Food Allergy Experience

The Emotions of Food Allergies

The world of food allergies isn’t emotionally easy. People I talk to tell me how impressed they are that I do everything I do for my little boy. I know if they were in my position they would do it, just as I am. Its part of taking care of him and I feel that I’m doing what any good parent would do. Nothing special. I love him and will do what I need to do to keep him safe. People want to talk about the troublesome things like the extra time and work it takes in preparing his food. And there’s plenty of time involved with food allergies and I’ll gladly talk about it. But the emotional and psychosocial part is almost always over-looked.

I will never be able to explain to someone not dealing with food allergies the emotional tug of war I go through every day. It’s not something I really like to talk about; it makes me feel vulnerable. However, I will try. Those of you who’ve heard me talk about food allergies or those who have read much here, may be surprised that I’m not always as positive as I seem, or as I like to believe I seem.

Every day, every minute, every second of my day I think of food, what’s in food, was it cross-contaminated, whose eating it, when was the counter top last washed, and so on. Food allergies and the what if’s are always in the back of my mind. When he’s not in my care, I’m always prepared to drop what I’m doing to rush to him in case something happens. I have no peace of mind, no matter who cares for him. No matter how confident, I appear, I’m almost always a few inches from breaking down and moving us to a bubble house in Alaska.

I fight back the anger/frustration when I hear of things that are supposed to make life easier for other families or that are just plain normal for others. At church they have a drop-off baby sitting service for parents to Christmas shop. We will never use this service. I hear of people complain they’ve not gotten a date night this week because their babysitter canceled and the remaining ones are busy. We never go on dates and when we do, we have 1 babysitter to call. They’re handing out snacks at the grocery store and offer my kids some. I feel guilty every time I say no, every time. Parents grabbing fast food because their schedules are too hectic. We’ve never been to grab fast food as a family. If I’m not careful, I can become a very angry and frustrated person. That’s something I’m determined to avoid!

Very quickly following the pang of anger/frustration, comes the guilt. Horrible guilt. I feel guilty because I have no right being angry or frustrated because others can do those things. I should not feel angry because people don’t think beyond their life situation. I feel guilty for those sarcastic thoughts that I never actually say but are there in my head waiting for me to let them slip out. I feel guilty for thinking things I don’t really mean.

I know its my situation and I know others can’t change their lifestyle or stop telling about what’s going on with them just because we have a special situation. And I really DON’T want them too. I enjoy hearing about everyone’s life. What I would like more so than anything else, is for people to be a bit cautious about what they complain about. To realize that not everyone has the luxury (if you can really call it that) of grabbing fast food. And most importantly, to be grateful they have happy, healthy kids and are able to enjoy those little luxuries in life. Because, even though we struggle sometimes, there’s always something to be thankful for.

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23 Comments

  1. nikpik1

    I can’t imagine the hardship it is to have a child or children with severe food allergies, dealing with that everyday is inspiring and tells a lot about personal strength and patience. I’m a nanny for 2 children with severe food allergies and today I had the task of going to the grocery store and getting dairy and soy free food for their thanksgiving meal. What should have taken me 30 min took almost 2 hours because had to read every single ingredient and seek out specialty items. I was exhausted. You are a great mom and are allowed to have emotions about this because it completely changes a life. I wish you the best of luck.

    • Thanks! Grocery shopping takes me forever! I still read every label because I’ve experienced ingredients changing on me.

      • Yes because favorite items often have ingredients changed without notice.

  2. I have many of the same feelings! We have the same babysitter trouble. We rarely go out together anymore, and when we do, it’s so carefully orchestrated that not as fun as it should be. And I hear you about the constant thinking of food. It’s hard!

    • Its nice to know I’m not the only one feeling this way! Thanks 🙂 I keep thinking once he gets older It’ll be easier; but, really, I know it won’t be because then I’ll have to trust him to make good decisions AND all the adults.

  3. I understand your frustration from my own perspective as someone who suffers from food allergies. Add to this the fact that I can’t go here or there because of chemical sensitivities and extreme mold sensitivities. I recently could not go to my high school reunion because 1) the building would not be safe for me; 2) controlling over 100 people as to not being fragrant is impossible; 3) I probably could not have eaten the food. I get angry too! I work hard to not let it show how I feel. I don’t want others to feel bad because it isn’t their fault that things are the way they are for me. It is hard to hear of vacations, dinners out, trips to the movies or a show because I can’t do those things. We are stronger than we ever thought we could be even in our weaker moments. Hang in there. You are NOT ALONE!

    • Kmtreat, I agree I don’t want people to feel bad either and I too find its much easier to avoid food events. Our situations have certainly proven that we are stronger then we thought!

  4. Amanda

    I definitely can understand your frustrations – not as a parent, of course, but as someone who suffers from food allergies. I do feel thankful that I don’t have a very serious illness, but at the same time, if I did have a “serious illness” people would take it seriously. People don’t question cancer, for example. People usually don’t take food allergies seriously. My former mother-in-law once put walnuts in a dish “to see what would happen”! Luckily, they were visible, so I didn’t eat it.

    Also, I’ve babysat on the side (I work full-time) for years and that’s one thing people have appreciated – that I’m very sensitive and cautious about food allergies or illness in general.

    In any case, I hope you have a happy, allergen-free holiday!

    • The Aller-Dad

      This is exactly the problem. People don’t take the allergy issue very serious. It’s not “a serious illness” to most people just like you said. It’s strange because now that we have more control of our son’s allergic issues, he looks like a normal boy. That’s both a blessing and a curse because people don’t look at him like he’s different anymore. That’s the good part. Problem is that people don’t know there’s a problem now. They don’t step back and ask what his condition is and thus learn a bit about his issues to keep him safe. Double edged sword I guess.

      • Amanda

        Invisible illnesses have so many complex issues surrounding them: people not believing it because they can’t see it, the feelings of invalidation, other people minimizing it or thinking you’re overreacting. It’s definitely frustrating and most people don’t want to learn what they don’t have to learn.

        I look like a normal girl now (at least I hope I do!) so a lot of times people don’t believe that I could have suffered as much as I did in the past, nor do they take me seriously now about any of my current health issues.

    • Amanda – you are so right. If you don’t always look “sick” people don’t take it seriously. But who wants to look sick all the time?

      • Amanda

        Exactly, no one! Plus, then you get people’s pity which is as bad as people’s lack of understanding. There’s no winning, sometimes.

      • S M I L E! Sometimes there is no winning. Hang in there – you are a strong woman.

      • The Aller-Dad

        It’s a very frustrating issue yet i have a hard time trying to blame anyone. I think back at myself even just 3 years ago and I would have thought nothing about allergies. I actually never considered it a serious issue. At least not life threatening. Of course the little man threw a sledge hammer into the gears of that thought process. Sad to think that if it doesn’t directly impact you in some way, you just ignore it.

      • That is sad but true. That is why we need to educate people.

      • I agree too Amanda and Kmtreat! People always say, “but he looks so healthy”. I always explain he looks good because we are so strict with what he has contact with. I think its hard for people to believe something they can’t see.

  5. KL

    This is all really interesting to me and I have to say I am quite ashamed of myself. Why? I have a son with serious behavioural and emotional problems caused by ADHD, ODD and Anxiety Disorder and I get mad when people don’t believe me because to all intents and purposes he looks “normal”.He’s very sensitive to things people say and can react aggressively. I get annoyed that people don’t take his condition seriously, just thinking he’s naughty.

    I am ashamed because as I have been reading through the posts here, I have recalled myself thinking or saying more than once how annoying it is when a child with allergies has to come to a party or gathering and the whole party has to be careful not to have those foods around. I have been heard complaining with other mums how the whole school has to ‘suffer’ the process of being careful of one or two kids who have allergies. Cringe… You don’t know me… but I’d like to apologise for myself and others like me anyway.

    I think the moral here is that if someone’s illness or issue is causing you frustration or inconvenience, you need to remember that it is probably multiplied by 1000 for the actual person or family involved, and you need to drop any judgment and employ empathy.

    Thanks for smacking me upside the face and making me aware 🙂

    • KL – We are all careless at some time or another when it comes to others or the inconvenience of doing something different because of someone else’s injury or illness or allergy. Thank you for you heartfelt words. Today my niece came over for a short visit. It is the first time she has been in my home since I have been in here. It is hard for others to visit (some at least) because I require them to wear one of those ugly tyvek suits to keep me from getting sick from their laundry soaps, etc. We had a great time and now I think she will come back since she realizes it isn’t really such a big deal.

    • The Aller-Dad

      No smacking around of faces here 🙂

      Often times it seems that people don’t care or don’t want to understand. It makes me sad but overall I’d say I’m pretty relaxed about the whole thing considering the circumstances. I attribute this to 2 things.

      First, I find it difficult to be angry at people for thinking the exact way I thought almost 2 years ago. I can’t fault them for it because that thought process is still rather fresh in my head. If I can’t forgive them, then I can’t forgive myself.

      Secondly I have my wonderful wife to lean on. She’s the rock that keeps this family together. The one that we all look to for answers. I really don’t think I could have done this on my own. I think I could have managed but never succeeded the way we have with her as our lead. She unfortunately is also the one who gets the brunt of the wrath that people give out. You know… the stuff that other parents say about the parents with kids with food allergies. I can’t say that I really look forward to my son getting into school. There’s going to be a lot of conflicts… and my already stressed wife will be in the middle of it. Sorry honey.

      • We’re a team, I don’t think I could do it without you and I know that you’re right there with me, I just may be a more vocal 😉

    • KL thanks so much for commenting! I do think we are all sometimes guilty of careless thoughts or not really thinking about what we say. It happens. I’m so glad that you took the time to read and evaluate your thoughts, that is so very important. I agree that remembering to step back from the situation is always good. Thanks again for reading 🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing. I’ve written a rant and then I felt really bad about it and deleted it. It really is hard not to get frustrated about this, especially when forced to deal with an attitude that makes living like this all that much harder. But *sigh* I have to really stop myself and remind myself that they just can’t get it until they live it. At the very least, I find it helpful to know that I’m not the only one that struggles with holding my sarcasm at bay. Your blog about it is very eloquently worded and much appreciated.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting and for your kind words! I’ve written and deleted posts too. I find it very therapeutic 🙂

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