What I Learned Last Night

Here’s something you probably don’t know about me: I am deathly allergic to tree nuts. I found this out when I was three years old after eating one of the walnut cookies my mother made for Christmas. Only a few moments after eating the first bite, my whole mouth, tongue, and throat were extremely itchy, and I found it incredibly hard to swallow. I was given ibuprofen (which I quickly found out I am also allergic to) and then Benadryl, and the doctors said I would be okay. And I was. But I would have to carry an Epi Pen (epinephrine injector) with me for forever, for the next ingestion would mean anaphylaxis, the instantaneous and severe swelling of my tongue and throat and thus the immediate death of me via asphyxiation.

Sounds fun, eh?

For the past fifteen years, I have lived my life never having eaten a tree nut out of fear of death by anaphylaxis, despite the Epi Pen. I’ve come close to eating one a few times, but I’m ridiculously careful (emphasis on the ridiculous) when it comes to my food, from checking and rechecking ingredient labels to breaking what I’m eating to pieces just to make sure nothing slipped in, so I’ve always caught any tree nuts before I’ve put them into my mouth, chewed, and swallowed–thus initiating the reaction.

The things that I’m most cautious about are baked goods and chocolates, for Americans just really like to put nuts in stuff that’s sweet. Which seems disgusting to me, but, hey, I’m biased.

Anyways, I’ve never eaten any baked goods or chocolates that I cannot know all of the ingredients of, whatever the reason may be. If someone made it at home or if the bakery’s master chocolatier isn’t there, I simply don’t eat it; no offense to the cooking, I just don’t want to die. And nuts aren’t always a very obvious thing in baked goods, especially to someone who has no idea what they even taste like.

As I found out last night.

It was a cookie/brownie combo thing my mother had picked up for Christmas. There were no nuts or nut warnings in the ingredients. Chocolate and goodness and love were what I was promised, but that wasn’t all that I got. As I sat there eating it, I noticed it had a different kind of taste to it, something other than chocolate that was salty and made the cookie taste more like a chocolate pretzel than a half-brownie.

Is that what nuts in chocolate taste like? Cause I both had and still have no idea.

Nonetheless, thinking it was caramel or something (since nothing was crunchy) I ate all but two bites in about thirty seconds.

While eating it, it was delicious–not so much in retrospect, though.

Going into the second to last bite, it hit me, a distant memory that I had either blocked out or simply forgotten with time but that was nonetheless instantly recognizable to the dessert-scarred Leah: My whole mouth was itchy.

I looked down at the cookie, and, holy crap, there was a nut. I was in my mom’s room with my sister wrapping up gifts last minute. I didn’t want to worry anyone, so I started taking some quiet, deep breaths and then left to get a glass of water in the kitchen where my dad was. As the water filled my mug, the itchiness moved from my tongue to the roof of my mouth to my gums to my uvula to the back of my throat. The more time passed, the more severe and far out the itchiness became. I started drinking lots of water, trying to maybe flush it out of my system. But it was doing nothing more than keeping me from screaming out in terror.

I chugged one mug-full, filled it again, and then took another drink only to find that it was getting hard to swallow.

That’s when I screwed the whole “don’t scare your family right before Christmas” thing and told them what was going on. Because I had never had a reaction to nuts post finding out it could kill me, we kind of sat around waiting to see what would happen, Epi Pen in hand and ready to plunge into my thigh at any second. I kept updating my parents with how it was changing, where the itchiness and “lump” had moved to in my throat, if I could still breathe, if I felt faint or queasy (which I did), etc. It wasn’t until I could no longer swallow even my own saliva that we went to the hospital. I didn’t let any one inject me at home out of fear, though. Could the epinephrine hurt me if I didn’t really need it but used it anyways?

By the time we got to the hospital, it was starting to get hard for me to talk. To put this all on a sort of timeline, we left ten minutes or so after I ate the cookie, and the hospital is five minutes from my house.

In other words, it wouldn’t have been much longer until my airway was compromised.

Luckily, the ER wasn’t busy and was therefore very good at getting me back to be treated immediately. After one minute of telling the nurse what happened, I was told to strip to my underwear, put on a gown, and wait for them to come back.

It was lovely to hear–especially because I have a huge fear of hospitals and doctors but mostly because I hadn’t shaved my legs in three weeks.

Yes. Three. Count ’em.

My excuse, however, is legitimate, I’d say. My eczema has been acting up very badly this month, and when you have raw patches of skin all over your legs, shaving just isn’t an option.

And don’t even suggest Nair. That stuff should not be put on open wounds!

So I guess you can say that they just put the icing on the cake that was last night by forcing me to put on a gown. Whatever, though. Five strangers bent over a scantily clad Leah with hairy legs injecting her with a couple different drugs, drug cocktails, and, yes, an Epi Pen right in the thigh (which surprisingly didn’t hurt one bit) is nothing atypical for me luck-wise.

It was all worth it, though. I think it was less than five minutes later when the reaction was completely over and done with.

Miraculous! How could I go from slowly choking to death to being completely okay in that short of a time?

Well, with huge side effects on my body, of course!

They warned me, but it didn’t help. The lightheadedness and shaking and weakness and fatigue caused by the epinephrine rushing through my every artery, vein, and capillary was horrible. Sure, my mouth was normal again, but I couldn’t even lift my head! I felt like I got hit by a bus and then lain on the road in the freezing cold without sleeping for two whole weeks.

It was a trade off, indeed.

But after two more hours in the hospital, a nice hot shower, and the deepest sleep I’ve ever had, I can say it was worth it. I’m okay. Sure, my throat is sore, like I just got over a really bad cold, and my body aches, but I’m alive, it is Christmas Eve, and everything is alright.

While I find myself praying a lot, I’ve been praying literally nonstop since the reaction first happened. I just wanted everything to be okay, to have the holiday not be ruined for my family because I was too careless with the stupid brownie cookie. I was freaked out and freaking out and crying on and off and unsure of what was going to happen next, so I just kept praying and praying for help, guidance, calm, and patience so that it could get over with as quickly as possible and so that I could just keep breathing.

He did all of the above, and here I am on the day before He brought His glory back to earth alive and almost as good as new. And I just honestly can’t believe it. Last night, I truly thought I was going to die, which may seem silly now but was totally legitimate then, especially for my first experience with anaphylaxis. But I didn’t. I’m alive, and I think I owe it all to God.

Prayer works, man. It scares me every day when I think about it just how much God does for us. The tiniest to the biggest of prayers all come true. No matter who you are, if you just ask, you will receive. It’s incredible.

So, needless to say, this Christmas I am going to be extra thankful and happy. It’s the least I can do after last night.

Everything is in perspective now, and it’s incredible. So what if I’m afraid to eat dessert now that I’ve been betrayed by a food label? So what if I still feel a little blah from the meds? None of that matters! I’m alive and okay, and it’s all thanks to God, the Guy in the Sky who kept me breathing.

It’s a miracle!

And I don’t know if it’s the shock of the situation or the fact that it’s the simple truth, but I have a bit of a different outlook on life now.

As I was leaving for the hospital, my sister said, “Don’t worry. God’s not gonna let you die. He has bigger things in store for you than a stupid little walnut.”

I thought about that one little mood-lightening phrase all last night, and it’s so true. God has great things in store for us all. He isn’t going to waste us by letting something dumb bring about our downfalls. So why worry? Why hold back? Why not trust and run into life full speed ahead?

Sure, I may be a bit more hesitant now to eat cookies, but since life is so chock full of opportunities, I’m done holding back. Why worry about the little things that God will never let get in the way?

So go forth and conquer.

(But make sure you shave your legs first!)

The Not So Eternal Nature of Friendship

My mom has always told me that God, in strange and mysterious ways, filters out the people He doesn’t want in your life, the people He knows will only one day bring you down. And I believe that, wholeheartedly.

Yet this time around, it’s not making me feel any better.

As friends came and went while growing up, I could always remember the above, and it would help me get over it. It wasn’t me; it was them–or would be them–and God knew it. So, he drew us apart.

But when you’ve just lost a friend, your best friend–a friend who, in your mind, is essentially a sibling–it’s a difficult concept to grasp.

No, she didn’t die, but she might as well have.

We met when I was five and she six. Apparently, I knew her little brother from before then, but I don’t remember that. The only thing I recall is that same little brother begging me to help him find his mommy, and then there was my soon-to-be best friend.

We hit it off and were inseparable for the next eleven years,  but I’ll spare you the details of that fantastic friendship–of that sisterhood–and jump to when it all changed into what it is now.

To where I changed into what I am now.

During the summer before our sophomore year of high school started, I traveled a lot, and when I finally got back for the last month off, my family got a brand new puppy. And our home was under construction. And I had all of my summer assignments left to complete.

Needless to say, I was on house arrest for the rest of that summer.

I explained it multiple times to my friend, but she just didn’t seem to understand. In her mind, the puppy could survive perfectly on its own in a home full of strange men rebuilding things. In her mind, school work could wait. In her mind, she was my first priority–for that’s how it was the past 11 years of our lives–and how dare I think otherwise.

She freaked out on me, told me she had a new friend, and said it was all my fault–among other things that I have blocked out of my memory since.

Now, I’m a nice person. I don’t judge others, and I don’t tell people nasty things. If I have an issue, I take it up kindly. In my mind, treating people poorly is just wrong.

And she knew this. She also knew that I have more compassion in my little toe than a lot of people do in their whole bodies. She knew me better than I knew myself, and she played with that. She knew exactly what to say to make me hate myself for putting other things before her. She manipulated and controlled me, and I didn’t even know it. I was–and had always been–her little marionette.

I didn’t realize that until a long while later when we were so distanced that I was finally able to reflect sans her bias. I guess that’s why I’m so bitter and angry now (because I didn’t even realize I was being used for nearly a decade and a half) and was so sorry and upset then.

I don’t know how many times I apologized to her, but it was a lot. And I think I cried for two days straight. I simply believed everything she told me, as I had always done, because I loved her so much.

Side Note: Finding out in retrospect that her love wasn’t always returned…Well, you can imagine what that’s like, living a thirteen-year-long lie.

Eventually, though, we made up, and we really tried our hardest to get back to the way we were, to act like everything was fine.

But it wasn’t.

Plain and simple, I was still angry at her for freaking out over such a simple thing, for being so possessive of me, and she was still mad at me for “abandoning her.”

Yet she was the one with the new best friend.

Oh, yeah, you thought that was just a threat? Well, so did I. It wasn’t, though. She replaced me with the girl who lived down the street from her, the girl who she told me everyday since we met her in sixth grade how much she hated her, the girl who she didn’t get how anyone could be friends with– myself included.

Yes, nothing like the good old I’ma-date-your-other-friend-now-that-I’m-done-with-you tactic. Who knew it could hurt just as much in friendships as it does in dating?

The actual replacement itself wasn’t what hurt, though. It was its permanence.

Yes, she had replaced me in the past, but it was more of an “I’m bored of you” type of thing where she’d hang out with someone nonstop for a few months until they broke her little heart. Then she’d come crying back to me, the one who had never left her despite being abandoned herself. She was always so grateful that I stayed despite her stupidity.

And I was always so happy to.

So when she replaced me with that girl, I simply thought, “Here we go again!” But it turns out that that replacement before sophomore year was final.

I hoped for so long that it wouldn’t be (despite how unhealthy our relationship was, as I would later realize). I hoped for so long that it would truly be just another phase, except dragged out a little longer. For three years, actually, I waited, blinded, holding onto the promises we once made of growing old together, of being at each other’s weddings, of raising our kids next door, of moving in together during college. I was so blinded by the promise of friendship, by the uncondition-ality that she made me feel we had, that I never saw what was really going on: that she was both genuinely and wrongfully angry at me because I had finally (even though unintentionally) given her a taste of her own medicine. She was mad because she finally knew how it felt to be left completely on her own by the one she thought would always be there.

And three years later, she still feels same. Three years later, it’s still, somehow, my fault.

Over those three years, I struggled a lot. Some days I hated her, some days I hated myself. Back then, I hadn’t yet realized what was truly going on, so I was always an emotional wreck. And as an introvert, things got rough.

If I had only let go of her then when it happened, I wouldn’t be so bitter now. But I didn’t know any better. I tried to hang on. I tried to keep her and everything we had from slipping through our fingers, but every time I got near, I was simply pushed away. Every time I tagged along, I was blatantly ignored. Every time I tried my hardest to show how much I truly cared, she tried her hardest to show how much she couldn’t care less.

I kept holding on because I didn’t want to let her down and actually become the horrible best friend I knew she thought I was. I wanted to prove her wrong, to make her feel bad for making me feel bad.

So, for three years, I hung on to the girl I helped through countless dangerous emotional struggles. For three years, I held on to the only girl outside of my family who I could spend ten hours straight with doing nothing but sitting on the couch watching TV. For three years, I held on to the relationship I thought was beautiful and genuine and real. For three years, I clung on desperately, trying with all my might and capability to hold the strings she was so fervently unraveling together. For three years, I held on, still considering her my one true and blue best friend among my many other best friends.

But for those three years, she was simply unraveling us faster than I could keep up.

And three years later, she’s still ripping us apart, unconvinced that I’m the person I used to be–the person that I’ve always been–despite three extra years of counting her as the main person who makes up the other half me.

But today, the counting has finally stopped.

Today is the day in which her mom will marry her soon-to-be step-dad. Today is the day that the man who saved her mom from a borderline abusive relationship–a man it took many, many years of my convincing for her to like–will permanently become a part of her life. Today is the day that she dreaded up until the past year when she finally saw the good that he brought into her world. Today is the day I’ve been hoping and praying for since eight years ago when I found out her parents were getting a divorce. Today, as she now realizes, is going to be the best day of her life thus far.

And I wasn’t even invited.

Normally, I would comment on that, but I just don’t have the words to explain how that feels.

So, today is the day where I stop saying, “Oh, I once went there with my best friend–er, well, uh, my kind of best friend. I’m sorry, it’s very complicated right now. But, yeah, I’ve been there.” Today is the day where I can finally stop hoping for a remedy and just let go of the itty-bitty threads I’ve been futilely trying to keep together, the threads that have consumed almost all of my time and energy for the past three years. Today is the day where, even though I’m giving up–even though I’m incredibly heartbroken–I can pause, feel joy, and just take a moment to breathe.

Today is the day in which I will finally swallow the bitter pill our relationship had been and simply be happy, for today is the first day in thirteen years where I can actually live my life.

I don’t have to worry about her anymore. I no longer have to send her a monthly how’s-it-going courtesy text just so she doesn’t think I’ve abandoned her the way she’s abandoned me. For the rest of my life, unless I want to, I don’t have to care about or deal with her ever again. And, even though that kills me to say–for I will always care about her and never forgive myself for letting us get so broken that we couldn’t be fixed–it’s still also serving as such a relief.

The anchor’s been lifted, and I can finally sail away. And as much as my brain is saying that I should keep trying, that I shouldn’t be relieved, my heart is saying that it’s okay, that it’s right to finally give myself a break.

And, just in case you didn’t know, I only listen to my heart when it comes to living.

And today is the day where my heart has changed.

So, sure, the lack of closure is making my mind go crazy, but the events of the past three years are making my heart keep saying that I never really meant to her what she meant to me. And, as my trig teacher in high school once said, “Why even want someone who doesn’t want you?”

So, thanks, God, for today, for today You have shown me just why we’ve grown so distant. She wasn’t good for me; she never was and never will be. Yes, the thirteen years we spent together are making this a hard thing to accept, but I’m getting there. I’m sorry for doubting You before. From the bottom of my heart, thanks for showing me her true colors, and thanks for the lack of a wedding invite. It’s a terrific lesson to have under my belt in life, and, as much as it hurts, I am grateful.

Yet I still pray that You never let anyone else experience this kind of pain ever again…because it’s awful. There are no words out there to accurately describe just how awful…

In Jesus’ name, as I will always pray,

Amen.

Study Break: A Brief Note From a VERY Stressed Student

I just downed a Subway foot long and two Ghirardelli chocolate squares, and it’s 11:44 p.m.

Why have I done such an unhealthy thing at such an unhealthy time?

Because I’m writing my fifth research paper this week and am currently on my third all-nighter in a row. My eyes feel like they’re going to fall out of my head, I can barely speak, I think I’m getting butt sores, and I’m pretty sure not a legitimate thought has passed through my mind in at least twelve hours. Everything I’ve been doing over the past five days is all in vain because it’s all without sleep which means it’s going to suck no matter how much effort I put in. So I’m left to wonder, WHAT’S THE POINT? I’m this close to giving up! This close!! Yet I can’t just not do it, for then I’ll fail no matter what; at least if I do the work and try my best, even if I fail in the end, I still had a hope of doing well at some point, right? And I can still say that the F isn’t my fault because I tried my best, right? Right? RIGHT?

Long story short, I ate all that food at midnight because I’m literally losing my mind, and what better way to deal with feelings than to eat them? I’m being so unhealthy right now because there’s no other way for me to possibly function/get by in school at this moment without doing so. I’m like that new WeightWatchers commercial.

IF YOU’RE HUMAN AND YOU KNOW IT THEN YOUR FACE’LL SURELY SHOW IT IF YOU’RE HUMAN EAT YOUR FEELINGS EAT A SNACK!

Clap, clap!

I am human, and right now, I certainly know it. So I think I’m gonna go eat some more. And then finish writing that fifth paper. And then start the sixth…

This really doesn’t have a point to it other than trying to prove that some people are just absolutely ridiculous in their expectations.

And also I just needed a little more than 140 characters to get the anger out.

So, uh, yeah. This is it. Thanks to all of my professors for thinking that multiple papers and tests in each class to go along with finals was a great idea. It really builds character. Thanks for that.

Stay in school kids. College is fun. I promise. It’s not like I’m twitching or anything right now. Nope. Not at all.

And P.S.-You’re going to have to deal with any typos above. I don’t have enough time or patience or sanity for perfect grammar right now.