My husband and I went to an 80s themed party that was for a relative’s 50th birthday.  Fifty is a milestone birthday, and milestone birthdays often are celebrated with a much-bigger-than-usual party.

When a healthy person goes to a party, it kind of goes like this: Get ready.  Go to party.  Eat/drink whatever is there that looks good, have fun hanging out in a crowd of people, go home.  If the person doesn’t drink too much alcohol, then the healthy person is probably just fine the day after the party.

This isn’t how things work for me, a person with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and severe allergies.  Going to a party takes a ton of planning ahead of time, extra-careful management of my health, and at least one or two days of recovery afterwards.

Allow me to share with you what going to a party is like for me.  It might be similar to how it is for the health-challenged person in your life.

My husband and I found out about the party long before the day of the party (or the day before). This made it possible for me to prepare to attend the party.  If I’m asked to a social event at the last minute, or the day before, there just isn’t enough time for me to make that work.

The week before the party, I need to be extra super careful about what I eat/drink, in an effort to avoid allergic reactions.  Some food related allergens can mess me up for days and days – especially if I accidentally “get glutened”.  Accidentally consuming something with gluten in it makes my digestion slow down, makes me more exhausted than usual, and can take about a week to finally leave my system.

Foods that I have an intolerance to, but can sometimes have if the rest of my allergies are “good”, are right out.  I have to give those up entirely between when I am invited to a party and the day of the party.  This limits my already limited range of foods that are safe to eat even more than usual.

I try and avoid going outside until the day of the party.  Sometimes, it’s because the pollen count is too high and I need to limit exposure just to stay alive.  Other times, the pollen count is low, but I don’t want to get exposed to it because that allergic reaction could spin into something big enough to prevent me from being able to go to the party (days later).

I also can’t clean much of anything three days before a party, or a week before if I’m cleaning something with a lot of dust.  Cleaning always makes me sick afterwards, and the following day will be a really bad allergy day with extra sneezing, nose-blowing, digestive issues, and itching eyes.  I haven’t found a good way to get around that yet (and have tried a variety of potential solutions).

This particular party was not in the town I live in, and it was on a weekend, so I was going to have to drive there and back.  (It is my understanding that the bus system out here, while very good, isn’t as robust on the weekends).

My husband cannot drive because he is legally blind.  We have found that if I go to a party/event/whatever, and then crash in a hotel room for the night, and then drive back the following day – things work a bit better.  Most people can just drive home after the party with no difficulties.  Not me.

So, going to this party required us to spend money on a hotel room.  Other parties in the future will require that, too.  My health is no longer good enough for me to try and “power through it” – and make it home before I collapse.

This party was at a location that I had never been to before, which means I had no way to be sure what allergens I’d encounter.  It turned out to be in a VFW that had so many doors to the outside that it was like being outside the entire time.  There was an outdoor smoking area I was able to avoid (cigarette smoke makes me cough to the point where it frightens people.)

But, other than staying away from the smoking area… I was pretty much exposed to pollen, dust, and whatever else was in the air no matter where I was at inside the VFW.  The building is located next to a large park that has trees and grass, and it was just windy enough for all those allergens to blow on over.

I drove from the hotel to the VFW, and would need to drive back when we were ready to leave the party.  This means I could not safely take a half-benadryl if my allergies went berserk.

There were some good things (for my health conditions) about this party.  There were plenty of places to sit, so I could rest when my fibromyalgia made me tired and/or sore, or when my arthritic joints started screaming.  Driving long distances is painful.  My hands were hurting from driving up – and then down- a gigantic hill that day.  It was the only way to get there.

I was able to obtain a rum and coke from the bar in the VFW shortly after arriving.  Long story short, my rheumatologist doesn’t have any medications he can prescribe for me to help with swelling/pain.  Alcohol tends to take the edge off the pain for a little while.  I timed it so that I could have my drink before the food was ready – knowing my metabolism would “eat” the alcohol long before I had to drive again.

To my surprise, the majority of the food that was served was gluten-free and didn’t have any of my other food allergens in it.  I got to eat like a “normal person”.  The birthday cake, of course, was not gluten-free, but I’d given up long ago on cake, so this was not a big deal.

Ok, so, we stayed at the party for more hours than I should have.  I typically make it around three hours and then start falling apart from exhaustion.  I was able to drive back to the hotel, where I almost immediately fell asleep.

I had trouble sleeping because my stomach was upset.  It wasn’t from the food.  It was from environmental allergen exposure.  This was annoying, but expected, and it left me unable to sleep well in the hotel.  I’d get a few hours in a row, and then wake up feeling sick.  This is NOT normal for me – I’m an excellent sleeper.  The problem was I’d basically been outside all day and hadn’t properly prepared for it.

The next morning, my husband and I checked out of the hotel and I drove home over the gigantic hill again. It was just as painful this time as it was the day before.  We made a stop along the way to pick up food, which we brought home to eat.  I managed to eat most of it – and then fell asleep again for several hours.

I tried to eat again after my husband woke me up, but only managed half of a sandwich I can usually eat all of.  Hours later, I’m still more exhausted than usual, and my stomach still isn’t quite right.  I have an acupuncture appointment tomorrow, which usually helps me feel better.

I will spend most of tomorrow asleep.  I take a nap during acupuncture. I require another nap after acupuncture.  And my body is so overloaded with allergens that all it wants to do is rest.

This is what I go through when I decide to attend a party.  My husband understands this, and some of my in-laws appear to have a basic understanding that attending parties is difficult for me.  That helps.

The next time a health-challenged person in your life chooses not to attend a party, please keep my experience in mind.  People like me have to do a lot of extra planning, and work, and set aside days for recovery, just to attend things that most people can do with ease.  It’s not that we don’t want to go – it’s that the price of attending can be too high sometimes.

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