It was a weeknight and I was sitting on the floor of my family’s lounge room, heaving ugly snotty sobs.
The last 18 months had seen the rash that wrapped around my neck, mouth and eyes grow angry and impossibly red. My asthma – which is severe – was so unmanaged I was sucking down a full inhaler of Ventolin a day. My eyes were puffy, gunky and grey. The ringing in my ears was now the soundtrack to the mystery of my millennial life: Why was I feeling so sick all the damn time?
It was January 2014, which means it was the height of Belle Gibson’s “heal your body with food” reign; Instagram was awash plant-based, vegan-only proselytisers. I was 20, vain, slightly stupid and desperate to figure out what the hell was wreaking so much damage beneath my skin.
Hours before my all-out lounge room breakdown, I had an asthma attack on the drive home from my part-time retail job. I had used an impossible (yet, apparently, possible) amount of medication between 9-5 and was travelling down Melbourne’s busiest freeway unable to breathe, with only an empty Ventolin cannister to fix it. I called my sister Claire in a panic, five minutes from our door, pleading she find some medication and meet me out the front of the house the moment I pulled in.
My car floor was peppered with emptied asthma medications.
None of it made any bloody sense. Every passing day, my screaming rash or asthma attack was like a puzzle. Why was I so persistently sick, when I was living the healthiest lifestyle I ever had? Like the women I so admired on social media, I wanted to be healthy. Truly healthy. The more I matured, the more I wanted to fill my body with unrefined, wholesome foods. I want berry smoothies for breakfast and spinach omelettes for dinner, Mum, not more spaghetti carbonara.