Allergic to the produce department?!

Yesterday, my husband and I went “over the mountain” to spend the afternoon in Charlottesville, VA. We shopped for table lamps and a new entry light, ate at a crowded Chick-Fil-A (I love their grilled chicken sandwich), and went to Alamo Draft House – a unique movie experience.

We ordered food and drinks to enjoy while we saw Captain Marvel. Good movie! Delicious Brie pizza and champagne cocktail. A very fun time.

My main purpose for our trip to C’ville was to go to Wegman’s – an enormous grocery store with everything you can imagine! We were looking for a particular item – grilling cheese, or Halloumi – which we couldn’t find here. Not even at The Cheese Shoppe!

After wandering through the bread department, we circled around the huge cheese section – finally asking for help in locating grilling cheese. And we found it! I’m so excited, because I love the Grilling Cheese recipe we’ll be making. With grilled sweet potatoes and tomatoes and avocado. Yum!

As we made our way to the checkout, we walked through Wegman’s gigantic produce section. Everything was neatly arranged and absolutely beautiful, unless it was sold out, like the broccoli heads. We passed the stacks of apples and paused at the prickly pear fruit, right next to the yucca root. My husband picked up two cactus fruits and I grabbed a papaya. Then we checked out and headed home.

As we were driving through the fog at the top of the mountain, I noticed that the roof of my mouth was itchy. I thought it was strange – it’s too early for my seasonal allergies to start breaking through.

By the time we got home, my face was itchy. I took off my makeup and put on my pajamas. I took an allergy pill – the one I take for spring and fall allergens. But the itching didn’t go away.

Pretty soon, my eyes itched. And my head. The inside of my nose. My feet all the way up to my hips. There was no rash or swelling, just the feeling that the inside of my skin was irritated!

I crawled into bed, hoping the cool sheets would help. Instead, I felt immediately hot. After texting my sister and daughter, I knew I needed some Benadryl.

My darling husband went out into the rain to get the antihistamine from the nearby grocery store. I took two, and crawled back into bed. Then I googled produce allergies.

It turns out that food allergies can come on suddenly, and are most common in folks who have seasonal allergies. Something about being allergic to the trees, and the fruit that comes off those trees.

I thought back to what I had touched in the store – only packaged cheese, the yucca root, and the papaya that I carried. Hmm.

It was fitful sleep until the middle of the night when I woke up completely. I was still itchy, so I took two more pills. Then I went back to bed, to restlessly sleep some more.

When I got up this morning, I still had some mild irritation, but nothing as crazy-making as last night. Even now, my tongue is “scratching” the roof of my mouth.

I had a banana for breakfast – no bad reaction. I’m nervous to eat the fruits in my fridge, but may run a little experiment by trying them one at a time to see if I can figure this out.

Time for some investigative work!

The trouble with medicine…


It’s almost 3am, and I’m sipping Sleepy Time tea and writing this blog. Because I’m wide awake! I’ve freaked myself out, and need to calm down before the Sandman might dare to reappear.

When I woke up this morning – I mean yesterday morning – I felt a little off. A little funny in my skin, but I didn’t really know how to describe it. But by bedtime, it was a raging all-over-body itch. Like I’d just rolled in long grass and my skin was tingly-itchy, even inside my mouth. No visible rash, but definitely needing a scratch. As we were going to bed, my husband said, “Maybe it’s a withdrawal symptom.”  And I’ve been freaking out ever since.

Last week, I discovered that I had missed the “expiration date” on one of my medication refills, but figured it wouldn’t matter, since I was seeing the doctor on Friday, and I would tell him then. I mentioned during the appointment that I was going to run out, but neither he nor I grasped the potential significance of that statement. As I knew he would, he wrote me a new prescription, then gave it to one of his staff to send in – I get my meds by mail. That was Friday.

I got a notice today – Thursday – almost a full week later – that the prescription-filling company has received the doctor’s order and they are processing it to be filled and sent on its way.

In the meantime – two or three nights ago – I ran out of those pills.

No biggie, they’re on their way. But wait, I’m heading out of town on Saturday for a week, so they’ll arrive while I’m gone. Again, probably no biggie – it’s just a med I take to help me sleep.

I’ve been on a very low dose of this med for 10 years.  Tonight I learn that it’s a benzodiazepine – a central nervous system depressant. (Shame on me for not exploring this sooner.) My original psych doc first prescribed it when I was struggling with the anxiety portion of my depression, and I was having trouble getting to and staying asleep. He assured me that there was no problem taking the med at such a low dose. And I needed the sleep in order for my brain to heal from the depression and serotonin toxicity.

That was 10 years ago. Two psych docs since, and I’m still on this med. No one ever mentioned any concerns with it. Over time, I’ve considered coming off of it, but why? It works so well, I’m sleepy within 20 minutes of taking it, and I rarely struggle with insomnia; I can usually get back to sleep pretty easily if I wake in the middle of the night. I have no ill effects in the morning – I can get up just fine without any residual tiredness. On a couple of occasions, I looked into the process of coming off the med – just reading “how to” on the web – and saw several stories of horrific troubles with reducing the dose. But I figured my dosage was so low, when it was time, it would be no problem.

But here I am. Itchy all over. Woke up after an hour’s snooze and can’t fall back to sleep. So I googled this medicine and withdrawal symptoms. And there are all those scary stories again. Itchy body is very mild, when you consider hallucinations, loss of appetite, return of depressive thoughts, panic attacks, insomnia, muscle tightness, headaches, seizures – I think pretty much everything that could happen, could happen! And the process for weaning off – with a doctor’s supervision – is very slow – like 6-12 months to get off 1 mg. And I’ve accidentally gone cold turkey!

I’m honestly not sure what to do, besides call my psych doc first thing in the morning. I’m not sure what he can do for me, as I already have a prescription in process. Will I be allowed to have a few pills to tide me over? Will he help me get off this horrible drug, weaning me off properly?

Will I sleep at all tonight? Can I pray and breathe my way through my increasing anxiety as I consider the potentials while I’m out of town next week, without this med?  The “what-ifs?” are so scary at night, anyway. And they just got more terrifying as I read all about this med on the web.