“But You Don’t Look Sick”

Earlier tonight, I went to a house party with my roommates. I hadn’t been feeling well all day and I really did not want to go, but it was the first time all three of us were going out together since Halloween and I didn’t want to be a party pooper.

It turns out my gut feeling was right and I should have stayed home, as I got really sick at the party. There were so many strong odors, loud music and yelling and bright flashing lights…

The room began to spin like I was on a tilt-a-whirl. My head was splitting…my heart was pounding, racing around 180 and skipping beats…I was shaking, fighting not to throw up…and I was teetering at the point of pre-syncope where I was sure I was going to lose consciousness.

I ended up running outside to the front yard and sitting in the grass. My throat was beginning to close, and it was getting very hard to breathe– I needed an EpiPen.

But this story isn’t about getting sick at a social gathering and needing to go home…unfortunately, that is a pretty common occurrence and nothing worth writing home about… 😉 This is about what happened after I realized I needed to leave.

As I searched frantically through my tube bag, I realized I left my keys at another apartment at College Inn. I ran back inside to where my roommates where playing beer pong. Standing there, shaking from epi and further set off by all the overwhelming stimulus, I explained the my situation to them.

Lucie held my arm and tried to help me come up with a plan. It was difficult because she was a little drunk and the music was booming, but she was trying her best and eventually suggested I use her keys and just leave the apartment unlocked for when she and Shannon returned later. It wasn’t an ideal plan, but we figured out a way this could work.

After thanking Lucie profusely, I was ready to run out of the house when Shannon loudly interjected, “You’re leaving? But you look FINE!”

I explained to her that I just had to use an EpiPen, I felt like I was going to pass out, and I was NOT fine. She rolled her eyes, and then rudely proceeded to touched all over my face and neck saying, “Your face is not even swollen!” and making a bunch of similar comments, callous and even accusing.  She ended her unsolicited assessment with, “You’re fine, you just don’t want to stay at the party. Come on, you told me that at the beginning.”

Not only did she brush me off and only begrudgingly offer advice, rolling her eyes every time I repeated I could not hear her over the music and the ringing in my ears (that was signaling I was about to faint)…she even stopped Lucie from trying to help me!

After helplessly trying to explain my health situation a few more times, I couldn’t take it anymore and ran outside. I needed to get an uber and get out of there fast.

When they came outside with me, where there was no loud music or crowd of partiers, it became obvious that I wasn’t lying about or exaggerating my situation.

Then Shannon was like “Ohhh, I thought you were faking it! I guess you’re not!” and then and ONLY then did she care, stop making rude comments, and proceed to try to help me.

The lights and the loud, crowded party atmosphere made me feel so scared as my body was failing me…and things certainly would have been a lot scarier (perhaps even escalating to needing an ambulance) if Lucie were not there. I am so thankful for her.

Now, I understand that Shannon, too, was a bit drunk. And I’ve seen her drunk multiple times before & know that she gets really wrapped up in the moment…but I cannot help but feel a little hurt (especially in this fragile extra sickly epi’ed-up state I suppose, haha). I don’t mean to be emotional, but Shannon’s callousness and aggressive assumption that just because I ‘looked’ okay in the moment, meant I must be fine and merely “faking it” really, REALLY hurt my feelings and made a bad situation much worse…

I got home and cried so hard. It still stings to think about, honestly.

I am not going to hold a grudge…not just because she was slightly intoxicated, but because continuing to dwell on it won’t help anyone. I will be fine and bounce back by the time she & Lucie get home from the party…

But interactions like this one tonight are the reason we desperately need more awareness about these complex, debilitating invisible illnesses. We must stop accusations like, “But you don’t look sick” and save others from having to endure the judgement, mean comments, and unwillingness to help that I faced tonight.

This is definitely not in reference to Shannon (she’s not usually like this & she’s my friend) or this situation at all…but as we spoonies like to say:  I don’t look sick? Well, you don’t look stupid, but ya know…looks can be deceiving.. 😉

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Mast Cells: 3 — Cassidy: 0

I have been SO sick these past few days. My mast cells are kicking my butt big time, & I’ve had to use three EpiPens in the past 19 hours alone. I really should stop complaining & appreciate that life isn’t like this every day…but the pain & nausea is crippling & all I can think about is how I want it all to just end…

Catch-22

Well, I am supposed to take an Anatomy & Physiology exam in 4 hours & 9 minutes…but that’s not happening. 😦

My health is much more stable than it has been in years past: I really have no right to complain. But things have declined since last semester & I feel so lousy 24/7 with dizziness, vertigo, nausea, migraines, joint pain, abdominal pain & distention, sharp pins & needles in my fingers, chest tightness, ulceration & bleeding in/around my stoma, feeding tube troubles, anaphylaxis, temperature regulation issues, bladder inflammation, UTIs, blood pooling, weakness, etc. etc. etc.

Academically, I am drowning. Studying for this test, I’ve watched videos, made flashcards, drawn pictures, constructed diagrams, read the textbook, took online quizzes– but NOTHING is sticking. My fatigue has been crippling & my brain fog has been worse than ever before. I am SO burnt out from fighting so hard to accomplish tasks most my age don’t even have to think twice about.

And the most frustrating part of all?

Being sick, taking a billion medications & supplements, doctors appointments, procedures– all keep me from giving 100% in school.

And then, on the other hand…

Being in school, going to classes, doing homework, studying, going to necessary meetings– all keep me from giving 100% to taking care of my health.

It is definitely a catch-22!

Anyway, tonight I made some big decisions about this semester & about my academic endeavors as a whole. I have a meeting with my advisor tomorrow, so we shall see. I am hoping to leave that meeting with a plan & some hope for the future…

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studying the cardiovascular system

To Mask Or Not To Mask?

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Just a casual “allergic to life” selfie. I had to wear my Vogmask today because the landscapers were spraying the campus grass with pesticides and the painters were finishing the walls in Dabney. I really should wear my mask more, (especially because it really does help in preventing anaphylaxis), but my pride often gets in the way. Maybe I’ll invest in some cuter ones in the future, we’ll see…but for now, off to chem lab.. 🙂

And The War Wages On

I work my very hardest to be “normal” and not to bring anyone down. However, I must say…

It’s indescribably disheartening to sit helpless as a disease detains you in the prison of your own body. You look back at your former life with nostalgic envy, realizing you took it all for granted. From the most elaborate vacation to a simple walk to the bathroom. Every day without pain or fatigue- when you had the potential to say “yes” to every exciting invitation instead of, “No, I’m too sick” to any suggestion at all…so many times that people cease asking altogether.

What I would give for the “normal”- even “boring”- feelings that many my age detest. I would love to get up early to the sound of an alarm clock jarring me out of a sweet dreamland for yet another predictable day of monotony. To get up out of bed, brush my teeth, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast…

To not have to worry about about medicines, treatments, injections, IVs, emergency room visits, hospital stays, dizziness, fainting, blacking out, heart palpitations, dangerously low blood pressure, vertigo, excessive fatigue, weakness, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, migraines, blindness, shortness of breath, tachycardia, hives, anaphylaxis…

To set out to enjoy another day of teenage normalcy instead of settling into the rigor that is the 24/7 management of an unpredictable and all-consuming illness, hoping that my well-disciplined routine will allow me one more day of maintenance and “just getting by.”

I am not seeking your pity- I am incredibly thankful for the life I have, truly, despite my limitations. But I do plead for your understanding.

Please see that I am not my illnesses: I am me…

I’m holding my ground as the army that is chronic illness pushes forward. It may have more weaponry and experience, but I have an amazing team, a little stubbornness, and a lot of untiring faith.