Hiking with Hives

So I’m just going to say it. I have chronic urticaria.

Since I was diagnosed shortly after my eighteenth birthday, I have been very self-conscious about it and have hidden it as much as I could. For years, I’ve pretended I didn’t have it. Tried to will it away, avoided situations where I knew I would probably have a reaction, and disparaged when it came during social situations with no explanation.

It’s an autoimmune disorder where my body thinks something is wrong and produces histamines to inform the body. Basically my body is like “oh, shit!” and produces hives pretty much daily with varying degrees and it’s been going on for almost a decade.

The most frustrating part about it is that after seeing many doctors and specialists, the best they can give me is that statistically it tends to disappear one day (though if it lasts more than five years you’ll probably have it forever) and all they can do is continually pump me with medications to try and control it.

Starting college with daily uncontrollable hives sucked. The medications did not work and made my hives even more unpredictable as well as tended to raise them into welts instead of just red blemishes. I didn’t know why my body had suddenly gone out of control and along with it my emotions. When my body is weak, my hives get worse, and my mood dips as a side effect. Depression and anxiety are major consequences of chronic urticaria – which are two things I’ve never felt I had. I was hitting lows for the first time in my life.

Within a year, I dropped all medication and began to try and find my own solution. I scoured online message boards but that wasn’t much help because every case is so different. Part of the problem with this disease is everyone’s story is unique. And we all just want answers.

I read up more and more on nutrition, on health, on being better to my body. Sometimes the studies make me a little crazy (there’s chemicals in pretty much everything) and often I feel hopeless because I add one more non-solution to the list, but then I had a revelation.

I couldn’t hold myself back anymore.

It’s not my fault that the cold, the heat, the stress, the whatever has given me a reaction. I have to accept it’s going to happen, and be more open about it. It might be hard to understand, but at the end of the day the one who most cared about it was me. Starting to share my disease this year has been hard but I’ve learned no one is going to fault me for something out of my control.

So I’m starting 2018 with a public proclamation in hopes that I can be more open about my disease. I’ve passed up on too much in fear of appearing like a monster. But I want to get outdoors. I want to experience life. My urticaria wants me to be at a perfect homeostasis at all times, but that’s just impossible. If I’m not sweating a little, playing in the snow, or just generally doing all the things I want to try, I’m letting it win.

So there it is. A lot of my new experiences in the past year have caused my skin to react. Many trips I took in 2017 I had to deal with itchy, uncomfortable hives that threatened to bring down my mood. Major reactions happened in Whitesands, Chickasaw, Belize, and LA. But I can’t let it stop me. I want to be open about this and start fully embracing the way it is.

I have chronic urticaria and that’s life.