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Yesterday I told you how I ended up with basically what turned out to be a chemical burn to my face due to working with jalapeno peppers. When we left off I'd just told you how the skin around my eyes had swollen up and become very puffy, and I found some relief from Benadryl and Tucks Medicated Pads (which are basically just Witch Hazel, I didn't know that) and using frozen peas on my eyes. I'd also realized that my face must be shedding capsicum microbes onto my pillow case and came to the conclusion this was aggravating the skin around my eyes. As I mentioned yesterday, I started to suspect everything. Was it that new clothes soap I was using? I usually use non-scented but since I've been doing GAPS I'm not so sensitive to scents so when I ran out of my laundry detergent I used what my husband has been using. Was it the detergent? It seemed as if I was caught in a perfect storm.
Days 9, 10, 11, 12
I worked from home on Monday and Tuesday, but I had to go in to work on Wednesday and Thursday. My face was peeling all over – my nose, my chin. By Wednesday my eyes were much better and on Thursday they looked almost normal. Still almost constant burning or itching over most of my face. I would also wake in the middle of the night to my face burning. I tightened down on the foods I was ingesting, hoping to take the burden off my body as much as possible. I was feeling extra emotional and just one piece of fruit would cause my mood to deteriorate quickly into depression. Fruit, honey and high carbohydrate vegetables can have this effect but usually after a few days of indulging but my body was in such a state of crisis that I had to be really careful.
On Friday my cheeks right beside my nose on each side was stinging and bright pink, as was my forehead. Also, my lips were chapped and peeling. The top lip was red and inflamed and I had to be careful about what I ate. I couldn't open my mouth very wide as my lips were chapped and hurting, and if I happened to eat something with any heat, then it would burn and my lips would get ever redder and would burn. In June, a pretty bad cold sore appeared on my right lower lip. I'd wondered if my body was retracing since it has been about 20 years since my first cold sore, which was on exactly that spot on my right lower lip. Anyway, this newly healed area was affected badly from the pepper exposure. Also the top of my lips were read and swollen and chapped and hurting. I had already learned that putting any kind of oil on my skin only spread the capsicum microbes into my pores so I finally resorted to using a product that contains petrolatum! My poor body! One night I tried using Cortizone 10 Cooling Gel to ease the burning and itching. Bad, bad move! It stung ferociously and I had to dash cold water on my face to relieve the painful stinging. Finally I resorted to using some “anti-itch” cream typically used for other itchy areas… this product numbed my face within seconds and provided temporary relief.
I woke on Sunday morning to find my eyes were puffy again. My eyes had big pink rings all around and it felt like my skin was chapped. My face was swollen on my cheeks and I could feel the swelling inside my mouth, against my teeth. I realized I'd forgotten to change my pillow case for two nights in a row, and asked my husband to stop at a thrift store and buy me a bunch of pillow cases so I could change them often. I began taking Benadryl again. I tried the Tucks, but the skin around my eyes was so sensitive it stung badly and brought tears to my eyes. The swelling didn't seem to be affected by the Benadryl this time. Wow, as I recount this experience no wonder I feel so exhausted. I can't believe I went through so many days in such discomfort.
On Monday morning my eyes were the most puffy and swollen they'd been. My eyelids were so swollen and the bags under my eyes were huge. I looked as if I was wearing a gruesome Halloween mask. I was just miserable. My husband says I sent him a text that said I wished I was dead. Uh… I thought I saved that to my drafts… but I guess one of them must have made it to him.
I thought I had to go to work on Tuesday. On Monday night I was feeling so horrible that my husband volunteered to drive me to work and then come back and take me home at the end of the day. The previous week at work I was told we had a contract renewal and we had been given an extra week. I thought this extra week took us to August the 24th. Tuesday being the 23rd, I knew I had to get in to the office, since that would only give me two days to get it completed. I had a terrible time pulling myself from bed that morning, but finally I was dressed and ready to go. I was feeling so miserable. My husband took one look at me and said, “Maybe it's time. Maybe you should go to the doctor and find out why this isn't going away.” And other friends had been making the same noises, but I hate going to the doctor. I hate fighting. I hate having to make a decision to use their medicines which often don't work. I even called a close friend and asked her for help in what I should do. She was relieved I was finally going in and told me not to fight anything, just do what they recommended.
I was miserable and worn out and obviously my body wasn't winning this battle. I had already determined that I was not going to the Emergency Room. My one and only experience there left me with such a bad taste in my mouth I will not go there unless I'm in an auto wreck and the ambulance takes me there. The doctor I'm assigned to I've never seen before, would she let me come in as a walk-in? I had no way of knowing so I opted to go to Urgent Care. $75 co-pay to be seen, and $10 for prescription medications.
I called work and told them I'd be there as soon as I could get out of Urgent Care.
The Urgent Care I went to was a very nice place. There was only two others there, a man and his young son. They took my blood pressure, and I was surprised that they did not ask me my weight, and they did not weigh me. Nowadays I wouldn't care, but I thought it was nice that they didn't want to know my weight. They did say my blood pressure was a “little” high at 153/86.
I waited for the doctor and told him the whole sorry story. He listened to me carefully and gave his advice. 1) Continue to decontaminate everything in the house 2) he wanted to put me on a six day course of low dose steroids and 3) he was going to prescribe a steroid cream to put on the skin around my eyes to help with the swelling.
At that point I was so desperate I agreed to everything.
I called work and let my boss know I would be there as soon as possible, but I had to get a prescription filled first. He responded, “Starlene, why don't you just stay home and take the day off?” I said, “But what about the contract?” He answered, “Oh, we got an extension for one week, don't you remember? We don't have to turn it in until August 31st.” AGHHHHH!! I had misunderstood when the week extension began and ended. I told him so, but then quickly agreed with great relief, to take the day off and stay home.
I took a dose of steroids within an hour of getting them, and rubbed the Fluocinonide steroid cream on my eyes. Within hours I began feeling better and the swelling started to go down.
Day 18, 19
I took off work these days, too. My face was healing, but I was physically exhausted, even though I was wired from the steroids. I needed to take it easy and just rest as much as possible. The skin all around my eyes was wrinkly and felt dry like paper. The steroids were affecting my sleep. I couldn't sleep but felt exhausted. I was sleeping about four hours every twenty-four hour period. I ended up working from home on Wednesday night for six hours to save myself from having to go in on Thursday. My boss was kind enough to work with me to load the payroll checks into my printer in my office at work while I manned my office computer using Remote Desktop at my home computer.
When I began taking the steroids, I upped my ferments. One day I ate 2.5 cups of sauerkraut because I was craving it. I also had my husband pick up a product called Culturelle which contains Lactobacillus on the advice of a friend to attempt to stave off yeast infection due to the steroids.
Today is Day 22. The last day of the steroids. I am hoping and praying that the use of these products will have the desired effect. I know all too often we go in to the doctor to get the miracle drugs only to find that they don't work their “magic” in the end.
I have been consulting with two close GAPS friends and they think (and I agree) what happened was my adrenals took a big hit due to the burn caused by the jalapenos. The steroids have been helping my adrenals, but each day as I've tapered down I have felt more sluggish.
I looks like it is time to figure out more of those “cherries” for my GAPS cake. Dr. Natasha tells us to give the diet a chance first and I have done that. A friend of mine counseled me to begin with my adrenals. I had hoped by addressing my adrenals my thyroid would come in line, but it looks like I am going to have to have my thyroid tested next and see what can be done there. I'm 48, I'm no spring chicken. Maybe my thyroid can't bounce back on its own with diet and adrenal support. I've known for at least the last decade that my thyroid is low functioning due to low waking temperatures. The first time I asked for tests with a doctor he told me everything came back “normal” and he offered me anti-depressants. I refused. The next time I asked, and explained that I would like a full panel test to be done based on my low waking temperature, the doctor made fun of me saying, “Someone's been on the Internet too much.” No, someone's been trying to figure out what's going on inside her own body, doc. And guess what, doc? That swelling in the ankles that you said was “normal” and a sign of aging? My ankles are rarely swollen and I attribute that to my being on GAPS.
So y'all… that's where I've been the past three weeks… trying to recover from poisoning myself with jalapeno peppers. Silly me… the first few days I was happily eating the yummy spice I'd produced, but I finally realized maybe it was exacerbating the allergic reaction. I guess I will be waiting for several weeks before trying any of my beloved jalapeno powder again. And to be honest, I cannot see myself ever making it again… part of my motivation in making it was because I had found jalapeno powder would cost about $20 to buy online. I could not bring myself to pay that kind of money, but now I have spent probably over $100 between the Urgent Care visit ($75), prescription drugs ($25), Benadryl, Tucks Medicated Pads and I can't remember what else at the moment. I certainly don't want to take a chance on doing this to myself again.
For those of you who have made it this far… I finally started taking pictures of my face on Day 7 and I've put together a collage of the photos… I was really surprised at how much I look like my mother in the last photo. This is a very large photo, you may need to maximize your browser and click on the photo once to enlarge, then scroll from side to side to see all the photos – there are nine across and nine down. There are 78 photos in all from Days 7 to 19.
Thanks for reading all the way through… love you guys. Thanks for all the support on the list, too.