Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist…

“I had learned quickly that life doesn’t always go the way I want it to, but that’s ok. I still plod on” – Sarah Todd Hammer

Sometimes in life things are not visible and therefore obviously go unseen.

You look around a crowd of people and it’s hard to tell if someone is a 100% ok or living with an invisible illness, or suffering sorrow in their lives. We perfect an incredible smile to fool others that walk by. Even though the majority would turn an eye regardless of our appearance.

Sometimes people do look, and pass judgement rather than concern. Because to a strange we aren’t of importance, we are just another person going along our daily tasks just as they are.

No matter how small or chronic an illness may seem, it is still impactive on one’s life and can sometimes, on some days, swollow you whole. Stealing every single bit of dignity you had the day before, confidence drained and feeling nothing but exhaustion sucking the life straight out of you, that even a fake smile seems like hardwork.

I suffer from a number of small illnesses that at times just take over. Spontaneous urticaria, pernicious B12 deficiency, a food allergy to mustard and almonds, lactose intolerance and IBS. 

They all effect me in different ways. Some are controllable and some just unavoidable.

Bradfield dam, a beautiful walk that I had loved since I first set eyes on it as a child when I moved to Sheffield. The surroundings are breathtaking and I loved watching the sailing. 

When I learnt to drive it became my thinking place if I ever needed to escape. Watching the sun glisten on the water and watching the runners go by in their own little world.

However, in recent years it’s the place I became to fear. 

One evening me and my partner had decided to go for a walk, as we did many times. In the car we jumped and off we headed to a nice romantic winter evening walk.

I got out the car looked over the dam wall, breathed in the fresh winter air, and admired the moonlight glissening on the water. “Ah blissful!”.

We stepped aside for a runner going by and started on our little walk.

We got 15 minutes around the dam. “Oh no, something’s happening”. My ears start to burn and my skin starts to itch. I hadn’t taken my antihestamine but I’d walked around the dam so many times without it, I didn’t think I needed.

“Babe we need to head back to the car, a reaction is starting”. We start heading back, relaxed as usual, quite used to being able to control myself not to itch and no panic in the world.

Part way back to the car, something didn’t seem right. The itching multiplied and the hives started to appear as always, but my throat started itching too. 

“Babe, something isn’t right. My throat is itching and it’s becoming harder to swollow, we need to pick up pace”.

We get to the car and hunt for antihestamine, but we hadn’t topped up from the last time. We had none left.

I went to put on my seatbelt but I couldn’t bend my fingers, already in panic from the unusual itching in my throat and the ability to swollow getting less. “Babe! My hands are swelling!”. Never having these new symptoms before full on panic set in! Heart pounding, head racing – we need to get home and we need to get home now.

Having never been to the hospital for treatment before it didn’t even cross our minds. It’s fine, it’s normal, it’s going to be ok! 

We started to drive back to our home. Sickness starts setting in, this isn’t right. This isn’t normal.. We pick up speed. We need to get home..

I start coming in and out of consciousness, doing a good imitation of a nodding dog impression. I become more with it and see the panic in my partner’s face. Oh no, this isn’t good.

Fortunately we don’t live too far away. I ran into the house and took 2 antihestamines, then another and another and another. I felt freezing so we checked my temperature which had dropped to 35.6.

I laid in bed wrapped up whilst the other half ran me a bath to get me warm.

The antihestamines had started to kick in and the symptoms started to fade. But fear still corsed through my body.

One of the places I had loved had quickly become my worst nightmare. 

A fear of the outside set in, and I didn’t go out for weeks other than to work. I was too scared of the same thing happening again. 

I do now go out regularly, I ensure I take antihestamine wherever I go. With it being spontaneous I even have to take antihestamine before I go to the gym, as sweat can also occasionally trigger it. 

However, I don’t take it when I go to work as usually I am fine, unless someone puts in an interesting air freshener in the toilets!

Today, I regretted not taking any antihestamine. Sat in a meeting with my boss and our project manager, sneeze after sneeze. “I’m so sorry, I’m going to have to take some antihestamine”.

2 seemed to do the trick, the sneezing stopped and I appeared to be ok. A little bit shakey, I headed off to my next meeting with my Helpdesk team.

I prewarned my staff that I was just on a come down from an allergic reaction so was just a little shakey. I hadn’t realised how much the reaction had amplified, hands shaking rapidly, shortness of breath and getting tired after each sentence.

With concerning eyes looking in my direction embarassment set in. My Helpdesk supervisor supplied me with antihestamine, he is also our health and safety officer, so after the meeting it had to be reported in the accident book as it was triggered at work, further embarassment struck.

The finally last straw of embarassment was when I had to tell my boss I couldn’t attend my next meeting as I was feeling quite poorly on the actual come down of my reaction.

Embarassment after embarassment. I didn’t even have an explanation as to what caused the reaction. The joys of spontaneous urticaria!

My lovely face on the come down from a reaction and 4 antihestamines later.

Not only did I have to deal with the embarrassment but I also had to let down my mother is sharing the driving up to Corbridge for a girly weekend. 

Fortunately most of my reactions are manageable and I can usually gage when one is about to start so I can take antihestamine to stop it from progressing.

However when one does occur, it wipes me out for the rest of the day and any plans made usually get cancelled as I am exhausted and drowsy.

Lactose intolerance and food allergies are quite easy to control. Other than being a pain in the backside and having to ask for the allergy menu.

But there are times when I can accidentally consume lactose resulting in very unpleasant stomach aches, sickness, diahorea and the embarassing bad gas!

Mustard and almonds give me an annoying itchy throat which can occasionally trigger the urticaria if consumed.

The B12 is controlled by 3 monthly injections, for the rest of my life. I can safely say I am no longer scared of needles! 

Some weeks leading up to my injection I am ok, and have very mild symptoms leading up to my jab. Then other times it’s like I have been thrown of a bridge, hit by a train and then played with traffic!

My word! The exhaustion is horrible, feeling as though every limb in your body is glued down and having to peal them off the bed just to get up for work. Concentration levels lowering, work becomes hardwork and productivity rapidly drops!

Believe me now, it is not “just tired” which some people refer to it as. Tiredness is manageable, exhaustion is not.

Messy hair, scruffy clothes as I don’t even have the energy or the want to find anything half decent, I head out into public. The odd glare from people as if to say “what on earth is that”. 

Plans for the next two weeks cancelled as I know it’s progressively going to get worse up until jab day! Picking up every cold and bug going as I go along, feeling the energy being pulled right out of me more and more.

It’s now a week until my jab and my appetite has ceased. Nothing seems appealing and when it does I can’t eat much of it. Exhaustion levels drop even more, messy hair, spotty face and black poofy red eyes – I’m officially run down. I’m done, I don’t even want to talk. 

All I can say is thank you to whoever came up with B12 injections! At least I do get the luxury and the gift of spending the majority of the months with energy.

The next time you see someone slightly run down, simply give them a smile. You’d be amazed at the world of difference a kind smile can make to someone’s day.

And for those with small or chronic illnesses, carry on smiling. Together we are one.

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