Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Sitting In The Sun
She may look comfortable but she is literally lying on top of a bush. 

First, she stood on the patio, next to my chair, and allowed me to pet her as she contemplated her options. 

Lying on the bare stone at my feet? Clearly unacceptable. Too hard.

Going back inside to resume her cushy and most likely still warm spot on the couch? Tempting, but a bit too far away from the action aka me.

How about curling up in that warm and soft soil in one of the planting beds? Surely this was Plan A, but thwarted by a stern, Gracie, no! she promptly backed away from that option. 

And so it was that on this fine March afternoon, still brisk but infused with the profound optimism of Pacific Northwest sunshine, that my dog stepped into the garden, turned around three times, and laid down on top of a small blueberry bush to take her afternoon nap. 

* * * * *

For the past few years, at the beginning of the summer season, I've been getting some wicked rashes on my skin. The first of these unhappy incidents happened in Mexico, so I wrote the drama off to that intense tropical heat. 

But the rashes raged on at home, so next I played the age card on myself - your skin must be changing, and it can't handle sun the way it used to. Cautiously, I doused myself in sunscreen with an SPF almost as high as my age, and hoped for the best. But alas, the angry red blotches continued. 

Over the years, try as I might, I couldn't develop a workable hypothesis as to why, at the beginning of every summer, I kept getting these painful and powerfully itchy rashes. So last July, I mentioned the problem to my doctor, and he quickly conferred a diagnosis.

This is a classic case of what's commonly known as sun allergy, but it's not an allergy at all. Your skin has developed a sensitivity to sunshine, which is why you get outbreaks at the beginning of summer when your skin is not yet used to sunlight. As the summer goes on, your skin adapts and the rashes disappear, but each spring you'll probably need to slowly re-acclimate your skin to the sun. 

Which explains why I was sitting outside on this brisk afternoon, pale arms exposed to the weak March sunshine, every inch of the rest of me wrapped up in a blanket against the cool air.

As I watched my dog sleep on top of the blueberry bush, I remembered asking my doctor one last question: "But why?"

Usually an autoimmune disorder. Aren’t autoimmune disorders one of the risk factors of sleep deprivation caused by your Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome?

Yes, doctor, that’s exactly right. 

I closed my eyes and leaned back in my chair, enjoying the hint of warmth sitting softly on my fragile skin, and I thought for the hundredth time how complicated life can be for those of us who live with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. 

* * * * *

Read more about my life with Delayed Sleep Phase:

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