What’s worse than struggling with chronic illneses? The answer to that question would be suffering through fall pollen season, while California is on fire, during a pandemic.

In this blog, I have a collection of things I posted on social media while exhausted, sick, and on various drugs that somewhat alleviate my chronic illnesses.

June 7: Earlier today, smoke came into my home through open windows. BBQ, I assumed.

Windows got closed. Air conditioner turned on for filtering. I took Benadryl so I can breathe.

Previous to smoke in air, I was wheezing due to the super strong winds we are having here. It kicks up dust, etc.

Been avoiding Twitter, but went there just now.

Turns out there’s a vegetation fire not too far away from me. The winds blew the smoke over here.

Don’t worry, I am safe.

June 10: I am having a really hard time focusing on anything today.

Could be the heatwave.

Could be * waves generally at 2020 *

June 11: Back from acupuncture. Doing well!

Acupuncture office is going all out on protecting people from COVID-19.

Restaurants across the street have started to open up. NO ONE is wearing masks but me.

My county has been getting more and more COVID-19 cases since people decided to stop wearing masks and stop social distancing.

I expect things to close again real soon.

June 16: Woke up today with a whole bunch of fibromyalgia pain starting at my hip and radiating through that leg (as fibro does).

I suspect I “slept funny” and the pain started then. But, being asleep, I didn’t notice it until it I woke up.

Have taken CBD. Waiting to see if that makes things better.

If not – I have wine.

I hope everyone else’s day is better than mine.

June 17: This week, the mobile home park has had workers put “slurry” on the roads. This comes after ripping out, and improving the roads in… I think it was October.

The roads with slurry look good. They managed to avoid covering what is being used as a sidewalk in the middle of the roads (that was designed to drain away rain water and that has new sewage pipes underneath it).

Today, they added the slurry on the road right outside my home. It is making me miserable sick.

Having a high pain day

Taking appropriate meds

In hopes of sleeping

(June 26 haiku)

Still a high pain day

Benadryl helped a little

I’m giving it time

(June 26 haiku)

Anemia sucks

Crossed over the borderline

Am lost in a fog

(July 2 haiku)

Acupuncture day!

I feel so much better now.

And had a great nap

(July 14 haiku)

July 19: My day started with my body deciding to reject all the food I’d eaten. Not happy about this at all!

July 19: Just learned that the building that includes the office where I go to acupuncture is currently on fire.

July 19: Update: It is being described as a construction fire.

It turns out the address the fire department listed is NOT the building my acupuncturist’s office is in.

The pollen count is

Seven point eight today and

I’m malfunctioning

(August 5 haiku)

August 18: Bought a box of cookies from the grocery store and had them delivered (with other groceries).

Before doing so, I went to the cookie company’s website and looked up the ingredients in these cookies.

Either the ingredients on the website were outdated, or I missed it. These chocolate chip gluten free cookies have rosemary in them.

It tastes like pine. A quick check of Wikipedia says rosemary is related to pine.

I’m very allergic to pine (and fir, etc.). Spat out the cookie and am now on Benadryl.

I’m safe, just really annoyed.

August 23: The pollen count today is 8.0. I will be itchy and uncomfortable all day long. The weather app on my phone has yet another warning that says “Smoke”.

Pollen.com says tomorrow will be 8.1 and will go up from there. Wednesday will be a 9.0, and Thursday is gonna be 9.6.

I’m going to be physically miserable for a while.

August 26: The pollen count today is 9.5

Tomorrow will be the same.

Friday is gonna be 9.8.

Saturday will be 10.3, and Sunday will be 10.8.

I will not remember anything that happens on days that hit 10 or higher.

August 28: The pollen count today is 9.9.

It’s gonna be in the tens for… let’s see… in the four days coming up.

This is REALLY BAD (and painful).

I may become too delirious to type.

September 2: The pollen count today 10.8.

Tomorrow will be 10.4.

This is gonna hurt.

It is the start of a new month, so I’m trying real hard to get some paid writing work done before the pollen makes me absolutely useless.

September 4: Pollen count today is 10.4

Not happy about it.

September 6: Today the pollen count is 9.6

I am itchy and grumpy. Trying to write as much stuff for pay as I can before my body requires medication.

The medication will (hopefully) reduce the itching. But it will also make it harder for my dyslexic self to write.

September 6: The local college recorded a temperature of 120 degrees today. It is the most official recorder of weather temperatures in town.

Our AC has been on all day – it is still incredibly hot in here at 5:30 PM.

There is a grass fire burning over on the other side of town. Videos online show that there are already fire trucks and firefighters there.

Overhead, a scout plane from the fire department circles.

The fire is not close enough, or big enough (at this moment) to put us at risk of having to evacuate.

This explains why my weather app is warning me about smoke.

September 6: There is now a second fighter plane marking the site of the fire from the air.

My husband thinks he heard a helicopter – which could be doing air drops to put out the grass fire.

September 6: About half an hour ago, local fire department tweeted that the fire activity has diminished significantly. 50 acre fire. No reported structure losses (so far). Forward progress has been stopped.

People closer to the fire than I am are being evacuated. The city is providing a city bus to take people to a nearby shopping mall. The bus has AC.

My husband and I are not in any danger from the fire – other than the smoke in the air.

We have windows shut and the AC on. It is still too warm in here at nearly 7 p.m.

California has declared a stage 2 emergency (regarding the usage of electrical power). “Consumers should prepare for outages. Conservation will be critical for avoiding or limiting power interruptions.”

In short, its possible our power could go out at any moment.

Which means we will have to open the windows to prevent our home from becoming even hotter inside than it is now.

Which means we will be breathing in smoke from the fire.

I’m hoping our power stays on.

September 6 (hours later): Good news! The stage one emergency has been lifted (about an hour ago). This means my husband and I do not have to worry about our power suddenly being shut off.

The evacuation orders have been lifted for the fire. (We were never under evacuation orders). Forward progress on the fire has been stopped. Fire crews are continuing to work on the fire.

September 7: The pollen count today is 9.4.

The is the thirteenth day in a row where the pollen count is way too high for me to be comfortable.

The weather app says there is still enough smoke in the air to have reason to keep the windows shut.

Gonna be 100 degrees today at around 1:00 P.M.

And the mobile home park is in the midst of yet another construction project. Fortunately, this one isn’t located immediately outside my house.

Instead, large trucks haul debris past my house all day long.

September 7: Right now, my weather app says it is 102 degrees outside. The airport, which is the official record of temperature, says 108 was the high overall today.

When I rolled out of bed around 3 in the afternoon (I’m nocturnal) my weather app said it was 106 degrees here.

There is still a lot of smoke in the air, so we can’t open the windows… again. We have AC.

Pollen count is 9.4 – which is very unpleasant.

Today’s new fire is described by the local fire department as “a fully engulfed vehicle fire with threat to vegetation.” It appears this fire is nearly out at the time I am writing this.

That fire is not near me, but there’s a chance smoke from it will drift over here.

There are a lot of things I love about California – but fire season isn’t one of them. Especially during a heat wave that takes place during fall pollen season.

September 9: Today, the pollen count is 9.4. It’s not good, but it is better than the tens that came before it.

The heat wave has ended, and the weather here is comfortable for the first time in I can’t remember how long.

The weather app on my phone still says there is smoke in the air.

My air purifier has needed a new filter for a while now. Today, my husband put a new one in. This involves washing off a reusable part and and letting it dry before putting it back into the machine.

For an hour or so, I was sitting inside my home with a face mask on, to filter the dust.

Am now on Benadryl. I’ve already taken most of my allergy meds (and can take a different one in a few hours).

Not a good day. But I’ve been worse.

Here’s where I began losing track of the days.

September 10: Today, the pollen count is 9.4. Again.

My weather app says today will be a high of 80, which sounds pretty good.

The app no longer shows a smoke warning, but the sky outside is definitely full of smoke – again.

Today’s fire (well, one of them) is in another county and far enough away for my husband and I not to have to worry about evacuation.

September 10 (hours later): The pollen count today is 9.4 (again). That makes five days in a row with pollen count in the nines.

It has been 17 days in a row where the pollen is too high for me.

My weather app says fog – not smoke – which is a pleasant change.

Sun isn’t up yet, so I’ll check later to see if it is just fog – or if it is fog and smoke, or whatever.

I’m exhausted. I’m trying to get some paid work done while I can. I’ve been sleeping more than usual.

Today is only September 10? It feels like we should be farther through this month than we are.

September 10: Update: The sun has come up and there is a thick fog in the air. It looks like the kind of “fog” we get when the clouds over the ocean roll in.

My weather app is, once again, giving me a smoke warning. Which means what I’m seeing outside is a mix of fog and smoke from fires.

I started getting allergy symptoms and some coughing before I looked out the window to see what today was like.

This sucks.

September 11: Today’s pollen count is 9.2 – a tiny tiny improvement over yesterday.

It has now been six days in a row where the pollen count has been in the nines and… either 18 or 19 days where the pollen count has been too high for me to be comfortable.

I’ve lost track, despite literally writing it down.

My weather app is giving me a smoke warning. Again.

Yesterday, the Clean Air Twitter account for my county said: “Smoke impacts across [county name redacted] have increased. Air quality levels have degraded into the MODERATE level with some occasional spikes of Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. If you smell smoke, see ash falling, or are experiencing symptoms, head indoors.

People on Twitter, who live in or near the places that are on fire on the West Coast have been experiencing symptoms including nausea, migraine, vomiting, exhaustion.

I’ve been nauseous for days, despite not going outside, and (mostly) having the windows closed.

I assumed it was due to allergies, but no. It’s smoke.

September 11: Took a long nap.

When I woke up, my weather app had an “Unhealthy Air Quality” warning.

The Clean Air Twitter account for my county said (hours ago, when I was sleeping) the Air Quality Alert is in effect due to smoke impacting [county name redacted]. Smoke is expected to continue to impact on my county this weekend.

This sucks.

September 12: The pollen count today is 9.0. It is going down, but is still in the nines, which is bad for me.

The weather right now is 52 degrees and the high will be 78 degrees. That sounds good!

The weather app is giving me an “Unhealthy Air Quality Warning for Sensitive Groups”. That’s me.

If I had to guess, I would suspect the air quality warning is due to smoke from a fire – or many fires – that are located somewhere else. Smoke has drifted over to where I am at.


September 13, 2020: It is just a few minutes after 3 AM, and it is 54 degrees outside, which seems about right for this time of year, at this time of day, in California.

My weather app has a “Unhealthy Air Quality for Sensitive Groups” warning. Again. This is likely due to the smoke that has blown here from the multitude of fires on the west coast.

The pollen count today is 9.1, which is too high for me to be comfortable, no matter how much allergy medication I take.

It has been nineteen days in a row where the pollen count has been too high for me. I haven’t bothered to count the days with too much smoke, because the thought of doing so is overwhelming.

I managed to take a shower, several hours ago, something I find difficult when I am sicker than usual for long stretches of time.

Tiny amounts of progress. Best I can do at the moment, as I struggle to focus on anything with almost no motivation to try and be productive.

September 14: Yesterday, I took a long nap and woke up because my fibromyalgia decided to act up while I was sleeping. It is not fun to wake up with leg pain so bad it feels like I’ve stabbed.

Took some CBD and it quickly eased my pain.

Pain is exhausting, and I used all my spoons dealing with it. Went back to sleep after that.

Fibromyalgia is triggered from stress. It can be physical or mental, or a mix of both.

I suspect that this was, in part, triggered by the high pollen count plus smokey air. My body is working too hard as a result.

Also, the pajama pants I was wearing are tapered. My calves have too much muscle for the space the tapered part provides. Move wrong while wearing them, and fibro makes me pay for it.

Solution? Cut the tapered part open so my legs fit. Not pretty, but seems to be working. Will know how well it works when next I sleep.

September 14: It is almost 5 in the morning here, and the weather app says it is 55 degrees outside. Weather app also has a “Unhealthy Air Quality” warning – which means another day of smoke.

Yesterday, my husband took out the trash and picked up the mail. The mail boxes in this mobile home part are located near the dumpsters. My husband returned, saying he could smell smoke while he was out there. Felt sick after breathing that for just a few minutes.

The air purifier next to me has three lights: Blue = good. Purple = not so good. Red = bad. He left the door open for just a few minutes and the smoke was bad enough to make a red light.

The pollen count today is 8.8, which is the lowest its been in… gonna guess about 20 days. Still too high for me. But moving in the right direction.

September 14: Going to sleep now, in the hopes doing so will give me enough spoons to do something fun and/or productive after I wake up.

September 15: The weather app right now, at almost 7 am says it is 52 degrees outside. For the first time in a long time, the background is of a nice, clean, blue sky with clouds.

It is apparently a lie. The weather app has yet another “Unhealthy Air Quality” warning.

Yesterday, I listened to a local news video that pointed out that the hardware stores have run out of air purifier machines. That’s how bad the smoke is in my county.

I’m fortunate to have had an air purifier for years AND a fresh filter for it.

The air purifier has three colors: Blue = good. Purple = not so good. Red = bad. At the moment, it is purple. It’s been switching between purple and red for hours.

The pollen count today is 8.8, which is moving in the right direction, but still too high for me to be comfortable.

I need the smoke to go away. I need the pollen count to be seven or below for a least a week straight before I can begin to recover and maybe even feel better.

September 16: My weather app says it is 54 degrees outside right now, in California, at a little after four in the morning.

The weather app says “Partly Cloudy”. Just a few hours ago, it gave me the “Unhealthy Air for Sensitive Groups” warning, due to smoke in the air.

Not sure I trust that the smoke has cleared between now and then. I’ll check back later.

The pollen count today is 8.9, which may as well be a 9. This day is going to hurt, and my sinuses are already very irritated due to the many days and nights of pollen and smoke.

I am, quite literally, mad at the world itself right now.

September 17: I slept through most of yesterday, and have very little ability to focus on anything right now.

September 25: My period started 37 days after the previous one began. This is extremely frustrating because I desperately want to be in menopause.

I was diagnosed with borderline anemia in high school. Every time I have a period – I cross over that border and become anemic again. It takes roughly about a month before I grow the blood back. And then I get a period and it starts all over again.

There are no words for me to use to explain how exhausting anemia is. If you’ve experienced it – then you know. Add the exhaustion that my fibromyalgia causes, and I’m just super tired all the time.

The thing that is incredibly disappointing is that menopause will cure my borderline anemia (because I wouldn’t be losing blood every damn month anymore). It is the only one of my chronic illnesses that has the potential to go away.

But, that’s clearly not going to happen anytime soon, because my body refuses to allow me to have nice things.

October 3: My weather app says it is 70 degrees outside right now – at about 4:30 AM. Not bad.

It also says there is “haze” and has given me a warning that says: “Unhealthy Air for Sensitive Groups”.

I suspect the unhealthy air has drifted here from whatever fire(s) are still burning in California.

Another day of keeping the windows closed, turning the AC on, and hoping PG&E doesn’t decide to randomly shut off our electricity with no warning.

Might be a “wear a mask inside” kind of day, depending on how much smoke/haze seeps into our very old mobile home.

October 8, 2020: I had acupuncture earlier today and then did absolutely nothing of financial value after returning home. Just goofed off on the internet. It was nice!

Helped clean a bird cage

Now I am on Benadryl

Am floating away

(October 8 haiku)

October 9: Had just enough energy today to take a walk with my husband to pick up food from a nearby Thai place. We both wore masks, of course. We had to walk by a lot of construction sites that put particulate matter into the air. After returning home with the food, my husband checked his watch and said we had walked a little over a mile.

I ended up sleeping for about 12 hours straight, due to fibromyalgia.

October 15: My husband and I took our completed mail-in-ballot for the 2020 General Presidential Election to the County Clerk Recorder’s office downtown. We took a Lyft, and had a nice conversation with a driver who seemed very interested in voting. He wore a mask, as did my husband and I.

Nearly everyone inside the was wearing a mask. After handing our ballots to a masked employee, and having the envelope checked to make sure that we signed it and dated it, we were able to place out ballots into a small box on the desk.

It was nice outside, so we took a short walk to a restaurant that we enjoy. All of the workers wore masks. All of the customers who came inside the restaurant also wore masks. After obtaining food, we got into another Lyft and went home.

The food was tasty.

October 16: I spent most of to day dealing with muscle cramps because I dared to take a short walk while having fibromyalgia the day before. It wasn’t the worst experience, but it definitely slowed me down and made me more exhausted than usual.

October 19: Fall Pollen Season finally ended. I determine the ending by frequently checking pollen.com, and writing down the pollen count for each day. When I get seven days in a row where the pollen count is 7.0 or lower – I declare that pollen season over!

Chronic Illness Moments is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.

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