Last week I published my Open Letter to Allergy Teenagers and it received an overwhelming amount of attention. It was part of a series of articles talking about different aspects of living with food allergies for Allergy Awareness Week 2018.
The post had a mixture of some positive, some negative and some comments which hurt me personally and made me question whether I’d gone too far. Especially as the most vehement comments came from people I had interviewed on the podcast, who had supported and shared my other posts and had never mentioned that they had a problem with what I said.
When the comments were coming in thick and fast I felt a bit like this…
Now that I’m over the personal nature of some of the comments (and I went through a whole gamut of emotions: shock, sadness and [lots of] anger), and feel of a more rational mind I wanted to respond to some of the valid points. Although many were accusatory and attacked my character, they raised an important issue surrounding how we help food allergy kids and teenagers feel empowered.
The Open Letter was inspired by an instagram post I saw last year and later compounded with conversations I had with kids & teenagers at the Allergy and Free From Show in Liverpool 2017.
Now first up, I admit the facebook post I wrote was inflammatory and as pointed out by a fellow allergy blogger, perhaps had a negative slant whereas the the article had a positive message, in her opinion.
I’ve got a bone to pick with allergy teenagers…
Read all about it in my open letter for…
Although there were in total about 28 comments on the post, these two get at the heart of the issue:
Commenter 1: “A 16 year old was expressing how she felt about her allergies at the time […] to actually judge her for her comments or any other comment you could be referencing now I feel is rather harsh […] Please assess this was the maturity it deserves. Don’t put people off sharing their thoughts on Allergy. Not everyone has the confidence to talk about it!”
These first comments I must admit took me by surprise. I hadn’t written it from a place to judgement or to berate, how could I judge those who feel now what I had felt before.
It is true when you are a teenager, your world feels like it is falling apart all the time. I remember how each conflict or challenge was life and death, the dramas were so real. Life is chaotic for teens!
As commenter 1 rightly says, “not everyone has the confidence to talk about their allergy” and how they feel about it. I certainly didn’t when I was a kid or a teenager!
Commenter 2: “We, the adults need to help them navigate their worries about fitting in […]and it is we who can show them that their allergies definitely do not define them. Less judgement for our vulnerable age group and more support in getting them where they need to be”
Commenter 2 is absolutely right, we as grown up allergy kids and allergy parents do need to lead by example and show kids and teenagers that allergies don’t have to define them if they choose not.
We do need to guide them and help them process the challenges of feeling like we belong, and what teenager truly knows where they belong? There are so many hormones and things (friendships, body, school etc) changing all the time!
Most teenagers are worried about “fitting in” and while most people will try and give advice for how they can fit in, I am suggesting rather than trying to “fit in” to someone else’s mould, make your own.
I question the idea of following the herd. Why we would we let our allergy teens settle for trying to “fit in.” Why wouldn’t we challenge, encourage and support teenagers to forge their own path in life?
And sometimes, when we are going against the flow, when we forge our own path, we have to bare our teeth or draw our sword. Just like dragon tamers. To bare our teeth is not about trying to start a fight, but to show those who might stand in our way, whether verbally or physically, that we mean business. That we mean what we say and are willing to stand up for ourselves.
My approach is different not wrong. I wrote the open letter in a way that, I hope, would encourage action. You might even apply this philosophy to not just how we live with allergies but life in general…
Unfortunately, these commenters blocked me on instagram in the end, which is sad because it ends the conversation. Without conversation we cannot move forward nor find ways to help our allergy kids and teens who don’t have the confidence to speak out when they need help.
There isn’t a one size fits all way to raise food allergy kids. Nor live with food allergies. We all live different lives, learning and adapting in our own way. My way might not be your way and vice versa. As such, discussions on these ideas are vital for us to help our allergy community and the many more children and adults who are developing allergies.
How do you help your allergy teens and kids? Leave a comment below and join the discussion.
Disclaimer: I annoyed my boyfriend for a week about this before I finally sorted out how to respond to the personal attacks vs idealogical attacks. I have done my best to separate them and present as rational a response as possible and leave out those feelings that could divulge this post into a slinging match.
To read my posts from Allergy Awareness Week UK, including my open letter, click on the links below:
- What Allergies Are NOT
- How to Build Confidence in Your Food Allergy Kids
- Backpacking With Allergies: Travel Hacks
- Open Letter to Allergy Teens from a Grownup Allergy Kid
- Life is More Than Allergies..And Here’s Proof!