The intention of this post is not to provide medical guidance as I am not a practitioner. These are the strategies I personally use, and I am sharing them with you. For medical advice please speak with a professional.
It has been over a year since I last wrote about the coping strategies I use to manage the PTSD I felt from my last anaphylactic reaction. You can find that article here.
I thought it fitting that I follow up on this topic as it's still one of the most popular posts on the blog. And today seemed right because I had an allergy anxiety attack this morning.
Over the last year I've made significant improvements in how I handle my anxiety by pushing myself and implementing the strategies suggested in the post linked above. I have pushed myself to go on vacations to places I thought I'd never visit, I've gone out to dinner more than I have in years, and I have become comfortable with eating when I'm home alone (for the most part). I even ate a full homemade meal, including pastries, at my aunt's house on the weekend.
I've found that when I build up a mountain around social situations involving food it becomes much more difficult to traverse it. The mountain just grows larger if I don't conquer it. One big step was to bring my own food to a dinner party. Another was to visit Paris, knowing that I could cook in my own kitchen if I was uncomfortable. I have even eaten "normally" in restaurants several times over the last few months, panic-free. For me, these are major accomplishments.
But despite the challenges I have succeeded, the anxiety has not fully gone away. Last night I made a mental note to wipe down my phone because it had come into direct contact with one of my allergens. I got lazy and barely wiped it; I was tired and my bed was calling. I figured I could give it a better clean in the morning. This morning I turned off my alarm, checked my (still contaminated) phone, then got up and made some toast. Within a couple hours I had a big purple hive on my neck and was feeling itchy. All the anxiety and memories of my last reaction flooded back in an instant. The sounds of doctors talking about me, the thought of vomiting into a hospital tray, and the feeling of a needle going into my hand.
I knew I was having some level of reaction but it was not anaphylactic. I started to experience some symptoms that I felt were mentally induced: stomach ache and quickly beating heart. There were still some very real symptoms happening: I had a big purple hive on my neck that was really itchy and wasn't going away. My face felt itchy in general. I took a Benadryl and tried to lay down, to make tea, to breathe deeply and relax. But I felt so mad at myself for my laziness and carelessness.
I called my mom and she suggested I head over to my parents' place as my dad often works from home. It was the best distraction, and the change of scenery helped. By the time I took the streetcar over, the hives had gone down and I had 15 minutes of calm deep breathing on the nearly empty car. Many people feel more comfortable in a food allergy reaction situation when they are not alone. My dad assessed me and then announced that "kids will always be kids". I allowed myself to fall into a brief Benadryl-induced nap on the couch before picking myself up, making lunch, and writing this post.
Additional strategies for managing anaphylactic reaction PTSD:
Writing about it is still cathartic
Go outside and take a calm walk in a public place
Talk yourself down in front of the mirror so that you can observe yourself physically at the same time
Know the difference between actual symptoms of anaphylaxis and those of an anxiety attack
Be around other people
Change your scenery
Do you have any strategies to add?