(Rating: PG-13. Personal drama) I developed a small rash about six months ago after I cut myself pretty badly shaving. I went to the grocery market and got some benadryl and ointments. After two days, it had blossomed into a full body rash. I began walking like a cowboy getting ready to draw a gun since any clothing rubbing on my red pimpled skin sent me into scratching fits. Several lymph nodes had become swollen. It was time to go to the urgent care for medical assistance since it wasn’t subsiding.
I sat freaking out in the urgent care office, sweat rolled down my armpits and I ended up with a heat rash. My brain felt like it was sitting on a moving waterbed and my toes tapped the ground like a rabbit on speed. I had been traveling to Central America…maybe a bug crawled on me in my sleep, bit me and laid eggs or maybe even pooped in my blood? Or maybe it was ringworm? Or maybe…I had developed something nobody had heard of and I was going to end up on the internet in one of those unsolved medical mysteries.
The doctor walked in and with all my strength I stopped my head from pitching backwards toward the ceiling. Oh great, he looks like he should have retired… and then out from behind him popped a fresh faced medical student. I felt my whole face burn red hot. The doctor kindly asked how I was doing and what brought me in to the clinic. Not looking at either one, I squeaked out a hello. The fresh faced intern grabbed his clipboard and waited with big unblinking eyes for me to speak. Holding my breath slightly and in a quiet voice, I gave them details of the past days. He said, “Hmmmm, let’s take a look.”
Mortified, I stood up. I studied the bumps on the wall as they examined my stomach, back, arms, legs, and swollen lymph nodes. They stood back talking and pondering. The doctor wrapped his right arm around his stomach and his left hand went to hold his chin. “I don’t know what to make of this,” he said, “I am truly stumped…” and then the thought hit me out of nowhere like a full powered sucker punch. I managed to whisper, “Well, is it an std or something?” He said, “Nope, no, I have never seen ‘em present this way.” I sucked my lips inwards and pressed them flat tight to keep words from accidentally escaping my lips. Well what the hell does it do?…a song and dance?
After several minutes passed in church-like silence, he walked up to me and took his index fingernail and ran it lengthwise across the very top of my chest. A red line appeared. “Well, that tells me it’s an allergic reaction, question is, to what?” My lips still pressed inwards and tight… What f****** tribe have you been doing medicine on and when should you have retired?!? He thoughtfully said, “I’m going to prescribe some prednisone and a prescription strength antihistamine. That should clear it up.”
I spent the next ten days taking the prescriptions perfectly, determined to get on top of it. I started taking colloidal oatmeal baths every night (by the way, they work super well for itching) and kept off the internet so I would not add to my overactive imagination as to what could possibly be causing it. I kept super busy to help divert myself from scratching, at least somewhat. By day ten, nothing had improved. I began shaking periodically from trying to stop intense scratching urges. My mind and wits felt like inmates from an insane asylum had been released and were running nuts in my head.
At the constant yammering of co-workers and friends saying “You should have gone to a regular general medical doctor…blah, blah, blah…” I made appointment number two with a general MD. When the doctor walked in, I rolled my eyes. Oh, geez, no. Not again. Going through another exam, I felt a smidgen less embarrassed, but not much. Coming up with the same conclusion, he said, “Well, finish up the rest of the prescription and we’ll see if that clears it up.” As I slowly trudged out of the clinic staring at the carpet, big hot tears rolled down my cheeks. What if this is permanent?
In the next five days, I became a health seeking desperado and googled for any possible alternative solutions. To what I had been doing, I added some aroma therapy. I mixed a carrier oil with a drop of oregano oil and rubbed it on my feet. It was supposed to help rid the body of parasites, if that’s what was causing it. I began revamping my nutrition and started drinking more water. I started doing some breathing exercises to ease up my anxiety and became more appreciative for what health I did have. I began noticing the large array of spectacular colors in the morning sky on my way to work. I started thanking the morning for just being there. When I looked at my co-workers faces, compassion energy came out of their eyes. Time felt like it had slowed down and my world seemed to have shrunk into the size of a snow globe. There was a color vividness to everything I could reach in my life.
I was also working on a film after my day job was done and noticed a fuller timbre of sound in people’s voices. Scenes became more focused with greater intensity. On a dinner break, I became mesmerized by a fellow actor’s rosy cheeks, golden curls falling around her shoulders, and white pearls of teeth in her wide open laughing mouth at a joke someone told. I hunched over my paper plate and pulled it close to my chest feeling dirty, ugly and like a loser. Nobody knew how badly my body felt and how horrifically worried I was that I had something that was permanent.
After I was done eating, I went into the bathroom with my little paper brown bag, sunk down on the floor quietly sobbing, pulled off my dress and put ointment on open scratched skin and topped it off with an antiseptic oil. I was paranoid of making things worse so I had become obsessed with keeping things medicated and clean.
Slowly, I came out of the bathroom and stared at the empty room where my fellow actors had sat, hearing echoes of their laughter and joke punch lines in my head. I sort of laughed out loud. I sounded pathetic. I was worried the air would break if I tried again but I did. The more I critiqued my own sorry ass tries, the more I started laughing. Warm tears came out of the corners of my eyes and I started into full belly laughs at myself. No matter what, my laughter was not broken! Halle-friggin’-luiah! My feet still carried me swiftly up and down the stairs for the film scenes. I could breath. I could speak and express myself. I felt a surge of tingles from my toes up to my head making me feel like I had to pee… I still owned every single thing I had done in my life, my children were fine. I was still employed and could pay bills. I have people that loved me… I have people that loved me and holy cow wow, how lucky I am. Feeling somewhat lighter, I skittered downstairs and was able to let myself feel for a minute that I was going to be ok.
Early on Monday morning, still rashed out like I had the worst case scenario of the chickenpox, I did what my gut instinct told me to do in the beginning. I called and left an urgent message at my dermatologist’s office. As soon as the clinic opened, the nurse called me. She said the doctor was out and to come in first thing Tuesday morning.
Tuesday morning I arrived at the dermatologist’s office. She looked at me with big brown compassionate eyes and said, “Oh you poor, poor thing! We can fix this. Tell me what’s going on.” I gave her the run down as she examined me. I told her about my now Godzilla sized catastrophic fears so my wits would not leap out my ears. She said this was not caused by a bug or disease but looked like a severe allergic reaction that had cascaded into three different type rashes.
My stomach filled up like a helium balloon with a bit of hope for the first time in about eighteen days. She asked me about any recent travels and I told her about being in Nicaragua five months earlier. She said, “No, more recently. Have you been in any hotels in the last two months or so?” In silence, I scanned my mind for what I had been doing the past two months. With my mouth dropping slightly open, I wondered out loud, “I have someone staying with me and about six weeks ago she washed my towels with her laundry soap rather than…my allergy safe soap.” (I have terrible allergies plus a touch of asthma.) The doctor said, “That might do it. With the cuts you had shaving, as you towel dried off, it is likely to have gotten in your blood and gone completely systemic. Meaning your body can’t get on top of the allergic reaction.” With another prescription of prednisone and a prescription steroid cream, within 48 hours, the rash reduced by half. Within the next 48 hours, it was nearly gone.
As I got back to my more bouncy self, I continued with my new routine with the oils, breathing and appreciation. I felt sheepish and super stupid about all the drama that the rash caused for me mentally and for those that loved me. Oh boy, bugs laying eggs in my blood, yeesh, what the hell was I thinking?
I had people in my life that were really there and cared. I went back over and over in my mind and heart until I could feel deeply in my body all the sensation of appreciation for them and also feel the laughter that finally broke my toxic worried obsession. How long had I been taking my health for granted? …how long had I been neglecting valuing myself and what I needed in life? The monkey wits have quieted… well, they have gone onto other things ;) I have been playing with finding a peaceful center when things explode in my life. I have been full out creating life again, keeping the vividness of things around me turned up, and most definitely hugging people around me a lot more sweetly.
Prayers and hugs to you if you are struggling to get on top of your health or other huge life issues. Life is just real, real rough at times. Remember to take some time to really connect with your favorite peeps, get out and enjoy the great outdoors and by all means, find some really silly things to laugh at… and yes, that means lightening up and laughing at yourself. Send out there with love today and sending you a great big bear hug.
One encouraging voice can mean so much.
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