Sunday, September 23, 2012

When you're afraid to eat...

       I don't know when it happened. Somewhere between me being 6 and becoming an adult, the world changed. Somehow, some way, children everywhere started to have allergies. Everyone you talk to tells you how they can't pack their kids an old fashioned PB & J sandwich for lunch because so many other kids are allergic to peanuts. Parents everywhere have begun worrying about feeding their children nuts or peanut butter. Children are ostracized because they have to sit at the "peanut butter/nut table" at school. How and when did this all happen? More so, why did this happen?

     When I was a little girl, my mother gave me a freshly picked peach. It was beautiful and plump and I was was so excited for this tasty treat.....until about 5 seconds after my first bite. In under a minute, my throat was closing, I was having trouble breathing, and I had hives everywhere. I was so itchy. I knew I didn't feel right, but I didn't even know I was supposed to be scared. I couldn't comprehend what was happening until I was sitting in the doctor's office being pumped up with Benadryl while seeing the fear in my mother's eyes. Apparently, my allergy to peaches decided to show it's lovely face that day, and it has stuck by my side ever since. After lots of tests, it was learned that I'm severely allergic to nuts. Not peanuts, but tree nuts. (Peanuts grow underground, so they are in the legume family like a bean or a pea) Because nuts are related to the pit and seeds in many fruits like that killer peach I ate that day, I've had to watch every single thing I put in my mouth at every meal thereafter.

     If you have food allergies, you know how annoying this can be. Of course you learn to embrace it because you have no other choice, but it sure can be a nuisance when you're at a party or a restaurant or when you first start dating someone and they make you fresh chocolate covered strawberries and you start to break out. (It was the thought that counted, Stephanos!) Or how about when you order oreo frozen yogurt and you pull an almond out of your mouth and the lady at the counter tells you, "oh, sorry, we use the same scoop on all of the flavors, even the ones with nuts" (If this happens to you, let me know. I work for lawyers, we can hook you up ;) ) Believe me, it's not fun, but you have to learn to adapt to it. It's a part of who you are after all, and you should love every single part of what makes you different. It's still irritating though when you eat healthy all week and really want that one cookie, until someone tells you there might be traces of walnuts in it. What a buzz kill.

     The worst feeling is being afraid to eat. It's terrifying to take a bite of something and worry that you might feel that feeling all over again. Even though you carry your EpiPen every where you go, it's still the scariest sensation in the world. Yes you learn to live with it, but I don't think the fear is something that will ever 100% go away. Personally, I know if I ate an almond and didn't have my EpiPen, I would go into anaphylactic shock. But what I have taught myself over the past 19 years is that I need to live with it. I need to learn exactly what I can and can't eat, and hey, if I can't have that cookie, it's one less fattening thing I'll be eating! You have to go to the allergist and figure out exactly what to stay away from and learn how to enjoy the foods you can eat. Take care of yourself, and see if the allergist can check to see if anything has changed. I need to do this soon. It's one of the ten little things I want to do before I turn 26Once you're educated, you'll feel a little better, but you will always be extra cautious. Keep yourself updated by regularly visting the FAAN website. Learn all about cross pollination

     If you're one of the lucky ones who don't have food allergies, good for you. You have no idea how fortunate you are. If your kids are allergy free too, count your blessings. I can only imagine how nerve-racking it was for my parents to let me have dinner over friends' houses. I go back to my previous question though, why are kids all of a sudden being born with these severe allergies? When I was little, I was one of the only ones. It was strange. I always knew I was different from the other kids. I hated having to explain why I couldn't have the same desserts or candy as everyone else. So, I leave you with one piece of advice. Don't ever make fun of the people who do have food allergies. You never know how they feel, and there's nothing worse than being afraid to eat.