The spring when I turned thirteen, I started having allergic reactions to tree pollen. In many parts of Japan, March through May is the biggest pollen season of the year. People who are allergic to pollen from Japanese cypress and cedar trees have a hard time during this season.
In March that year, I remember while I played the piano on stage at the annual concert of the local music school I attended, a few drops of water came out of my nose. I thought it was strange but didn’t think twice about it. Within a few weeks, however, my nose was completely stuffed and runny, my eyes were watery and itchy, and I started sneezing all day long. It was a clear and bad case of pollen allergy.
Nobody in my family had experienced any pollen allergy before, so my parents had very little knowledge about its treatment. For the time-being, I started wearing a mask whenever I went outside in order to avoid contact with pollen as much as possible.
In April, I entered junior high school. I went to my brand-new class with my face covered with a medical mask, my eyes red and watery and my nose runny. It was not an ideal condition to meet my new classmates, especially for a self-conscious teenager. But for the most part, my new school life went fine, attending various welcome events and getting used to the new faces – until one day, my teacher said that we were going to do a proper meet-and-greet event in our class.
Each one of us was supposed to come up to the front and introduce ourselves to everyone in the class. As I sat on my chair, I thought hard if I should remove my mask when going up to the front. I wanted everyone to see my full face, but at the same time, I was afraid of exposing my extremely runny nose. In the end, I decided to remove my mask.
When it was my turn, I left my mask on my desk, grabbed a few tissues in my hand and walked up to the front. The moment I faced the whole class, however, I regretted my decision. Without the protection of the mask, I became overly conscious of my runny nose. A few times, watery liquid tried to escape from my nose, and I had to press my nose hard with my tissue. A few times, I sneezed. My voice was strange due to the stuffy nose. With all of this happening, I could barely pay attention to what I was saying to everyone in the class.
When my self-introduction was over, I ran back to my desk holding my nose with the tissues. It was the worst self-introduction experience I had ever had. The physical discomfort was so much that I didn’t even have room to feel embarrassed.
“That was the most miserable self-introduction experience I’d had in my life!” I declared to my mother as soon as I got back home that day. “This pollen allergy is terrible!”
Several people in my circle of friends with pollen allergy tried to help me that year by offering me the treatments that had worked for them. But unfortunately, none of them worked for me.
I was later diagnosed with a severe case of allergy against both cypress and cedar pollen, and the doctor prescribed me with a “stronger” allergy medication. With the help of that medicine, my spring agony with tree pollen was finally reduced to a tolerable level.