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A weird upside to my chronic hives

I had my first outbreak of chronic idiopathic urticaria in April 2014 — really soon after I’d started keto. I was, of course, concerned that somehow I was allergic to keto (I am not) or that I needed carbs for the itchiness to go away (I don’t, and they actually make it worse) (trust me. I tried switching up my diet)(in many ways)(it did nothing).

If you’re going to suggest I go raw vegan/paleo/dairy free/start juicing/etc — please don’t. I’ve dealt with this for 4 years. I know you just want to help, and that’s very sweet of you! So this next bit may come across as rude but there’s really no nice way to say it:

I pay my doctors to help. That is their job. I have the help thing covered.

(I know! You’re thinking “But there MUST be a CAUSE! There MUST!” It’s very frustrating. I have been there. BELIEVE ME. I’m the one living with this shit. [Please read this article about living with chronic hives. It’s very good.] But guess what—there is a lot we don’t know about medicine. We know something is going wrong. We cannot explain the why yet.)

I found a medication (xolair) that works for me. I’ve been getting injections regularly since July 2014. They’ve kept the hives at bay – until now. Perhaps I went too long between injections; perhaps my body was under some new stress (there is talk of a flu strain that causes hives); perhaps perhaps perhaps. Anyway, the hives came back in January 2018. I got another xolair injection, and they’re getting better.

But here’s a thing that was true with my first hive outbreak, and is true again now: it actually helps me stay on track with eating. It’s a very defeating feeling, not being able to control something your body is doing. Hives are INCREDIBLY uncomfortable, because they itch. They itch and itch and itch and I still haven’t found a topical treatment that helps. So imagine being attacked by 1,000 mosquitoes, then getting a sunburn (hives give off heat), and then being punched a lot (scratching leads to bruising). And now imagine that that is your life, all day, every day, for months. Or years. Wearing clothes hurts—especially tight clothes. Pressure causes more hives. Scratching causes more hives. Sometimes heat causes more hives, sometimes it doesn’t. The hives come and go and spread across your body for hour to hour, day to day. One day, it’s your arms. The next, it may be your legs. Some days you may get a brief respite and think maybe they’re going away! But then your entire face swells up and it’s like the universe is just laughing at your stupid, naïve hope that things would get better. You stop going out in public, because you see people staring. You hear them whispering. Some outright ask if you’re contagious. (Yes, sir, I’m highly contagious! That’s why I’m out in public! It is me, Typhoid Kristina, here to spread the next plague. Got you!). Many people with chronic hives go into a deep depression from not only the discomfort, but the isolation.

Some would turn to comfort food, and who could blame them? Food is easy, it’s fast, and it can make you feel GOOD in the moment. Food is a cheap and readily available drug.

But for me, it was weirdly comforting to know that, despite the uncontrollable hives that my body was creating, there was something I *could* control: what I ate. And eating carbs, breaking keto, wouldn’t make me feel better. (again. I tried this. Carbs are inflammatory. Hives are inflammation. It… was not good).

This time around, the same thing happened. I don’t want to dive headfirst into a tub of ice cream. Not even Halo Top. Eating my feelings won’t help. Then I’d just be itchy, hot, bruised, and bloated. Why add on to the bad?

So. While I am OF COURSE ecstatic(!!!) that the hives are slowly getting better thanks to my xolair, it’s nice to recognize that there was an upside to this, however small. I can appreciate that sticking to my diet in a time like this takes a lot of self-control and willpower. I like that about myself. I’m made of some pretty strong stuff.

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