Don't Hate Me Because I'm Over-Reactive  

Posted by Heidi in

Last week I received a diagnosis from a doctor that made me very happy. Once again, I was down with a virus that had either by-passed most members of my family or from which they suffered marginally--or at least a whole lot less than I. (What happened to building a better immune system as you age?) (Because, age, I have, I can assure you.) (And to whomever welcomed me into the decade of the 40’s in the comments on my last post, bless your sweet, cotton-pickin’ little heart!) (Because I’ve been here for quite some time.) (And it feels like 60.)

I was told that I have an over-reactive airway system which means that what makes ordinary reactors sick but better after a few days and a modest amount of OTC’s, will cause MY airways (nose, sinuses, lungs) to over-react and induce misery, severe sleep deprivation, the abuse of OTC’s and finally, an anguished call to the doctor to prescribe antibiotics over the phone b/c I sicken so well and suddenly that I can’t drag myself to the doctor’s office (the anguish part is essential since my medical group requires a body to be sick for ten days before they will prescribe antibiotics. This requires no acting since I get ten days worth of sick in two or three. It might call for a bit of lying (I plead the fifth) but mostly, anguished weeping.)

Sometimes truth is a speck in the ocean. Sometimes it's light filtering through the trees.
And here I thought I was some kind of weakling or hypochondriac. (What a relief!) Most of all, I now understand why I was given an asthma inhaler (but not an asthma diagnosis) after ending up in the hospital struggling for breath in the wake of a fair-to-middling virus a couple of years ago. (I also know why the common cold, for me, results in the usage of an uncommon, downright shocking, budget-busting amount of Kleenex).

After mentally chewing on this for a few days, it occurred to my befuddled brain (cuz, naturally, I’m still sick) that there is much about me that is over-reactive. For example, I am clinically crackers for one to seven days a month—clearly a matter of over-reactive hormones. In fact, I suffer from every single PMS symptom known to man, er, woman. Fortunately, not always at the same time. Some months I get all the physical ones, the next month I’ll get all the emotional ones while the month after that might be a mixed bag. (You never know what you’ll get in a box of cracker jacks!)

But wait, there’s more! My body over-reacts to gluten. To watermelon, broccoli, lettuce, rosemary (which I adore), sugar (ditto but times ten) and citrus. When I was young, the approach of a rain storm made me only a little hyper, then anxious, then I would start experiencing pain, sometimes bad enough to keep me from sleep (one MUST sleep when one entertains dragons at her house), then I would get super depressed, (because I knew what was coming). This last winter, we (as in the royal we—because I’m the Queen of Over-Reactive Syndrome, a name I just invented, proof in the pudding off my royal status, IMHO) added a new symptom: a few hours or so before the rain bursts upon the scene, my body simply shuts down and I fall instantly asleep as if drugged.

Sometimes truth is a bit out of reach.
In the past, I have been unable to lift my arm for a week after carving a pumpkin, windexing the windows, sweeping the floor a little too energetically or from throwing something up onto a loaded truck. A baseball in the jaw (I hate school P.E.--I simply can't stress that enough) resulted in several decades of joint pain and many, many puncture wounds in the lips b/c my jaw refused to open on command (this can be particularly embarrassing whilst eating spaghetti. At a swanky restaurant. With your boyfriend and his local politician father.) Fibromyalgia, another bugaboo from which I suffer, is, by definition, a condition that causes the body to over-react to everyday muscle damage that most bodies simply absorb (and to think I used to take ballet lessons three times a week and dance, a la pointe, until my toes bled! Ditto to playing guitar, only switch out toes for fingers, which I did well but had to quit due to said shoulder pain.)

Then I remembered . . . as a kid I often got ribbed by my older sisters (I could leave that as a stand-alone sentence and it would be a true statement but moving on) (I have read that it takes 10 positive statements to obliterate the damage of one negative statement especially when unleashed on a young child by a parent or authority figure, or anyone who wields some kind of power over the powerless one, whether real or perceived . . . .kind of overwhelming, isn’t it?) for throwing up “at the drop of a hat” (French for “hint of a fever”). I also got teased for limping when I twisted my ankle, accused of faking it when I experienced still unexplained sharp pains in my ribcage and generally disdained when I got sun-sick.

Sometimes, like the forest hidden by the trees, we can't see the truth that's always been there.

And here I thought I was some kind of weakling.

That it was all my fault.

That I was somehow just not good enough.

That I didn’t measure up.

Sniff . . .

One thing I do know that makes things far more difficult: stress. And dragons. And dragons who induce stress. We (as in The Spouse and I) do what we can to eliminate as much of that as possible.
(Sorry if it happens to be something or someone you care about.)
One thing I know that helps a lot: knowing what to expect. Dragon fighting (or more accurately, dragon-holding-off, or, as often as not, dragon-induced-damage clean-up) is a full time job and it is sooooooooo much easier if I know/when I know, (just as long as I know!) what to expect. Obviously, knowing how my body reacts to certain foods makes it easy to avoid them (resisting them is an entirely different story—and I’m still learning all the sneaky places gluten hides), but invisible germs, rain storms and other things that rob me of sleep, as well as other people’s right to put their own issues gloriously on display, happen with alarming regularity and often little fanfare.

There are times, however, when someone could have chosen to exercise an ounce of understanding, kindness, forethought or compassion and did not, making my day, job, life disproportionately (as in several pounds-worth) more difficult.

And I over-react.

And you know what?

For the first time in a very long time, indeed, I’m giving myself a pass.

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 12, 2010 at Sunday, September 12, 2010 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

32 wise, witty and wonderful comments

As you should. I'm glad you received a diagnosis!

September 12, 2010 at 6:35 PM

Love you Heidi! I was talking to my husband the other day lamenting about how it seems the very BEST people get the worst end of the stick (of course I lump myself in there...heh heh), and how unfair that is! But such is life and I wish it weren't so. :( Wish I had something that could make your life perfect because you my dear deserve it more than most anyone I know!

September 12, 2010 at 6:53 PM

It must be so comforting to finally have a REASON to explain everything! I'm often conflicted as to whether I'm a really horrible person, or if it's just the hormones talking (not all the time, just sometimes. I'm not a horrible person all the time). It's a guilt-inducing existence for most of us women.

September 12, 2010 at 7:29 PM

What sweet relief that self-given pass must be. I'm so glad you could find it in you to do that for yourself, and that you have the comfort of knowing more about what afflicts you. Love you so much and wish you didn't have to suffer at all! ((hugs))

September 12, 2010 at 8:00 PM
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September 12, 2010 at 8:05 PM
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September 12, 2010 at 8:05 PM

OK, maybe third time's the charm.

The area authority who spoke at our stake conference today was pointing out Jesus' display of grief when he learned that John the Baptist had been killed and he said that even perfect people have emotional reactions.

September 12, 2010 at 8:07 PM

you deserve a pass (or two)...

I always wondered when my son was diagnosed with Reactive Airway Disease and my chart said S.O.B. (which I found out stands for Shortness of Breath... thank goodness)where the term asthma has gone...

My latest diagnosis prompted my doctor to just tell me "sucks to be you" since there is little I can do besides cope with constant dizziness. Now that's what I own up to having... STBY disease.

deep breaths... if they don't help you relax they WILL help you project yourself when you ream out the persons (principal) responsible for your latest bout of stress.

September 12, 2010 at 8:14 PM

Maybe have your doctor's note on hand whenever someone accuses you of overreacting. You're the bonafide, legit, Real Deal, hot mess! Wish I had that excuse....

September 12, 2010 at 8:16 PM

Funny... I've a a few conversations in the past couple of days discussing my own plight with a lot of what you write about. For over 20 years I had debilitating pain that my family told me was just because I "had a low pain threshold". Then when a surgeon actually saw the cause with her own eyes, I finally had vindication with an official diagnosis of the disease endometriosis. But it didn't help me with all the other maladies I've suffered without an official diagnosis. I think I need to take a pass from your book and give myself a pass once in a while. I probably deserve it too. I know you definitely do! And as far as "over-reacting" to "dragons"... well, I've found that 9 times out of 10 I'm just an "early reactor" to things that others end up eventually incensed about too... it just takes a while for everyone that's calling me an "over reactor" to catch up to my highly attuned situational awareness that there is indeed dragon to be slain.

September 12, 2010 at 8:37 PM

Well said. And you deserve more passes than you probably ever give yourself.

I am ridiculously questioning my use of the word probably. I feel a need to overcorrect and explain that even though I don't know it for a fact, it sounds like you don't give yourself many passes. Which you should. I hate myself right now for this insane comment, but I can't bring myself to delete it because of all the work it took to type it. It's late. I'm becoming incoherent. I'm just sorry it had to happen in your inbox.

September 12, 2010 at 9:15 PM

Such a relief to finally have answers. Now you know you are not a hypochondriac. Age may not have brought you a better immune system, but at least it has brought wisdom and understanding of yourself.

September 12, 2010 at 9:24 PM

I'm glad you got a diagnosis. Sometimes when you know the explanation for what you have to bear then it makes it more bear-able. Although not necessarily easier, so I hope that as the apostle Peter said, "you see good days". Hugs to you!

September 12, 2010 at 10:20 PM

Oh, Heidi.

I think a key to finding healing strength (even if not direct healing) is to not absorb all the blame for everything that is wrong. And I know how hard that can really be to do.

And it sounds like you are doing it.

Hang in there. Dragon-slaying is hard work. And so is fighting the stuff of life like a dragon.

One last thought: Often our greatest dragons are within our own minds, the self-destructive patterns.

September 12, 2010 at 11:13 PM

A diagnosis is a good thing, it takes away some of the unknown.

Knowing our triggers is a good thing, sounds like you are learning more what yours are and listening, acting on what you can do to take care of yourself, avoid future pitfalls.

PS: You are not a weakling, you are you, through and through, and measure up plenty & then some in my book!

September 13, 2010 at 12:08 AM

Life is not fair and I am keenly feeling the sense of it. Trials aren't all that evenly spread, it seems (and I can't believe I complain about mine, the more I learn about yours, which I know isn't the point of your post, but still). I love you, Heidi and hope you gave someone a good bum kicking.

September 13, 2010 at 12:52 AM

It's exhausting just contemplating all that---I can't imagine living it! Glad you're getting a pass. You definitely deserve it.

September 13, 2010 at 7:08 AM

I really hate being commenter number 18 because everyone else has already said it all!

Love you. Do give yourself a pass. And give yourself a couple more this week. Just specifically from me.

And if you e-mail me your address, I just might send you something ridiculous in the mail, because getting ridiculous things in the mail rocks the world!

September 13, 2010 at 9:12 AM

It's kind of a double edged sword, I'm glad you got a diagnosis, but sad you have something that caused it.

I totally agree with the pass. =)

September 13, 2010 at 2:04 PM

I love you. And for your birthday I am giving you a pass for each and every year of your life. (Beats the pants off of the spanking tradition. All puns intended.)
Repeat as necessary. <3

September 13, 2010 at 2:23 PM

I'm very glad you're taking a pass. Nobody deserves one more. And I do hope you feel better. I get some of the things you're talking about as my food sensitivities are off the charts (and I still don't know how to resist half of them) and it sounds like we are sisters in the PMS category (unfortunately). But you give yourself a pass. And you milk it for all it's worth.

September 13, 2010 at 3:34 PM

I am glad you got some answers, and that you might be able to predict things a bit better now.

And you deserve a pass. I hope you are feeling great soon!

September 13, 2010 at 3:38 PM

Oh, how I hate medical mysteries! I went through one for a couple of years and it left me in deep depression. It's like the clouds part and angels sing when you finally find the answers, even if the answer isn't easy to deal with, it's better than no answer at all.

Give yourself a million passes! I think every one of us needs to be easier on ourselves anyway.

September 14, 2010 at 8:53 AM

Poor you :( Even just reading about it makes me wince. Will the diagnosis at least mean that you *don't* have to wait 10 days to get drugs...?

September 14, 2010 at 12:44 PM

And well you should! One of the best posts I've read in a long time Heidi - I thoroughly enjoyed it! Your sense of humor is so similar to mine, but I lack the talent to put it into the written word! I just sit here and chuckle to myself while reading yours! But on a more serious note - UGH to the insensitive people among us, and to be gluten intolerant, etc. Ugh. Hope you have a good rest of your week, free of dragons!

September 14, 2010 at 4:27 PM

I remember how relieving it was to get a diagnosis finally for a baffling set of symptoms a few years ago. I'm glad you have that closure. This post also makes me remember the times when I could have--but didn't--respond in a graceful, supportive way to someone and makes me mourn the times I could have made someone's life easier--but didn't.

September 14, 2010 at 7:41 PM

I love the truth comments. Understanding always makes things better.

September 15, 2010 at 3:28 PM

Not that you need it my darling cuz, but I too give you a pass, now and forever. Also dear one I would suggest getting more D3 in your system. It is a GREAT immune system builder. I know from experience as I too have a auto immune system that backfires on me. D3, D3, D3......I am a believer in its power.

September 16, 2010 at 10:14 AM

What the heck, I'd give you a pass for no reason whatsoever. But having a reason is always handy.

September 16, 2010 at 4:27 PM

ummmmm girl... you deserve a pass. Take it... whose going to argue with your clearly defined proof of it!

September 17, 2010 at 4:30 PM

10 passes! That is awful. Rosemary! Maybe you get 11 passes if I'm allowef to grant them.

September 21, 2010 at 8:27 PM

I bet it's nice to finally know you weren't just imagining all these aches and pains! I hope you get the relief you need.

September 23, 2010 at 6:14 AM

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