This post is not going to have any pictures because no one wants to see a picture of hives. It’s not like my hives were in the shape of Mickey Mouse or a cute heart swirled into a mocha foam or a deity. They were just hives. Itchy painful insanity making hives. And I had them for almost two weeks.
Now the tricky thing about hives is that sometimes there is a completely obvious reason why you have them. Ate something you’re allergic to. Changed soaps. Started using new laundry products. New sunscreen has done it for me more times than I can count. And those hives are usually pretty easy to get rid of. Stop doing whatever you’re doing, baby your skin, and take a bunch of Benadryl.
But sometimes hives are just an evil itchy swollen burning skin problem from the pits of hell and you don’t know why you have them or where they came from and nothing you can do will make them go away and you’re in the middle of a bunch of travel for both work and family and you don’t want to take a moment to slow down because between a day trip to Disneyland with your friend, speaking at a conference and meeting some amazing people, working like a crazy person, and time with your family there is just nothing to drop. It all has to keep going.
But then the hives… they get worse and worse and suddenly you feel like your skin is on fire from the intensity of the itching and then maybe you lack the self control to not scratch and you drive your partner insane because you’re scratching and not sleeping at night and you’re finally back home for more than a few days so you make an appointment to see your doctor.
Are you with me still? Because I’m not sure I would have stuck with it this long, you deserve a cookie. Really. But I don’t have any cookies.
So this is where we get to the thing I really want to talk about which is mental health. I know. Kind of a big switch there. Hives to mental health. But despite how horrific and painful my hives were the real story here is about roid rage and my anxiety issues.
I’m not going to go into the big story where I reveal *gasp* that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder because we’ve been there. I’ve said that. It’s still true.
But for about a year now I’ve been on an anti-anxiety medication that really really works for me. It’s kind of changed my life. Actually I’m downplaying it. There’s no need for me to do that. It has fundamentally changed my life and how I interact with the world. I also know without a doubt that it’s made me a better parent and that’s just so important and wonderful that I can’t even make a stupid joke about it.
Back to the hell-hives. Monday I was encouraged to take the day off, reminded I am human, and that hives are a totally valid reason to take a sick day. I got into the doctor, and since my doctor is AMAZING she went through every possible thing that could be causing the hives and we ruled them all out. Then she totally nerded out in the most awesome way about the mystery of hives in the human body, ordered some blood tests, and prescribed steroids.
I had never taken steroids.
Before I could ask all the questions I was going to ask she answered all of the questions that would have issued from my face. As I’ve said before my doctor is remarkable, thorough, awesome, and kind. She’s also just delightful.
She mentioned sleep issues and used the phrase “roid rage” and though she said it with a lilt of humor she meant it in all seriousness. And the fear began. She told me to take Benadryl every night for a couple of weeks even after the hives are gone and she refilled a prescription used for my panic disorder so I’d be able to sleep at night and sent me on my way.
First things first… it took a few days and increasing my dose of steroids but as of this morning I am hive and itch free and it is glorious. So glorious. But this post isn’t actually about hives. It’s about how I’m wired.
The steroids make me feel like I did every single day for a couple of years leading up to my asking to be medicated for my anxiety disorder. Anxious, uncertain, reactionary. I feel helpless, scattered, and on the verge of panic at every moment. Every thing happening around me annoys me. My daughter sat next to me on the sofa quietly petting one of our cats and the movement in the corner of my vision was so aggravating I had to ask her to stop.
That’s not healthy. that’s not normal. But that’s the kind of thing I would have found impossible to deal with a couple of years ago.
So the steroids. I’m taking this medication for three more days and then it will trail out of my system returning me to my new normal as I like to call it. And I will be grateful for it. And I will be a better person for it. And I will be appreciative of it.
Because I’ve hated this week fraught with anger and anxiety
So what I’m trying to say here, if I am indeed succeeding in saying anything at all, is that mental health is not a destination. There is no permanent fix. There is no cure all. Mental health is a journey with a lot of stops along the way. Sometimes you get stuck with the mental health equivalent of eating gas station sushi and you just have to push through until you’re back to something better. Even if it’s not perfect.
May is mental health awareness month. Now it seems to me that mental health is something that we should always be aware of, but I didn’t want to let the month pass without reflecting on my own mental health struggles and the journey that’s lead me to be a better me.
I am fortunate every single day for the support of my daughter, my partner, close friends, family, coworkers, doctor, and all the other people who have seen me struggle and helped me back up. Who’ve told me it’s okay to be me, whichever me I may be that day.
If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, anger or any combination thereof please reach out for help. To a friend, to your family, a doctor, clergy member, or a counselor. You can call 1-877-726-4727 (Monday – Friday 8am to 8pm) for help locating mental health services available to you in your area.
If you feel overwhelmed and like you may harm yourself you can find local resources to help you here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call the National Suicide prevention hotline 1-800-273-8255 (24 hours a day 7 days a week).