Food Allergies: Contamination

I’m not well today. I was contaminated with corn yesterday, which always propagates a cascade of serious symptoms. I have a fever, systemic inflammation, blood in my digestive tract, a migraine, and nearly intolerable fatigue. I accidentally chewed and swallowed a kernel of corn in my frozen peas last night and my tongue and throat immediately swelled in anaphylaxis. I became dizzy and my heart rate jumped from a resting 50 bpm to over 140. By bedtime, I had spiked a fever and tossed fitfully most of the night, unable to sleep despite two three-pill doses of Benadryl. It almost seemed like I had a paradoxical affect to the drowsiness typically caused by that antihistamine. I became wired and ultra-sensitive and alert.

Despite feeling exhausted, I was unable to sleep. Part of my malaise and unbearable fatigue is likely a hangover effect from so much Benadryl. The half-life of the medication is quite long, and even though I took my last dose about twelve hours ago, some of the active sedative ingredient is still in my bloodstream. It feels dreadful; of course, the degree to which my exhaustion today can be blamed on the lingering medicine is minimal. Not getting any sleep is certainly cause to be unduly tired as well. Regardless, it’s taking all of my mental strength to resist feeling defeated and cranky, as not only do I feel really sick and tired, but I know that this is only the start.

I’ve been contaminated with corn or any of my other numerous food allergies enough times to understand that this is just the beginning of an extended setback. My autoimmune disease and nature of my food allergies makes it so that the reaction is not confined to an acute, short-lived bout of allergic symptoms. Instead, I experience the initial, immediate anaphylactic response followed by at least a week or two of progressive symptoms like a line of dominoes knocked down sequentially. No amount of medicating with antihistamines or anti-inflammatories can change the fate of the blocks; they will all fall down. I will experience systemic backlash involving my musculoskeletal, digestive, integumentary, immune, and nervous systems, affecting digestion, skin (rash, hives, itching), neurological function, balance, strength and mobility, susceptibility to illness, and causing swelling, headaches, stomach aches, mental fog, and widespread pain. It’s far from hyperbole to qualify the reactions as awful. Unfortunately, these physical manifestations of the contamination process are not preventable with a good attitude. While it’s likely true that the symptoms feel worse when pessimistic and upset, the objective evaluation shows that my body will still undergo this same presentation of illness in the same degree of severity (for example, I’ll still hit the same fever temperatures whether I’m in a happy mood or cranky). That said, bettering my attitude makes my perception of the discomfort of the somatic symptoms a bit less unbearable. Therefore, I’m going to do my best to stay in a good mood and reallocate my focus and emotional energy on other things as much as possible. It’s unrealistic to expect to ignore the screaming pain and sickness ravaging my body, but I can try and shift my attention to something more positive (a fun puzzle, a distracting book, laughing with Ben, etc.) as much as possible.

The one caveat is that there are certain body issues caused by the reaction that need hyperfocused attention in very frequent intervals to prevent a secondary problem. It’s too gruesome to share publicly, but the large volume of blood in my digestive tract has to be medically addressed with home treatments and prescribed medications to halt worsening conditions. In this way, it’s not only difficult but also unhealthy to ignore what’s going on in my body and pretend to be as well as possible. I have to judiciously strike a balance of properly heeding the attention and care needed to manage contamination symptoms while also trying to ignore the illness and operate as usual. This requires a level of finesse that I still lack. Hopefully, this current bout will be marked by a vast improvement in my ability to exercise this delicate balance.

My head feels like a cloudy, smog-laden wasteland today. This obstructs my internal “vision,” or the degree to which I can see and understand what I’m thinking and feeling and more importantly, what I can do about it, what’s coming down the pipeline, and how to steer my emotions and thoughts in the desired direction. I’m blindfolded and feeling around in the dark, bumping into walls and tripping on obstructions on the ground. I feel confused, and metallurgy clogged up in my brain, like making decisions, cognitive processes, and logical communication (especially verbal) is compromised. It feels uncomfortable and disabling, and it makes me worried that I’ll make mistakes.

I will need to consciously slow down today, limit the physical and cognitive demands of the tasks I take on, and refrain from engaging in activities that might have negative repercussions that would be foreseeable if I were feeling well. Things like driving, exercise, shopping, and engaging in emotionally-charged conversations with others should be avoided. The mere process of writing this and thinking through my needs and formulating basic guidelines has already been helpful and blowing off some of the brain smog to get a clearer picture and understanding. I’m continually reminded of the power and usefulness of the practice of daily writing for considering my feelings and ideas and formulating an informed plan that will ultimately help me feel better.

With that said, my mind needs a break right now, so I’ll go forth with my day, working to maintain a good attitude, striking a favorable balance between caring for my illness and trying not to dwell on the discomfort and its preordained long course, and acting with calculated prudence as I move about my day.

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