Vampires Exist!

CW: medical issues, surgery, ableism, fluids/blood. And probably other things I’m forgetting.

In my youth, a relative gave me a magazine about Angels. The last several pages of the magazine had advertisements for all kinds of goods and services. But the one that stood out to me the most read like an enthusiastic proclamation. “Vampires exist! Join us! $5.

Grainy photo of a pale, thin woman with long black hair
I was just a bit of a goth in my youth

I don’t remember sending in the money, but I seem to be slowly transforming into a vampire nonetheless.

In college, around Halloween, there was an article in a local paper that described how you could tell if your neighbor was a vampire. As a joke, I posted it on my dorm room door because I met most of the criteria. Pale skin? Check. Dark hair? Check. Night owl? Check. In fact, I fit all requirements save the aversion to crosses and garlic. And I abstained from drinking blood, of course.

A group of five women in their early 20s, dressed to the nines for Halloween. The lady on the left is very pale with long, dark hair. Hey look, it’s me! I once had abs.
Me and my lovely besties from college. I’m the lass on the far left.

Fox Mulder notes in the “Bad Blood” episode of The X-Files that vampires are notoriously obsessive-compulsive. Check, check, check. My excessive hand washing habits started when I was just five years old. During my formative years I developed many rituals to mitigate stress. Now my obsessive-compulsive tendencies are more severe in the vicious patterns of circular thoughts. So though I don’t manifest my OCD outwardly as often now, my personal hell is still alive and well.

Some medications I was on for my obsessive-compulsive disorder explicitly stated that I should avoid sun exposure. But I’ve had varying degrees of sun and light sensitivity throughout my life. Because my skin is so pale, I do not tan. I burn. I have to load on the sunscreen if I’m going to be out and about in the summer, or I pay dearly for it. As a child, I even had to wear a t-shirt over my bathing suits to prevent my patches of burned-out Morphea from getting sunburned.

My skin is also extremely soft, for some reason. Despite the fine lines that come and go under my eyes from edema, I have practically no wrinkles despite being in my mid-40’s. Very odd, indeed. Probably nothing to worry about.

This summer, after traveling, all my health issues were exacerbated. I am normally pale, but at the end of June, I was pale as death.

A very pale, sickly woman with rose colored glasses.
So pale, I practically reflected light

Extreme light sensitivity set in April 20th, 2021. I was driving myself to an annual doctor’s appointment and could not for the life of me figure out why I needed to blink so much on the drive there. Soon, I was forced to watch television with one eye or the other, but absolutely not both. Then I had to close my eyes and just listen to the television.

In the first days of May, I got out of the shower and a stream of drool came out of my mouth when I pulled the shower curtain back. I started twitching and drooling when exposed to normal lighting conditions. This was extremely concerning and not at all ideal. In the ER, they ruled out a stroke and assumed I was having a migraine. But if that were the case, the migraine has lasted 602 consecutive days.

Im really glad I was finally diagnosed with corneal neuralgia instead. It is often misdiagnosed as dry eye disease. Neuropathic corneal pain causes extreme light sensitivity and head pain, and that diagnosis generally fits my symptom set better. I’ve had various types of migraines since I was five years old, and this degree of continual light sensitivity is far beyond anything I experience with migraines.

But at least now I have some treatment options. Like a modern vampire, I have blood stored in our refrigerator and freezer. Well, blood serum tears, which are close enough. Components of my blood mixed with saline will hopefully repair some of the nerve damage. The concept was unsettling at first, but I have had minor improvements since starting them.

To combat the eye pain and burning, I still have to wear sunglasses of some kind in normal lighting conditions. In fact, sunglasses on top of sunglasses made snow glare and store lighting more bearable yesterday. I noticed a lot of folks giving me disgusted looks when I started wearing my polarized eyewear. Perhaps they thought I was blind and couldn’t see them being jerks. My boyfriend suggested I hiss at people when they look at me funny. Which would be an alarming yet interesting way of drawing attention to their ableism. And hey, I already have the vampire aesthetic. May as well adopt the demeanor.

A woman with a black face mask and a large pair of polarized, amber, fit over glasses.
My first day with my special shades.

I read somewhere that vampires, because they are immortal and are otherwise unnatural, often feel they are at distinct odds with basic elements of nature. And I feel that in my bones. Someone online once described orthostatic intolerance as being “allergic to gravity.” Some days are worse than others. But for me, especially since that virus that caused the eye inflammation, gravity and I are definitely not friends.

A friend once told me that being “one with nature” would alleviate my anxiety. And I was like, hello…allergies. Have you met me? My allergist said I’m one of those folks who could take up to four Zyrtec a day. I also suspect I have a mast cell disorder, which means just about anything can trigger an allergic reaction at any time. So, I’m essence, I am allergic or sensitive to ALL OF NATURE.

Sometimes I even seem to be allergic to water. But just on the one foot.

A picture of a foot with red, slightly swollen toes, on a red bath mat
Reaction after a shower, limited to the right foot.

My body also always thinks it’s Opposite Day. Salt somehow regulates my blood pressure. I can’t even eat food like a normal person if I want my gastrointestinal tract to function properly. I have to stick to a partially liquid diet. Which begs the question…can one truly get all of their nutrients by drinking blood? It seems way more dramatic than eating soup more frequently and taking a multivitamin.

Progress has been slow, but I do have hope that I can stop living in the shadows, some day. But if the transformation into a full creature of the night sticks, I’m really looking forward to some of the perks of vampirism. Transforming into a bat would be so much easier than my painful attempts at nigh driving…

A pale woman with short, dark hair and vampire teeth, image has been altered with a filter
My true form, filter courtesy of Snapchat

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