It’s funny, really, how such seemingly small things can have huge impacts. In fall of 2009 I was a second classman at a federal service academy preparing to spend the next six months working within the maritime industry. Then one day I brok out in a few hives. I never would have imagined that this insignificant, yet new, occurance would completely change my life. 

Those hives disappeared. But then they came back, again and again all over my body. There is no rhyme or reason. Allergists all dismiss the condition out of hand. “They’ll go away on their own” they say. It’s not taken seriously until you’ve lived a miserable existence continually plagued by hot swollen patches for at least six weeks. Once you’ve passed that check point there aren’t actually any solutions to the problem. They’ll tell you it’s probably autoimmune, but autoimmune testing isn’t expansive or precise enough to be sure. It is seven years later and my hives and I have learned to coexist. 

Back on topic, one day I broke out in hives, and the next 3 months were a whirlwind of classes, obligations, time in the campus medical center, and shuffling to appointments with various specialists as the campus clinic tried to figure out what the problem was. Finally an allergist  determined it was chronic idiopathic urticaria and angioedema, meaning I have chronic hives and swelling for no known reason. Great! I had a kind of sort of answer. Now I could continue on with my well planned out life. Or so I thought. 

Evidently that little word at the end, angioedema meant that everything needed to change. The swelling that accompanies my hives could potentially cause too much swelling in my throat, leading to anaphylactic shock (such as with severe allergic reactions). It hasn’t in the seven years I’ve had them. But the potential is there. Because of this possibility, it was deemed unsafe for me to work at sea or to serve in the military. Both of these were requirements for my education. 

And just like that I was thrown off course and sent in a new uncertain direction. These hives can make me miserable and leave me in a general state of discomfort on the regular basis. Yet at the same time I must thank them for everything I’ve now built around me. Without them, I’d never had changed schools, never have had kids so early into adulthood, never had been given the opportunity to stay home with said children, and never have found the communities of friends I so cherish now. 

Thank you, you miserable hives, for all the pain and wonder you’ve brought to my life. Without you retched things I wouldn’t be where I am today. Nor would I be the person you’ve forced me to become. So thank you. Now please bugger off and never come back again. 

For more information: What Is Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (Hives)?