is, it’s terrible to me.

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The plexiglass of life

I’ve talked extensively about the many allergies I have. There was a question on Ask A Manager about giving end-of-the-year gifts to the 200 employees. The letter writer asked how to go about it and listed all the different ways they’ve had trouble with the assignment. Including people complaining about having to pay taxes on the gift cards, people not answering questions about sizes, etc.

Many helpful comments, including money. That was the biggest. And time off. But there were also suggestions of frozen cozies, different kinds of snack boxes, clothing, etc. I did not skim all the answers, but from what I saw, there were not suggestions of candles, alcoholic beverages, or flowers. Thankfully.

It seems like every time this subject is covered, people suggest alcohol, greenery, and food. Or clothing. As I commented on the post, I am gluten-free, dairy-free, and alcohol-free. I am also allergic to every flower/plant/tree under the sun. And the sun. And the air. I’m also allergic to all scents, many fabrics, and most metals. This sharply cuts down on what can be given to me. What can’t?

::deep breath::

No food, no clothing, no jewelry, no flowers, and no candles. No bath products, including soap, bath bombs, and oils. No alcohol, naturally. I am also difficult to buy any kind of media for because my tastes are so picky. That’s not an allergy situation, though.

I went to Target twice while Ian was here and got sick. I’m not saying it’s Target, but it’s Target. That also happened when I got non-COVID-related walking pneumonia. I had gone to Target the week earlier for the first time since the pandemic hit. Am I saying that’s where I got walking pneumonia? No. It might have been Cubs as that’s the one place I’ve consistently gone. I can’t help noticing, however, that I have gotten sick two of the three times I’ve gone to Target in the last three years.

There are many reasons to rue the pandemic. It wreaked havoc on the world, and many people have not recovered from it. But. Personally, it helped in one massive way–I did not get any of the bronchial stuff I got three or four times a year in the years prior. I was happy that I did not have to feel like shit for weeks at a time. Now, I’ve been feeling punk for over a week. Sinus hurts, threatening migraine, and fatigue, oh my! It’s not fun, and I hate that I have to worry about that again.

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Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

I don’t have misophonia, thankfully. From what I’ve heard, it’s excruciating. Briefly, it’s having a ‘flight or fight (mostly fight’ reaction to noises, especially eating. I do have noise sensitivities, but that isn’t the same as misophonia. I don’t get angry at the noises that bother me, except for ASMR.

Oh. My. Fucking. God. Just thinking about ASMR makes me rage. When I’ve tried to listen to ASMR, I’ve wanted to punch my laptop. I could not shut it down quick enough, and I grit my teeth at the mere mention of ASMR. Joke ASMR does not affect me in the same way, which is interesting. What I mean by joke ASMR, I mean people just lowering their voice to a whisper and saying they’re doing ASMR or eating by a mike. Neither of these bother me. But the actual ASMR? I seriously want to punch someone. Which makes me more sympathetic to people with misophonia.

I said I don’t have it, but I do have sound sensitivities. I need to be in strict control of how loud anything is around me. It was difficult when my parents were here because my father is nearly deaf without his hearing aids, and he refuses to wear them on the regular. Therefore, when he was watching videos, the sound was excruciatingly loud–even though he wasn’t in the same room.

That’s the thing. It’s not so much that it makes me angry (though it odes); it’s that it’s pure agony to me. It physically hurts my ears and brain in a way that makes it impossible for me to think. One time, K, another friend, and I went to a restaurant in which the music was so loud, I had to leave. It was agony, which she didn’t get, but she obliged me. There was no way I could have sat through dinner in that place.

This is really hard to explain to people without seeming like I’m being precious. For most people, music being too loud is not physically uncomfortable. It just means they can’t hear other things around them. For me, it physically hurts to the point where I just want to curl up in a ball and stuff cotton in my ears. It reduces me to a whimpering mess, and it makes it impossible for me to think.

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Summer lovin’…sucks

I hate summer. With all my heart. The heat, the mosquito bites (to which I’m allergic), allergies, and did I mention the heat? By heat, by the way, I mean anything over 70. I really prefer under 60, but 60 – 70 is tolerable. I am at my happiest at 0. as long as I have heat, of course, which I set at 62 during the day and 60 at night.

When I say I hate heat, it’s not hyperbole. And I don’t mean that I intellectually dislike it; it negatively affects me in every way. I get red, flushed, sweaty, short of breath, and I can’t breathe. I get cross, irritable, and ready to fight the air.

Add to that the mosquitos. I’m allergic to them and when I get bit, they swell and puff up. One time, I  was in Taiwan for the summer, and my legs were covered with bites the size of silver dollars. Mosquitos love me and if I’m outside, they will bite me.

Many years ago, Angry Black Lady and I were riffing on white people and their love for the great outdoors. We were joking about how white camping is and how it speaks to a mentality of being rich enough to pay to sleep outside your house when many people of color can never dream of owning a house in the first place.

It’s something that is encouraged when you need to take a break or get away from the hustle and bustle of your daily life. Which, I get. If you spend most of your time in an office chained to a desk and on a computer, a breath of fresh outdoor air can seem like a great thing.

But for someone like me, stepping outside is an exercise in misery. I’m immediately hot, prickly, and sweaty. I get heat rashes, too, so that’s fun. I’m allergic to everything under the sun–and maybe including the sun. Every plant, flower, tree, and probably even the air. I’m acutely aware of how miserable I am and how much I want to be inside.

Now, you would think I have my AC on at all times because of how much I hate the heat, but I don’t like to waste energy like that. I have it set for 78, but I will admit to bumping it down to 76 when I really can’t stand it. I’m still in the elite of the elite in my neighborhood when it comes to energy use, however, so I’m happy about that. I do have a fan blowing at all times when it reaches 80 degrees outside.

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Never normal, always a freak

Reading Ask A Manager, there’s a call for simple potluck dishes. Homemade, not bought. I sigh because I know what is coming. I love reading about food and different recipes, but I make a bet with myself how many of them I would be able to eat. I have an odd list of things that I can’t eat. Gluten and dairy, which aren’t that weird, but it’s difficult to find dishes that are both gluten and dairy-free. Add to that cauliflower, onion and garlic, and cilantro.

Side Note about the cilantro: I realized many years ago that I hated cilantro. I didn’t know why, but it tasted like shit to me. Not like literal shit, but something unpleasant. Any time I mentioned it to anyone, they could not believe that I did not like it.

When the NYT article about cilantro came out, I felt vindicated. Before that, my mom dismissed my feelings about cilantro, saying I must be imagining it. Imagining what, I don’t know. The bad taste? Not liking it? No idea. But she shook her head every time I mentioned not liking it. When I showed her the NYT article, she exclaimed, “Oh, so it is a thing!”

That’s her in a nutshell. Me plainly stating my displeasure with cilantro was waved aside and dismissed. An article by NYT is taken as sacrosanct. At any rate, she never bugged me about cilantro again. It gets tiring, though, all the people who just can’t understand why someone would not like cilantro.

This is how I feel in general about all the things I’m allergic  to. I rarely mention it because the list is long and boring. But, I get a bit impatient when people express incredulity about what people are allergic to/don’t like what they like. There was a thread on AAM about what to give your employees for Christmas (or any other gift-giving occasions). Some people mentioned that it’s best to just give money because of all the things people are allergic to/can’t have. One person said dismissively that those people could just give away the thing or throw it away.

But some people are allergic to being in the same room as something. Peanuts is a big example of that. I am violently allergic to poinsettias (which I found out in a very memorable way). So getting rid of something I’m allergic to could include a violent reaction.

And, more to the point, why the fuck not give money? Everyone loves money! If the point is to make the employees feel valued, then giving them something that they are allergic to/cannot use will not accomplish that goal. I don’t know how this is even a question. And it’s discouraging that once again, people are like, “Fuck the people with allergies. Who cares about them?”

AAM is a blog with very liberal readers, mostly women, and they’re always trying to be aware of diversity. This is a good thing, but the above comment (from a man, btw), shows that there are still areas in which they’re weak–and this is one of them. So many people were dismissive of allergies or more benignly, don’t think anything of it. Not that they should. It’s really not on anyone but the allergic person (or they’re family).

But it’s alienating.

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I can’t eat any of the sandwiches

In reading my stories (advice columns), I came across a post on Ask A Manager from the owner of a company’s wife who was disappointed because the employees of the company said they wanted money as their Christmas present this year. The post is here and I heartily agree with SHOW ME THE MONEY especially in this year of all years. I highly doubt that all the employees loved the lavish parties thrown in the past, but more to the point, this year of all years, throwing a lavish party of any kind (on Zoom or in person) would be so out of touch with reality. In addition, the letter writer (LW) mentioned that the dinners were at The Palm which is a surf and turf restaurant, and that there were plenty of options so that ‘even those with dietary restrictions have plenty to eat’.

Well. As someone with many dietary restrictions, I took a look at the menu of The Palm (as did more than one person in the comments). Most of the starters if not all have dairy or gluten in them. The salads have dairy or one of my ever-expanding veggies-I-am-sensitive list in it. All the steaks have parsley butter on them. I could eat a few of the sides, but that’s it. And maybe they could cook it without the parsley butter, but that means another thing to worry about. Also, alcohol. So much alcohol. Of which I do not drink. I have a really hard time eating in restaurants these days and not just because of the pandemic.

She also said her initial idea was to send something to each employee like a Harry & David dinner box or a wine & cheese box, but it was shot down by the employees. I couldn’t eat either of those, either. In addition, she said there would be the usual speeches by the owners (on Zoom), which, I mean….

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Neverending shrinking world

When I was young, I had to get allergy shots. I didn’t know why, but I had to get them every week. My mom never explained them to me nor did the doctors. All I knew was that I had to go get poked and then suffer through burning, itching, and short of breath. My brother went with me for a while, but then he stopped. I couldn’t understand why he got out of it when I had to suffer through it week by week. Nowadays, I would ask why I had to go through this, but back then, I just did what my parents told me to do. I mean, they were my parents, right? Wasn’t that what I was supposed to be doing? Nowadays, I would also immediately Google what was happening to me, but again, this was little me who knew nothing of that sort.

Recently, I talked with my brother about allergies. We had talked about it before, but this time, it clicked in my brain. He talked about how he’d had such a bad reaction to the shot, they had to stop. I asked if that was why he quit going and he said yes. I didn’t know that at the time and merely envied him for getting out of the miserable experience, but that’s how my family rolls. Or at least how it rolled when I was a kid. I honestly did not know that they were injecting me with the allergens in order to build up a tolerance for it. I was just miserable, hot, and itchy every week without knowing why. And I had a hard time breathing. My mom claims that shots worked for her but she’s not the most reliable narrator. My brother says that his clean eating has mostly cleared his allergies now.

Me, my allergies have just gotten worse. Now, I’m having food issues that I’ve never had before. I’ve ascertained that I have problems with gluten and dairy, plus I’ve given up caffeine. Now, I’m having more issues, and it’s really wearing me down. When I went to visit my BFF last year (right about a year ago), I had a violent reaction to a cauliflower dish that caused me to immediately declare cauliflower off-limits, but now I think that it’s more likely there was a cross-contamination. I have never had any reaction to cauliflower before. The reason I think it’s cross-contamination is because my response to my recent gluten mix-up was similar to the one I had after the Cauliflower Bezule, which was the most delicious thing I’d eaten in a long time. If it’s true that it was cross-contamination rather than a reaction to the cauliflower, then I’ll be very happy. I bought some cauliflower to try it out.

I’m also starting to have reactions to certain fruits including a stomachache, some tingling in my mouth, and just a negative reaction in general. Strawberry is the main culprit so far. This reaction is another reason I think I was wrong about the cauliflower. That intense of a reaction isn’t something that happens out of the blue.

Anyway. I’m tired and need to rest. Here is a video.

Paging Dr. Banner

Captain America: Dr. Banner. Now might be a really good time for you to get angry.

Dr. Banner (with a wry smile over his shoulder as he’s walking forward): That’s my secret, Cap. (Pauses, drops smile) I’m always angry. (Hulks out.)

I didn’t care much for The Avengers (the first movie, which is the only I saw), but this line stuck with me. Here it is in video form:

This is me, and I’ve never heard it put so succinctly. You don’t need the backstory of The Incredible Hulk to understand what Dr. Banner is saying, but it helps. Very basically, Banner’s Hulk mode runs on rage. In the earlier films/comics, he had a hard time controlling it. I haven’t read it in some time, so I might be misremembering it, but he tried to tamp down his anger and he would get caught off-guard by it and bad things happened as a result. In this movie, again, as much as I can remember, which isn’t much, he’s pretty chill most of the time. So, him saying this showed that he had gotten a handle on his temper and controlled it rather than it controlling him.

I feel this so hard. I am angry all the time, but I’m still in the ‘trying to control it’ phase. I dealt with it for two decades by numbing out. For many years, I couldn’t feel anything at all. I was seriously and chronically depressed, and everything was stuffed way down deep. It’s hard to look back at the younger me without wincing at what a hot mess she was. But, instead of embarrassment, I feel sorrow and compassion for her.

I’ve been sick these past few days. Not sure exactly what, but it’s either sinuses or allergies. Perhaps both. We’ve been having weird weather (supposedly polar vortex?) with frost warnings at night. We almost had snow last week, but it was just a bit too warm. I’m so fucking exhausted. I snoozed on and off all last evening. I’m not able to do much of anything, and I have no interest in anything.  I know that’s depression, but it’s more than that. My nose feels as if it’s being pricked over and over again by a thousand tiny needles, and my brain is full of cotton. I concede it might be the cusp of a migraine, too, but whatever it is, I just can’t find the wherewithal to give a shit.

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Mental and physical health in the time of you-know-what

It’s May. I’m having a hard time grasping that little fact. I’m also having a hard time remembering when my personal lockdown started. I want to say it was…March…early? Late? Not sure any longer. I know it was before my birthday which was nearly a month ago. Time has lost all meaning, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. It’s also interesting how many people are having vivid dreams, which was something I assumed was only happening to me. There are reports of people dreaming about people who ignored social distancing, making the dreamer panic. Mine have had nothing to do with COVID-19, but they are very intense. It’s weird because I used to have extreme anxiety dreams and before that, outright nightmares. Now, however, my dreams are intense but not anxious dreams–well, not in the classic sense. They are the least-troubling aspect of my sleep at the moment, which is saying a lot.

I’ve given up on trying to regulate my sleep. I go to sleep whenever I go to sleep, and I get up whenever I get up. If I snooze at any given point, then I snooze. I’m of the mindset that whatever gets me through at this point is fine. Within reason, of course.

Side Note: I read all these people joking about drinking 24/7, and I don’t find it funny at all. I already thought people in America drink too much (let’s not talk about Britain), and I don’t like that the pandemic is being used as an excuse to get plastered. I do sympathize with self-medicating, but….Yeah, I’ll just leave it at that.

I mentioned last time that the one bright side to this mess is that my allergies and sinus issues have been drastically reduced, which strengthens my theory that nature is trying to kill me. I mean, it makes perfect sense that if I’m allergic to everything in nature, keeping it at bay will be better for me. Now that I’m able to test this hypothesis, I’ve found that it’s true. What does it mean for life after this pandemic clears (if it does)? I don’t know. It’s not realistic for me to not ever go anywhere ever. I mean, I could do it, but I don’t think it’s feasible for the long run.

I’m also thinking about what to do about life in general once the restrictions ease. People in my neighborhood are pretty lax about best practices, and it’s tripping me up whenever I see it. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone wearing a mask in my neighborhood, including when I went to the pharmacy. It’s bizarre, and it makes me angry. I’m working on letting it go and reminding myself that I’m hermetically sealed for the most part.

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Covid, COVID, covid…no matter how you spell it

It’s week whatever in lockdown, and I’m about the same as I ever was. Unhappy about the golfers not practicing good social distancing/masking, but I know that’s a me-problem. Meaning, I’m in my house. There’s no way their germs can reach me. I know that being outside in a widely-dispersed area greatly negates the risk, and yet. The fury rises within me, and I have to talk myself down. I can’t control other people, obviously, so I can only do my best to distance myself.

Speaking of which. I’ve read several people online with compromised immune systems saying they don’t know if they’ll ever feel safe to go out again. I can relate. I have a very mild case of agoraphobia–it’s more accurate to say I really don’t like to leave the house if I absolutely don’t have to–and it’s ratcheted up during this time. All the fears that have been percolating in my brain in a low-key fashion before this mess have bubbled to the surface, and I don’t know how I’ll be able to feel comfortable around other people again.

On the plus side, my sinus issues have gone down a ton. I’m still a bit afraid I’m having sinus issues right now, but it’s nothing compared to what I used to get. Which has led me to the conclusion that the outside really is trying to kill me. I mean, what can the conclusion be but this? I’m saying this in jest, of course, but it’s not untrue. I’m allergic to almost everything on earth up to and I like to joke including the air, and, obviously, I can’t control the environment around me when I’m outside. Now that I’m only going out to smoke (yes, irony alert) and to grab up the packages delivered to me before I put them in the garage to live out their natural lives–yes, that’s where the packages go to live–before disinfecting everything, of course.

Side note: I’m trying not to freak out at the ever-changing information as to what is and what isn’t helpful when it comes to covid-19. It’s hard, though, when even the experts are changing their recommendations  on a regular basis. Remember back in the day when us plebes were absolutely not to wear masks ever and they wouldn’t help, anyway? Now, it’s mandated in some states that you have to wear them, and it’s heavily recommended.

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