It’s so wonderful to be in love. To get butterflies in your tummy, to break into a smile at just the thought of that special someone. But for us, there’s an added dimension. Allergies.
How on earth, do you turn round and say “sorry, you need to tell me everything you’ve eaten and drunk today before I can even think about kissing you because if not, you could kill me with a kiss.” Kind of a mood killer…Unfortunately, it is just something we have to do. But how?
My other half and I met at University. I was a Fresher, halfway through my first year and he was doing his PhD. As we started to get to know each other, before anything romantic, I knew I would have to tell him about my nut allergy, especially if I wanted to kiss him.
Before I get more into the details, let me tell you a bit about who I was back then. I was one of those kids who always ate the brussel sprouts first because I thought they were gross. Most kids would push them to the side or hide them, but I knew Mum would insist I ate them. So, it was my view that I should eat the disgusting things first. This way I could take my time eating my favourite foods and not end the meal with a bad taste in my mouth. I still have this approach, and used it when it came to communicating about my allergies.
All my friends knew about my allergies. When I met my flatmates for the first, it was one of the first things I told them about. My thinking was, get the thing that could be awkward out the way first and then get on with life. It just so happened that we all took an expedition to the supermarket that day, so they saw there was plenty I could eat. I didn’t stress, so they didn’t stress.
But when it came to the confidence to say something about my food allergies it started from an understanding of my allergy (the life-death things) and my self worth.
Allergies & Your Self Worth
Everyone at some point feels insecure about something. We all have challenges, and we can all choose how we respond to those challenges.
When it comes to allergies, I know that my nut allergy is just a biological fact of my body, like my skin colour or eye colour. As much as my family might have hoped for me to outgrow it or a cure to be found, I accepted I would probably live with food allergies my entire life.
I have been trained and I keep training in my allergy care everyday. I carry my medical kit (2 adrenaline pens, antihistamine tablets, and inhalers) everywhere I go. I check all the ingredients labels and I ask about food preparation in restaurants. I have my checklist to keep me safe and I know I will keep doing it my entire life, whoever I happen to be with including friends, family, colleagues and boyfriend. Those people who are worth being in my life know and respect my allergy needs, but I know my allergy is my responsibility and I’m going to keep it that way.
I choose to take responsibility and own it, because it is mine. No one else’s. By making it my choice I start to feel more confident because I feel that I can take control of my actions within a situation. I have also found that it elevates pressure on my relationships because I am not expecting someone else to take responsibility for something they have no training in.
Having an allergic reaction at 16 was a big eye-opener for me. [LINK] I showed me so shockingly that I had to be in charge of my allergy because I am my own best advocate and showed me what my priorities were. To stay alive and stay well. By accepting this I could start dealing with my anxieties.
Dealing With Food Allergy Anxiety
Even though I know my allergy is mine and I want it to be my responsibility I still get anxious. I mean I am human. I still got anxious about telling the boy I liked about my allergy.
I think what makes us anxious when telling people about our food allergies is the fear of being rejected. Of being left out or thought of as being different. Allergies do make us different but not how you may think.
Allergies force you to eat differently but you need to because, in the case of anaphylaxis, you could die. So it’s true allergies make you different, but if you let it, allergies will set you apart. Many of the people I know who deal with allergies, many of whom are allergic from 2 to 30 allergens, are some of the most inventive and creative people I know. They have amazing problem solving skills because they think outside the box, they are so strong and keep fighting, not to mention being amazing chefs! If you want to hear some of them just check out the guests on my podcast. [LINK] (And seriously, who is going to turn down delicious food!)
My other half said to me a little while ago when I said I was feeling scared about making my truffles [LINK: ] and selling them (this is after I won an award for them by the way), “I know your scared, but do it anyway.” This has really stuck with me. It is only when we face what we’re scared or anxious about that we start to overcome it.
When I was scared of food after my allergic reaction, it was through cooking and being in control of the food I ate that I started to conquer my anxiety. I had to face the fear I had of food to overcome it. It’s the same when you have to tell someone about your allergies.