But as it turns out, I'm not a hypochondriac at all (about this). I am actually just allergic to everything.
If you've never had allergy testing done, it goes something like this: A very kind nurse jams 24 tiny needles in your forearms, six at a time. WebMD tells me these are called "skin pricks" & not "shots" because they don't draw blood, but I'll just go ahead & confirm for you that they feel exactly like shots. Six of them at a time. Each prick injects a drop of extract of a potential allergen into your skin - & then you sit & wait for your arms to swell up. Wherever the pricks get puffy, the doctor can confirm that you're allergic to the allergen injected there.
Or something. Look, guys, I don't have a medical degree. I just know that it made my arms look like this:
Also, because you're allergic to these things they inject into your scratches? Your arms start to itch like hell, & you can't do a thing about it because that's how it's supposed to work. As it turns out, I am allergic to: ragweed (a.k.a. "the entire season of spring"); grasses (except the kind that grows in the south, where I of course do not live); tree pollens (especially from oak trees but not from pine trees); mold/fungus (which explains the mushroom allergy); dust mites (oh, God, do not do a Google image search for these); cockroaches (I already knew these were disgusting, so don't Google them, either); & "select weeds." Know what else I'm allergic to? Cats. Don't tell this guy:
After the shots - errr, pricks - I took a breath test, which confirmed that I essentially cannot breath, which felt mildly surprising to me but maybe not at all, considering that I've thrice been to the ER for respiratory distress. My very patient new doctor prescribed me a new inhaler, which he "suggested" I use more frequently than I currently do (which is almost never), plus a nasal aerosol, eye drops, & a recommendation that I start taking two allergy pills a day instead of just one, which I had always thought was a sure recipe for death. Apparently not. Again, I don't have a medical degree.
As the doctor led me out of his office, he asked, "Did you take pictures of your arms?"
Am I that transparent?
"Of course!" I responded enthusiastically. "I work for a Jewish organization; everyone I know is terribly allergic to something. I have to tell them I've got that indoor-kid street cred, too!"
He laughed. "My son's in BBYO," he told me.
"So you know what I mean."
"I do. I'm an allergist!"