Sometimes life delivers an unexpected sting. The zap!! comes out of nowhere and the next thing you know, you’re yelping in pain. It might be an all-caps STING like a death or divorce or cancer or a loved one’s addiction. Other times, though, it’s a simple sting. Not life shattering, just annoyingly painful.

An otherwise pleasant July 4th holiday brought one of those little “s” stings. I was gliding off the steps into the swimming pool, and the next thing I knew, my left side was on fire. Zap! Zap!! Zap!!! Zap!!!! Apparently, I collided with a wasp, and the creature was mad as a wet hornet at being run over. I screamed bloody murder and thrashed around until I knocked the wicked devil off. Then I kept screaming and crying until David came out to investigate. (Hey, I’m a therapist and know it’s healthy to express your pain.)

At first the stings were hot dots of fire. Despite the immediate use of ice, my flank soon had rolls of swelling that resembled a water raft. After a few hours, a six-by-four inch area was bright red and hot to the touch. Anti-itch creams and antihistamines didn’t dampen the violent itching. Pain relievers and were similarly ineffective against the tingling and occasional stabs. An ice pack became my new best friend.

Yes, my Google investigation told me I had a significant allergic reaction, but I could breath fine and didn’t have a rapid heartbeat or other scary symptoms, so I figured I’d live. (Stubborn, this one.) After around 72 hours, I’m proving that prediction right. Now that the swelling is down some, I count four sting marks, which is surprising as I could have sworn there were at least a dozen or two.

This annoying interruption of my holiday relaxation reminds me that sometimes life stings. You’re swimming along, minding your own business – maybe even doing something healthy like exercising or relaxing – and you get zapped. The best thing to do is simply scream your head off as long as necessary, rally your support, and get through it the best you can. Use the tools at your disposal, and accept they won’t fully remedy the pain. Stay functional when you have to be, but also listen to your body and be gentle with yourself.

In the meantime, try not to be too grumpy. This, too, will pass. I’m just starting to wonder when.

Marnie C. Ferree