Sep 23 2013
It’s September, and that means it is Worldwide Allergy Month. I do not know if it is Worldwide Allergy Month on Planet Earth, mind you. All I know is that it is Worldwide Allergy Month on Planet Kathy, and because that is where I live, that is what is important to me.
When I was growing up, I was not allowed to have allergies. Allergies, menstrual cramps and emotional depression were three symptoms of a defective character as far as my mother was concerned, and I could not have any of them. (My sister Sandee could have as many as she liked, but she had contracted polio, so none of the rules applied to her. Susie and I were out of luck.)
When my mother told me that only people who were mentally defective suffered from these things, I took her at her word. I never, ever suffered from a single menstrual cramp, but I had killer unexplained muscle cramps in my abdominal region on a semi-regular basis during my younger years.
I had doctors tell me for seventeen years that I was suffering from clinical depression, and I stoutly denied it. If I admitted it, I was admitting to a defect in character, and this I would not do.
I may have spent my whole life pretending that these three facets of my life did not exist if Fluffy and I had not moved to Virginia back in 1987. In the spring of 1988, I developed little water sacs on the insides of my eyelids. This was more than an inconvenience because I wore hard contact lenses, and those water sacs were excruciatingly painful when my contact lenses rested on them.
I made an appointment with someone who had a reputation as the best ophthalmologist in Northern Virginia, and I went to see him. Dr. Karlin may have been the best ophthalmologist in Northern Virginia, but his bedside manner was just a wee bit lacking. Of course, my bedside manner as a patient might have been just a wee bit lacking, too.
He peered into my eyes and said, “You have severe allergies.”
That is what he said. What I heard, as filtered through my dearly departed mother was, “You have severe character deficiencies.”
What I yelled back at him was, “I do not!”
He looked at me as though I had just escaped from a mental asylum and I had an axe hidden under my clothes — which, of course, is what I thought he had already said.
It took a long time before I finally embraced my allergies and the clinical depression. I became a poster child for Prozac, which I took for several years. I learned there is no more shame in clinical depression than there is in diabetes or strep throat or a case of chicken pox.
When people around me show symptoms of depression, I send them right to the doctor. I believe that Prozac and its fellow antidepressants are gifts from God, just as surely as penicillin.
Unfortunately, God has not yet given me the gift of an allergy medicine that gets me through September. I am only glad that Kleenex are cheap, because I went through a whole box of them in my office alone in one day last week. There were similar boxes in the bedroom and in the family room, also being depleted. I am a sneezing machine of character deficiencies.
My mother would not approve.
Here’s a little postscript on the allergies.
Once again, God has trotted out His sense of humor. Yesterday, not two hours after I wrote the paragraph saying that God had not yet given me an allergy medicine that gets me through September, one of my friends who peddle essential oils walked through the door. You know them. You have eighty-seven of them in your ward, too.
Carol took one look at the overflowing trash can of Kleenexes, watched me sneeze five or six times in a row, and said, “I can fix that.”
I said, “I’m sure you can.”
She took some lemon oil and some lavender oil, rubbed a drop of each of them on the sinuses above and below my eye, and had me put a drop of each on my tongue. The lavender tastes vile! As usual, I hoped to have a huge attack of the sneezes, just to prove her wrong. As usual, I had no such luck. I didn’t sneeze for the rest of the night.
It’s noon the next day. I haven’t sneezed once, and I only used one social Kleenex. God is up there, once again having had the last laugh.