This is it. After an entire school year (two if you count last year as well) of packing two kids up in the car at eight-o-clock in the morning, driving them to school, driving one home, and then doing the entire routine over again at noon, (which is a REALLY inconvenient time to drive a toddler anywhere - lunchtime, nap-time. I spent most of my days either watching her spill food all over the backseat, or screaming songs at the top of my lungs, rolling down the windows in the dead of winter, and waving my hands in her face - all while maneuvering turns and traffic - to try to keep her from nodding off in the car) it's over.
Add on the fact that Ophelia liked to loiter in the school yard after drop-off, and the fact the Emerson liked to loiter in the school-yard after pick-up, that gave me...well...about zero time each day to do anything else besides this to school-home-to school-home-to school-home business.
Yes, I was the one that made the decision to limit Emerson's schooling in these early years (which I have no regrets about, except for the fact that poor Ophelia spent her early years strapped in the backseat of a car...) and I stand beside that decision, but now it's over. It's over! Last Thursday we picked up Emerson at noon for the last time, and I would love to say that it was bittersweet, but it really wasn't. She's ready. I'm ready. Ophelia is definitely ready. It's time to move on.
Next year Emerson will be in school all day, and I will be with Ophelia all day, and in the meantime we have every day, all day, all summer to do whatever the hell we want to! Hurray!
This is the day I have been anticipating for a long time, but my relief was not as complete as I had imagined. Rather, my relief was as complete as I had imagined...and then some. More than a mere body could tolerate...
Let me recap...
Monday: I was overjoyed! Emerson was going to her friend's house after school, which meant not only did I not have to pick her up, but I had two hours to myself while Ophelia napped in the afternoon! Oh the things I had planned....blogging, knitting, cooking, reading... But by the time Monday came around, I wasn't feeling like doing anything but sleeping. I had been a little "off" all weekend, and by Monday I wasn't even up to my weekly swim. (the highlight of my week - time alone, submerged underwater, the only sound my own breathing) I dragged myself through the day...wondering...
Tuesday: I woke up mindlessly scratching my hands, thinking some mosquitoes had attacked in the night. Midway through the day, I actually looked at my hands, and realized there were no bug bites present. But the itching continued. That night at work my palms felt as though they were covered with fire ants...as were the soles of my feet...and as the night wore on, my scalp. It must be the heat... By the time I got home, my entire body was itching, and I woke Matty up to have him help me make up the bed in the basement (cooler than upstairs) with freshly washed, organic cotton sheets. I lay down, scared and uncomfortable, spread-eagle like da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, hoping that I would wake up in the morning feeling fine.
Wednesday: After sleeping intermittently I woke up crying at 5:30am, begging for relief, repenting for my sins, ready to make a deal with anyone that could take the sensation away. Matt stayed home - which was a good thing; by the time he walked out the door with the kids at 8am, I was standing over the phone book, scratching furiously, screaming and crying - why won't anyone answer the PHONE?! At this point I didn't wonder if I was dying. I didn't wonder what was wrong. The horrible discomfort trumped any form of fear or logic. I just wanted help. Anything. From anyone.
After many hours of waiting for any doctor's office to be open, I found a clinic up the road. By the time I arrived (and filled out forms, and relayed all my insurance information, and sat in a chair in the waiting room forever, and sat in a chair in the examining room forever) I had broken out into a red, bumpy rash all over my body. I noted the other people in the clinic - patiently waiting, fooling around with their phones, watching LIVE! with Regis and Kelly - all giving me the peripheral dirty look, like I had fleas, or scabies, or the plague. Did I have the plague? I was still too single-minded to wonder. Just. Need. To. Stop. Itching.
By the time my savior arrived (a domineering "physician's assistant" who looked like Pat Benatar and spoke with a grating Mass accent) I was ready to listen to anything. Hives...sure, just let me at those three little pink pills in the portion cup, lady.
While waiting for my prescription of little pink pills to be filled (steroids, Prednisone to be exact) I picked up a box of Benadryl and downed a couple of those too.
And just to be clear, I am a lightweight when it comes to drugs. I don't take cold medicine when I have a cold. I don't take aspirin when I have a headache. I don't even drink caffeinated beverages. But I would have eaten the entire box of Benadryl if the pharmacist said it was OK. This is how badly I felt. This is how badly I wanted it to go away.
Later that night, I was back at work - in a very limited capacity - and feeling much better. I was pretty dopey from the Benadryl (I realize there is Claritin, but "non-drowsy" medications make me feel like I'm tripping on acid, so I figured "dopey" would be better), the minor itch was still there, and little red rashes were forming on various spots of my body, but at the moment I had faith in Western Medicine. I believed that there was a pill for everything; that a full course of medication would make any symptom go away.
Thursday I was able to make it through the last day of school picnic, among other things. I was still breaking out in hives, and very itchy, and spent the day wondering what it would be like if I wasn't on all the meds. (I actually called the clinic and asked if I was taking enough of them...)
Friday I was determined to put mind over matter. I was sick of the Benadryl fog, and decided to axe them from my daily routine. On top of being itchy and uncomfortable, I was starting to feel depressed as well...disconnected from my family and life, scared as hell of everything in my environment. (shampoos, soaps, lotions, toothpastes, nuts, fish, wheat, strawberries - fresh, ripe, off the vine strawberries that only grace us with their presence for such a short, sweet time - green grass, mountain laurel in bloom; all of these things went from being pleasurable to being the enemy, the mole; which one of these things was suddenly trying to kill me?) I brought Emerson to her swim lesson that afternoon, and as I watched all the people in the pool - my former solace, my former love transformed into a scalding basin of toxins - I grew insanely envious of the ease with which they performed their daily activities. (Of course in the meantime, I had been scouring the internet for any information I could get on hives, and realizing that they could be caused by anything from an allergic reaction to stress, and that some people...no, many people... have had hives for years. YEARS!)
Would my life ever be normal again?
That said, I was already - two days later...two l o n g days later - doubting the drugs. I hadn't taken the Benadryl all day, and nothing had changed from the day before. Was the Prednisone really helping? So I decided to forgo that one in the evening as well.
Saturday morning I woke up with hives on my ears, nose, and eyes. I didn't have any more energy or mental acumen than the days before, and I was scared that the hives were going to move to my throat and I would stop breathing. So I popped a Prednisone and tried to relax (relax the throat, clear the passageways...).
I spent the day in bed, reading, listening to Matty and the kids go about their day in the background. My dream day, isn't it? The one I have been asking for? But all I wanted to do was to have my mind and body back. I wanted nothing more than to feel normal and to join them in their living. But my mind was somewhere else - out on a cold desert plain with nothing to see but gray skies - and my body wouldn't release me.
At some point in the early afternoon, I forced myself up. I had to go to work that night, and I figured if I was upright and moving, I could walk my way to normal. I spent the rest of the afternoon laboriously removing Emerson's nursery paintings from the wall, and hanging her newly received kindergarten paintings in their place. I then took a shower, got dressed, and headed out the door, feeling so far from normal that I may as well have been in a hallucination.
By the time I got to work, I was, in fact, borderline hallucinating. The entire world had taken on a mossy edge, and I realized very quickly that there was no way I could function in any atmosphere, let alone a restaurant on Saturday night. I began to panic, wondering what was going on, and - really - would any of this ever, ever go away?
After some coercion from my coworkers, I found myself back at the exact same clinic I had gone to a few days before, although this time with a calming, reasonable doctor. (Which is good, because by the time I got there I felt like I was going to jump out of my body) She told me I was suffering from a rare, but serious side affect of the steroids. Namely, "Steroid Psychosis" - aka "Roid Rage." She kept me in the room for a while, asking me questions like - "do you live alone?" and "do you own a gun?" After convincing her that I could drive (slowly) she let me leave, with another prescription - this time for Valium. Drugs on drugs. Great. All I could think at that moment was that I can't believe I ever used drugs for fun; that somewhere in my past lived a manifestation of myself that would have gladly signed up for this experience.
So, to end a ridiculously long story, I got home, took the Valium, took another one before I went to bed that night, and woke up in the morning saying "Fuck this!"
It took a couple of days to come out of the fog, dizziness, depression, anxiety, and overall sense of ill-being the drugs encompassed. And at the end of it all, I was still itchy. Not extremely itchy, but there it was...
A few days later, I went to see an acupuncturist who specialized in allergies. She told me that she didn't think I suffered an allergic reaction, but that my body was detoxing so much extra crap (stress?) that it was overwhelmed. She stuck a couple of needles in my foot, told me to take some vitamins, and sent me on my merry way. I haven't itched since. (Furthermore, I visited an allergist later in the week - you can never be too sure - who tested me for everything he had in his little kit, and - no kidding - told me I wasn't allergic to anything he could see.)
So there you have it. Who knows? Maybe I would have felt better no matter what course of medication I took. Maybe if I just waited, my body would have recouped on its own. Regardless, I did take a few lessons out of the week.
First, I need a primary care doctor. A good one. Someone I can call when things go wrong and who I can trust to take care of my body in a healthy holistic way. After asking around, I now have a group of physicians who walks a fine line between traditional Western medicine and traditional Eastern medicine and herbalism. (My former primary care physician would not see me on the morning of my hive outbreak because I hadn't been there since 2007. The receptionist told me they could get me in "in a couple of weeks." My new physicians, who I had just signed up with, asked if I needed to be seem immediately.)
Second, there is a major difference between people who are trained medical professionals because they graduated from a medical college, and people who are blessed with the gift of healing.
Third, it is amazing what the body can hold, what the body is able to release, what our bodies are able to tell us, and - if we listen - what we are able to do, sans "medicine" to heal ourselves.
Who knows what gave me the hives in the first place? Maybe it was all that driving back and forth to school, among other things... I will take it as my body talking to me; telling me to wake up. Look at me. Listen to me. Take care of me.
And I am listening.
This unraveling is the cue for one of the many beginnings I have been given in my life. It's time to pull everything apart, and start over.