I will never forget the moment I was diagnosed with Chronic Urticaria.
It started with a couple of hives on a stressful day. I had two exams, a conference call for my non-profit, and tons of homework. As I worked through my busy schedule, I noticed a few itchy red spots along my arms. I immediately began to feel uncomfortable and self-conscious.
Over the next few days, I tried my best to ignore both the physical and mental struggles I was facing. Physically, the hives were everywhere — itchy, uncomfortable and taking up home along my arms and legs. Their blatant visibility made me feel extremely self-conscious about my body and the questions I was asked about the spots definitely didn’t help.
One of the most frustrating aspects at the beginning was that for all the questions, I had no answers. I didn’t know what was going on or what was causing the hives. All I did know was that there was nothing consistent about them — one day I would wake up covered in hives, while on another there would be no sign of their existence.
For a while, especially because it was a busy time in my life, I convinced myself that I didn’t need to seek outside expert advice. The hives, I thought, would go away on their own.
I hit rock bottom during winter break when I woke up with hives all over my face, hands, and legs. I was more stressed than usual after getting into a terrible car accident. This stress, combined with the added stress of these uncomfortable hives, made me feel absolutely miserable. My family immediately took me to the doctor so we could get medical attention and advice.
I was soon diagnosed with Chronic Urticaria. According to Mayo Clinic, Chronic Urticaria is a “skin reaction that causes red or white itchy welts.” It is also reported that while the condition is not life-threatening, it can be extremely uncomfortable and interfere with life and sleep. While Chronic Urticaria has no cure, there are treatments available. The treatment plan that made the most sense for me was a combination of medications and self-care.
After getting diagnosed, I opened up to my family about my semester. I talked about the struggles of getting hives all over my body right before a test. I talked about how self-conscious I felt. Even though talking about my condition could not fix it, opening up helped me heal emotionally.
I stopped hiding my condition. I educated myself on Chronic Urticaria, how it affected my body, and what the condition is caused by. I started answering questions more openly, feeling unashamed to explain my hives. The more I learned, the easier it was for my friends and family to understand. The more they understood, the more I became comfortable with my condition. I also went back to wearing short-sleeve shirts on hot days, despite sometimes having huge hives on my arms.
The biggest adjustment, however, was accepting the hives. I had to accept the reality that Chronic Urticaria would be a part of my life. Sometimes I will be extremely uncomfortable and itchy. Some days it will consume me. Most days, however, I will proudly live with my condition.
My nonprofit, my work, and my school are important parts of my life, but I never want to make them more important than my health. When I ignore my condition, it only gets worse. However, when I practice self-care, exercise, and keep stress levels low, my condition improves. Only when I learned to invest in myself first, can I truly learn to invest in other aspects of my life.