Photo by Karrie Kwong
Among those living with food allergies, especially people who have experienced anaphylactic reactions or who have multiple food allergies, I have found there is a common personality trait. We tend to be perfectionists. We like everything to be just so. We analyze the risk vs. reward of nearly every situation, even ones that have not yet happened. We like to be in control. We’re afraid of messing up; the consequences of even the smallest misstep, and what that means.
It kind of makes sense when you think about it. We have a lot to manage, plan, and orchestrate. We’re constantly considering logistics and our level of preparedness. We have to watch not only our own actions but other people’s actions, because they can have an impact on us. We have to be meticulous, detail oriented, and diligent. Even the tiniest bit of laziness or inaction can cause physical harm. We hear other people’s horror stories and internalize them.
Sometimes everything feels very delicate and intricately interwoven. I have to get to this store after work, before it closes, to buy this brand of coconut oil that is safe so that I can make this dessert for my allergic child because they had a bad day and were excluded from a party but I also have to do this and this and….
When you think about it in this way, it reveals what a massive emotional burden living with food allergy can be. We are masters at keeping ourselves safe, but we are also masters of driving ourselves completely crazy. It’s funny how our mind can torture itself. It’s not surprising that many of us can feel our blood boiling or our heads about to explode or like we just need to lay down in a dark room when things become too much.
So I decided to start letting go of the excess. I have realized that I’m holding on to a lot of pressure that I created because I’m afraid. I load too much pressure onto certain moments. I forget that I know how to act in the event of an emergency. I lost some trust in myself over the years, and for no reason. This attitude has unfortunately bled out into other areas of my life. What needs letting go of is the unnecessary worry. Like assuming that situations will go terribly before I’ve even given them a chance, allergy-related or not. Thinking others will not accept me or that I’ll make people uncomfortable. Or saying “no” to opportunities because it seems like too much or too far out for me to handle.
I have to accept that perfection doesn’t exist. No day will go perfectly smoothly. Obstacles will come out of left field. Things will not always go to plan. And I mean this in life in general.
Signing up for improv classes was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. As soon as the first class started I realized that I had become a pressure cooker and needed somewhere to let off steam. Improv class teaches you to roll with the punches, to say yes to things, to make the best of situations, to work with your teammates, to laugh it off. It has also provided me an outlet to express myself to others, which is so important now that I work at home, alone, every day. It’s stripped away the isolated feeling that had been developing over the years.
How could I ever worry about looking weird for bringing my own food to a party when I have also crawled on the floor in front of 15 people, pretending to be a snarky cat? How could I be afraid that others would not accept me when I have opened up about my most embarrassing moments to a class of strangers? How could I not trust myself to figure out how to approach a situation when I’ve had to stand up in front of a room full of people and make up a funny story on the spot?
I never expected improv to have such a profound impact on my way of thinking, my emotions, my energy level, or my happiness. But every week I feel like my eyes are opened to a new part of me that I hadn’t known existed. It has been an awakening for my self confidence and my soul.
This is how I’ve begun to let go.