A while back we talked about methods for reducing allergy-related stress and anxiety and lately I've felt like I really needed to do a follow-up post to that rather instructional article. The real deal is that the most difficult part of dealing with my food allergies is managing my stress and anxiety. At times it does have a negative impact on my life, and at others it merely serves as an internal compass to guide me away from potential dangers. And a lot of the time I'm just so tired of all of it and I wish I could take a break from having allergies for even a day.
I'm tired of lying awake at night wondering if the hives I found on my back earlier are going to erupt into something more severe. If I drink from a glass, put it down and come back to it later, I'll immediately regret it because I don't know if it was really mine or if it was used by someone else, even if it's in my own home. As you can imagine this creates a lot of excess dishes to clean. Thank god for dishwashers.
And remember when the whole dishwasher issue was floating around the internet a few months ago? I couldn't help but read the sensationalized articles about how allergens can live inside your dishwasher, even though I know my boyfriend rinses his things before he loads the washer. And even though we didn't have an allergen-free house for my entire childhood yet I didn't have a single reaction from using our cutlery. But nevertheless I still started washing all the forks, knives, and spoons individually with soap after they were already clean. It took about 3 weeks of that before I came around to the idea that I didn't have to do that in my own home unless they weren't actually clean already.
Over the last few years my anxiety has gone in cycles, like highs and lows on a line chart. Sometimes it's really high and I can visualize it in my head; I know it's happening but I feel like there's nothing I can do to shake it. The biggest concern for me is that sometimes I'm afraid to eat. I stack all my anxiety on this one central moment of taking "the bite" and am convinced that whatever it is I'm eating, even if I made it myself, has only a 50/50 chance of being safe. It's worse when I'm home alone but of course, I only improve when I force myself to be home alone to challenge it. To anyone without allergies the thought of eating a meal alone on your couch as "scary" is completely ridiculous. But for me sometimes it can take a whole night to get through that meal, and then I feel a huge sense of pride when I see the empty plate.
Years ago when I was in my late teens it started becoming habit. Coffee for breakfast with 1 cup of plain oatmeal, 12 glasses of water throughout the day, half head of iceberg for lunch. Finally eat a proper meal when my parents get home from work. I lost a lot of weight and had to work really hard to break the habit I had established somewhat involuntarily. The challenge was that every time I tried to eat something outside my usual parameters I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Some people thought I had body image issues but the real issue was that I was afraid to eat; I saw food as this massive negative thing in my life and I just wanted it to go away.
I'm getting really tired of the late night Google searches to determine what certain additives are derived from and is this brand ok for me and do they have a real allergy statement. I feel a lot of anger when another person suffers a fatal reaction and I just think holy shit how do we not have a solution for this yet? I get worried that a treatment will be developed but that it'll only be available to people under a certain age and I'll be left in the dust. I get claustrophobic thinking that I'll have to deal with this for the rest of my life. But I also don't want to get my hopes up now that I know I'll never grow out of it. And most troublingly, I worry that doctors will determine it's contagious.
I haven't always been this way. For a long time I just lived somewhat normally. I wasn't afraid to eat and my allergies didn't populate my thoughts all the time. I wasn't afraid to touch public surfaces, in fact Jo used to think it was so gross that I'd eat a sandwich with my bare hands on the subway. I would love to be that gross sandwich-eating subway girl again. That girl was relaxed. That girl could have a few drinks and not have a panic attack, or become fixated on worrying about something she ate six hours ago. I know I can get back to being in that state again because I've done it before.
On Everyday Allergen-Free our main mission is to inspire confidence in people living with food allergies and part of improving your confidence is to own your truths. And my current truth is that at times I'm a nervous wreck, but I'm working on it.