05 May 2008

living life

If such a thing as the opposite of a hangover exists, I think that would accurately describe what I've got right now. I'm coming off of one of the best Sundays, if not the best weekends, in a long long time, and I'm still smiling. It was so good, in fact, that I wasn't even grumpy about it being Monday. I almost didn't care that I had to be inside at my desk all day while the seventy degree and sunny temperature that showed up over the weekend persisted outside my office windows. Yeah, it was that good.

Like Shari said, this weekend was all about the food (and the sunshine, and the puppets, and the smiles. But we'll get to those later). This weekend was about bread, hummus, granola, banana chocolate walnut muffins, hash browns, vegan spinach mushroom strata, fruit, mexican chocolate cake, and even more bread. Yes, my friends, I made all of that (well, everything except the last three). And I have but one photograph to show for it.

My first thought, especially on the heels of my photo a day and subsequent vow to take at least one photo a day (which I've kept up with so far, though not all in film), was how dumb it was to not have taken any photos of all the delicious foods that emerged from my kitchen and onto the table and into the mouths of my loved ones this weekend. But really now, there will always be more bread, there will be more granola and muffins, and--oh yes-- there will most definitely be more of that vegan strata (damn that veganomicon is right on, every time). So I'm okay with not having taken photos of all that, and just having enjoyed it instead. With my dear friends surrounding my table. And enjoy it we did (seriously, people, there are no leftovers- unless you count that half a muffin. Who leaves half a muffin?).

In any case, this weekend was about living life. It was about crafting, sunshine, gift giving, spending time with friends, smiling, eating, cuddling, book finishing, and those darn puppets. This weekend was also the beginning of something that I hope will continue for a very long time. Since I was about six years old, I've lived with chronic hives. A condition that (with the brief exception of a few years around that time when the hormones begin to change your body's chemistry) has been with me each and every day. A condition that has caused embarrassment, discomfort, frustration, countless allergists, acupuncturists, and medications, many a tear in the early years, and yes--insane amounts of itching.

I've learned to deal with the hives. Calmly explaining to people that, yes, I know my lip is swollen and, no, no one has beaten me up, it's just a hive. I've learned to deal with idiot doctors who say "well, at this point, your guess is really as good as mine." I've learned to recognize when I need to change my medication because after a few years of taking an antihistamine daily, a person will inevitably grow immune to it. And until about a year ago, I had learned to just deal with this and was over the fact (or what I thought was a "fact") that I would just have hives for the rest of my life (or, until I was thirty as one other doctor had arbitrarily declared).

One year ago is the key here. One year ago, my boss--witnessing a particularly overwhelming period of hives for me--suggested that I see a homeopath. She told me that a few of her friends had seen amazing results for their various ailments and maybe I should give it a shot. At the time, I was taking not one, but two medications for my hives (though certainly not the largest amount I had ever had littering my nightstand). One of these medications was actually a mild sedative (I later found out it was used in higher doses to treat depression, hmm), which the aforementioned idiot doctor had told me tended to work best for people with chronic hives because it just knocks your whole system out so your immune system doesn't have a chance to overreact and create hives.

Well, let me tell you that when you "knock your whole system out", you are actually knocking your whole system out. And by system, I mean body. Meaning that it's really hard to wake up in the morning. I would fall asleep, hard, and be groggy all day. I would doze off at my desk regularly. Within five minutes of taking this drug (even when I tried to just take half of the tiny pill), I would begin slurring my words and would lose my ability to carry on a sentence. Seriously. Friends, this was not living life. This was, quite literally, being sedated.

So I tried out the homeopath. I was a bit skeptical at first, I'll admit. Despite my general openness to non-western medication (I had tried acupuncture many times, and even worked at an acupuncture school in Berkeley for a time), the first session lasting two and a half hours and consisting entirely of me talking in great depth about how my hives make me feel, left me wondering if this would actually work (and definitely left me wishing that my insurance covered this treatment). And, when the first month of this treatment forced me to give up coffee, I was left wondering even more.

But I persisted. If for no other reason, then because nothing else had worked thus far, so I really had nothing left to lose by trying something new. If this all turned out to be bogus, then I would be right back where I started. I was able to stop taking that sedative pretty quickly, which at least made life more bearable (and livable for that matter) and pretty soon, the hives seemed mostly under control. I was still taking another prescription antihistamine and every time I would test out stopping that one as well, my hives would return in full force. So, for a few more months I happily plodded along, overjoyed that the homeopathic remedy was keeping everything at bay. But still, I was frustrated that I continued to rely on this other medication. Except for those brief few years when I "grew out of the hives", I have taken prescription medication every day for almost twenty years. And I was just ready to be done with that.

For the last couple of months, the hives were back, even while continuing to take the medication. They weren't too bad, but they were there. Every day. A little one on my neck, a lip swelling up, itchy wrists, and on and on. Last week, I was back at the homeopath for a regular follow up visit. She told me that she thought that my hives were trying to "come out" and get out of my system, but every morning I was suppressing them with the medication so they would go away, and then come back, and on and on. She suggested that I try again, to stop taking the prescription. No rush, but that I should try.

Friends, today is day five with no prescription medication, and I feel incredible. Yes, the first few days were rough. And yes, my back is pretty itchy as I sit here typing. But yes, this is a wholly new experience for me. In the past, one single day without the medication would leave me in an itchy heap of a mess, barely able to get dressed (when underwear is too tight and causes hives, we have a problem). But now, well, let's just say that this is more than bearable. And getting better day by day. I have more energy than I even knew I had, and I am so full of hope that this is the beginning of the end that all I can do right now is smile.

A while ago, I read Shauna's post about saying yes to life (actually, all of her posts are pretty much about saying yes- hello, the woman has the word tattoed on her wrist!) And though my hives are nowhere near as debilitating as her celiac, I feel like her words describe my feelings exactly. I had begun to say, not yes, but okay, to having hives forever. I had begun to just accept what I thought was the fact of my life- that I would cycle through different combinations and doses of antihistamines until the day that I return to this earth. But that is all behind me now (fingers crossed, fingers crossed). I am done with that stage of my life. I know full well that my hives could (and probably will) come back again. That they're not even gone yet. But I also know, that I am healing, and that I will live my life--hopefully without hives--with a smile.

And if you're reading this, it means that you've read this incredibly long post and I thank you, whole-heartedly for listening and letting me share this with you.

*Disclaimer: Although I have seen incredible results from my homeopathic treatments, as have many others, this post by no means intends to claim that this is the solution for everyone, nor does it intend to discredit western medicine. I fully understand that each and every person responds to different treatments in a unique way, whether it be allopathic, homeopathic, naturopathic, or anything else. This is what has worked for me, is all I'm sayin'.


  1. i'm so happy something is working for you. hope it continues!

  2. that's amazing. what a relief for you.
    i hope you keep feeling better + better!

  3. I'm so happy for you. What an amazing inspiring post!

    I find it ever amazing how homeopathic treatment is really the answer. I think I already told you this, but my step dad did homeopathic treatments for his cancer and he is heather than ever. If he would have listed to convention he would be missing essential parts of his body and pumping poisons that make people weaker and more susceptible to other illnesses.

    Congrats on Living Life! I think we all need a reminder from time to time to wake up and live and you totally inspired me to do so today!

  4. whoohoo!
    I can't even imagine how hard that must be....itchy skin is so very tough! When I was little and would get really upset, I'd break out into hives-I have no idea why exactly. What a strong person you are for taking the leap and going for it! I am always amazed how simple changes can sometimes be so huge and giant in one's life. Keep on Julia! I have a feeling you'll only be better from here!

  5. I'm glad you're having good results - a friend of mine has the same problem - large, itchy hives and swelling - and the only thing that helped her was Chinese herbal medicine. Discovering this made a huge difference to her quality of life, and I hope your treatment does the same for you!

  6. Yay!!! I am happy to hear about health.

    On another note- thanks for the lovely May Day brunch. We ended up leaving shortly after the parade, the stimulation overload was sort of exhausting me!

    I hope you had a great week.

  7. oh my goodness. i used to have hives - in high school. but i've been hive free since then. however, i do very much believe in the power of homeopathy (having just treated my daughter for a cold and an ear infection with homeopathic remedies this past week with great success). and i'm so glad you found something that's making you feel better!

  8. this was so thoughtful and I'm lucky to have read it. I'm happy you're seeing good results and will keep you close in my prayers.