Anxiety and Your Allergies

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, you’re sitting in a restaurant or at a friend’s, or even on a plane. You’re minding your own business, when you see your allergen walk by in the hands of someone you’ve already made aware of your food allergy. You also made sure that any food around you was be allergen-free. But, there it is, walking around within smelling distance or maybe, scarily enough, within touching distance. You start to panic; you watch the food as it travels around the room, it looms closer and closer. You wonder, is that my allergen? Is it coming over here? Am I just imagining it? Do I say something? A million thoughts swirl around your head, you wonder if you should say something or just leave, but you’re stuck, the words form in your mind but can’t seem to make the journey to your mouth. And then it starts, the panic sets in as the food is placed near you, or you watch the same person handle your food with the unwashed hands that touched your allergen. You shrink into your chair, and try to fold into yourself, you can’t make a noise, your breath becomes short, and you’re frozen in that moment.

Portrait of young man suffering for depression

I’ve been in this situation one too many times, and sometimes the feeling of panic still creeps up on me unsuspectingly. You so badly want to speak up for yourself but you feel deflated and beat since they didn’t listen the first time. It’s enough to make you want to never venture out for food again. It can be hard to put into words the panicky feeling you get when your allergen pops up un-expectantly or in a situation you can’t remove yourself from, and even more so to voice that feeling and ask for help. It seems like anxiety and food allergies can sometimes go hand-in-hand, but that doesn’t mean we have to go it alone. It took me a long time to find my voice, and express my concern in risky situations, and yes sometimes its uncomfortable or even awkward but I’ve discovered it’s a fleeting feeling compared to the anxiety and dread of not saying anything or feeling trapped. It takes time and practice but expressing your concerns out loud and making an effort to rectify the situation will leave you with a little more confidence each and every time.

Trust the people around you and the people you care about, practice the situation with them, or have a statement prepared.
Now stop me if you’ve heard this one before, you’re in the same situation, you see your allergen coming close to you. Instead of backing down, you find your voice, confidently express your concerns and instead of dread, you feel happy and satisfied with not only the situation but also yourself.

– Arianne K.

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3 thoughts on “Anxiety and Your Allergies”

  1. I can so relate to this! I am 42 years old and have been severely allergic to peanuts since I was 17. My brother-in-law and his wife recently had a baby and my husband, child and I have been spending a lot of time at their house. While I have always felt it is a safe zone, lately I have noticed a lot of peanut products in the house and being brought in regularly by friends and relatives. I no longer feel comfortable eating there. My husband noticed a huge stash of bars containing peanuts and brought it to their attention but I still feel uncomfortable bringing up the subject even though it is a life threatening allergy.

  2. What do you do when your own parents don’t understand and continually put you at risk saying you’re over reacting or you just don’t like the smell? And also hide from you that you are at that moment coming into contact with the allergen? I have a shelfish allergy and due to more frequently exposure recently it’s worsened.

    1. I know that feeling. Thankfully not the hiding it… but them not getting it! It’s a learning curve. Remember when you were in denial about your allergen? Maybe that lasted a little while, maybe a long time (for me it was years…). You got a wake up call at some point, which eventually led to you accepting it.

      What to do (advice from my psych to me, when I asked the same questions): On a day that doesn’t involve food, and does involve pre-planning… sit down with your parents. Explain to them in very clear terms that yes, actually, you would happily eat shellfish if you could. But right now your body is TRYING TO KILL YOU. Be blunt, but polite. Set the boundaries clearly: if you feed me, I need to know all the ingredients. If you hide shellfish in something I eat, I might go into Anaphylaxis and stop breathing…

      My problem has been that so often, the confrontations about food happen when there is food present, I’m desperately trying to save a family dinner from getting contaminated, and I literally have to shout to be sure things in the kitchen stay safe. Not a good impression!

      So a calm, deliberate meeting with my dad helped. Kinda. More helpful is he moved back overseas. I have a 2 year reprieve to coach them on it from afar. I’ve also decided that I’m going to plan the next family dinner. I want to be more aware of what’s coming.

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