A roller coaster of emotions for those of us with food allergies

Erika Profile - China Beach

Anxiety. Fear. These are some of the things that those of us with food allergies feel or have felt on numerous occasions. Fear of a severe allergic reaction. Anxiety over the fact that the food may not be 100% safe for us to eat. We have all felt it. Sometimes we might even question how safe food prepared by a loved one is. And that is not because we don’t trust that person, might it be a parent, family relative or really close friend. It’s hard to explain. I’ve questioned food prepared by loved ones before. No one ever gets hurt by my asking. Often times, I just need to know what is in the food. I need to know exactly what went into it, what knives were used, what surfaces the food was prepared on and who prepared it. To some people it may seem like we are crazy. And that we are extremely anxious. Some might think we are too anxious. That we are worrying too much. Please do not worry about what others think. Let them think whatever they want. I know from my own experience that if I feel unsettled or feel some nerves before eating something, that the only way to settle those nerves is to find out exactly what I am eating, who prepared it and what was used to prepare it.

When you live with severe food allergies, there are times that you start to question everything. You wonder if the cereal you eat might have been made in the same facility that other products you are allergic to are made in, even if you or your parents called the manufacturer to inquire. We all have times in our lives, whether you have food allergies or not, where we feel more vulnerable. Sometimes we are scared of letting our guard down due to a recent close call. Other times, we are just in a different head space and anxiety kicks in. We start to question everything. When that happens, having family and friends close by to re-assure us and be our eyes and ears is the most important. We need to feel safe.

We hear about safety in the media; safety precautions with severe weather and when in dangerous neighborhoods after dark, safety at work, and staying indoors when there is a threat, only to name a few. For those of us with food allergies, we also experience fear over our own safety. No one can compare levels of anxiety or fear from one situation to another, because each situation is unique. Each situation likely had very different triggers or circumstances. It isn’t even fair to compare two different allergic reactions, even if it was two of my own reactions. I am always reminded to focus on the present. Not to dwell in the past. I use experiences from the past to help me in my present and in my future, however I do not let it consume me. Allergic reactions I had when I was a child have stayed with me. I remember exactly what happened, the drive to the hospital, and the fear that I might not make it to the hospital.

When I am extremely anxious about my food allergies, or get stressed out in a situation when someone is trying to make me safe food, I feel like I am on an emotional roller coaster. Do you ever feel like that? I can feel calm, confident and collected one minute, then the next, I can be anxious and emotional. I don’t understand it. Someone out there might… I cannot explain it. All I know is that it’s ok. It’s ok to feel scared. It’s ok to be worried. It’s ok to feel emotional, and to shed a few tears. We are all human. We all have emotions. And we all have different triggers.

For those of us with food allergies. We fear a severe reaction. I have always told myself to embrace fear. To not let it overcome me. To use fear and anxiety in a positive way. To use it as a learning experience. When I look back on times when I feared a reaction and was emotional about it, I see the actions I took to make sure I was safe. I give myself a pat on the back for asking questions, for making sure everything was safe. When I am anxious, I tell someone. I don’t go it alone. Sharing the reason for your fear and anxiety with someone is the best thing you can do. So I urge you to please talk to someone when you feel scared. When you feel worried or anxious. You do not have to overcome that fear alone. Talk to your parents, your friend, someone you trust. Together you can figure out ways to manage your feelings and cope. Asking for help takes courage. Please do not be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone.

I have learned to speak up and ask for help. That is my greatest lesson learned.

Will you ask for help?

12 thoughts on “A roller coaster of emotions for those of us with food allergies

  1. Excellent post, Erika. We all needed to hear that … those of us dealing with severe food allergies, and even those who don’t. Thank you for letting us know we share the same anxiety around food and allergies, and that we aren’t “crazy.” And there is so much anxiety in life in general, so all around, this is a very appropriate message today. Thank you!

    • Michele, It is great to hear that you felt the message I wanted readers to hear. That it is ok. And that we are not crazy. You are right, there is so much anxiety in life in general. I feel we need to speak up. And people need to feel that they are heard. It was interesting for me, this morning, to realize that I had not yet written about this. A topic which I know others think about as well. I feel some relief that I have been able to share my story. Thank you for sharing how this post resonated with you. Have a great day, Erika

  2. Thank you for writing and sharing this, Erika. I know my 10 year olf daughter feels this anxiety and even questions me to ensure that the food I serve her is safe. The first time I was taken aback when she asked, as out of anyone in the world she can count on me and her daddy to ensure our household is free of her allergens! But now simply assure her that her safety is paramount to us and that the foods we serve are safe for her to eat. Sometimes she still asks, for her own peace of mind, and we understand.

    As for *my* anxiety…I, as a parent of a child with anaphylaxis, live in a heightened state of alert at all times. It is always on my mind…is my daughter safe at school right now? My heartrate shoots up if my phone rings during times she is not under my care…afraid that I am going to get “the call” that my daughter is in medical distress. It is difficult to “let go” and not shadow her…and let her grow to be responsible for herself.

    It is nice to know that there is a community out there that feels the same way. Sometimes we (our family) feel that we are up against the world in a battle to feel safe…and it is tiring.

    • Leanna, Thank you for sharing how you, your family and your daughter feel around life with food allergies. I have heard many other parents share their anxiety around “the call” from school or a sleep over their child is at. I cannot say I know how that feels, however I can appreciate where parents come from as I know my mother dealt with some anxiety as well. Thank you for sharing that it is difficult to “let it go”, and let her grow to be responsible for herself, as I know for a fact many others feel that too. There is a wonderful community for all of us living with allergies, or with loved ones who have allergies. I am grateful you felt comfortable sharing here. Best, Erika

  3. Thank you, Erika, for this great and true communication. Allergens are like UV rays: they are dangerous but you can’t see them. One becomes afraid of everything. Fear and worry are just as bad as an actual allergic reaction. Thank you for reminding me to ask for help. I admire anyone who asks for help, because that takes courage. Any way one can reduce the level of worry is a way to feel more cheerful, more relaxed, and more hopeful and excited about the future.

    • Thank you so much for sharing Lindsay. I am happy to hear that my words were helpful for you. My biggest challenge has been knowing when to ask for help. I thought asking for help made me less strong. However it does not. Truthfully, I feel that asking for help makes you stronger. Like you said in your comment, it takes courage to ask for help. It means you know your limits and you are not afraid to seek help. I agree with you wholeheartedly that “Any way one can reduce the level of worry is a way to feel more cheerful, more relaxed, and more hopeful and excited about the future.” Thank you so much for sharing that with the community. It is a very valuable message. Best, Erika

  4. Hi Erika, I just saw your post and had to get involved. Recently, I’ve really been into running and exercising. It’s become a part of my lifestyle. Unfortunately, also just recent, when ever I eat shellfish and work out a couple hours later, hives appear all over my body that itch drastically! I’ve been to the doctor and, at first, were skeptical. But with further research, they believe is FDEIA. I’m not surprised they were skeptics just because FDEIA is considered rare. I’m still waiting for further testing but, we’re pretty sure that’s what I have since I never react when I exercise independently (without consuming shellfish). I would tell your reader that she should be fine if it occurs again, treat it as if you’re having a peanut allergy and also to wait 4-6 hours before working out if you’ve eaten. Hopefully this helps and if I find out anything more, I’ll update you. If your reader needs to talk to someone, I’m open ears!

    – Renita D

  5. Thank you so so much. We all needed a piece like this. Yes, allergies are a rather common thing now and yes there’s loads of information and advice on how to deal with them, but never have I seen somebody put into words how it genuinely feels.

    And the best thing about this post, is the realisation that we aren’t alone with this. Because you’re right, I always feel so stupid for freaking out right before a meal, but knowing I’m not the only one makes it easier.

    You have it absolutely spot on, especially for teenagers and young adults who are now having to deal with their allergies on their own(!)

    • Thank you for sharing. I know that we all have moments where we wonder if we are going crazy. We question things. However,that is what makes us human. Hearing that “You have it absolutely spot on, especially for teenagers and young adults who are now having to deal with their allergies on their own(!)” and had the impact I had hoped it would is heart-warming. I have been writing for years, because I know I am not alone, and others have had similar moments, stories and life lessons as I have. Your kind words have given me that confidence to keep writing on this tough topic. Thank you.

Leave a Reply