Having been born with life-threatening food allergies, I have faced disappointments that those without allergies would not understand.
I’ve sat at the nut-free table from kindergarten through eighth grade.
I’ve been to countless parties where I couldn’t eat a thing.
I’ve been excluded from parties and occasions because people didn’t want to “deal” with my allergies.
I’ve been made fun of, and threatened because of my food allergies.
Food allergies come with obstacles and hurt that can be extremely frustrating.
The reality of my food allergies hit when I entered elementary school. From 0 to 5, I had no idea that I was different, or that I was missing out on anything. We never had peanuts or peanut butter in the house, and my parents and brother ate the same things that I did, so how was I to know? Well, with the start of kindergarten, and the beginning of the “nut free table” at Whittier Christian Elementary School, I started to face the frustration of exclusion.
Fast forward 20 plus years, and I still face situations that cause frustration and disappointment. I traded in the “nut free table” for staff meetings where I watch everyone eat delicious pastries; and the plain cupcake at the birthday party for weddings where I’m starving and I have to explain to every person at the table that I am not trying to be rude, but could die if I ate the food.
So how do I handle the disappointment from these situations? Here are my 5 tips that help me to face the disappointment from food allergies:
- Vent a little. I am grateful for my husband and my mom that allow me to vent when I face discouragement because of my food allergies. After the close family member’s wedding where I was stuck on a boat for almost five hours, unable to eat a single thing served, you bet my mom got a call the minute I got in the car to go home. Even if you don’t have a person to vent to, go ahead and write it out in a journal, or shoot, even yell into your pillow (I won’t judge).
- Focus on the good. Okay so you got to vent a little, now it’s time to turn that around. Both my husband and my mom are great about letting me vent, but then asking questions that turn my focus onto the positive. That wedding was a bummer for multiple reasons. BUT I got to wear a pretty dress. I got to be with my wonderful husband. And there was an In N Out less than 5 miles from the venue. Thanks goodness for animal style burgers 🙂
- Identify the things you can control. When I face the different obstacles that food allergies present, I tend to focus on what is out of my control, which causes anxiety and more negative thinking. I have found it helpful to think of what is actually in my control, and focus on that. I can call the catering company that will cater my staff Christmas party, and regardless of their answer, at least I have the option and the knowledge to make an informed decision. I can control the food that I put into my body, which makes my body healthy and strong. You get the picture.
- Make a list. Whether it is in your head, or on a piece of paper, make a list of what you are thankful for. The list can be as focused as the actual food you can eat (broccoli, lettuce, mangoes, etc.), or as broad as anything you can think of that you are thankful for (the ocean, my church, my husband, my bunny, the color blue, etc.). Again, we are taking the focus off of our disappointment.
- Treat yourself. Life can be difficult, and food allergies can make simple things even more difficult, so it is important to take care of yourself. I couldn’t eat the cake at the wedding, so the next day I went to my favorite allergy-friendly bakery, Sensitive Sweets, and got a delicious cupcake! I didn’t get to eat donuts at the staff breakfast, so I picked up an iced tea on my lunch. I had to explain my food allergies to ten different people at the staff holiday party, so I had some introvert time that night and took a bubble bath.
If you are a parent or loved one of someone with food allergies, I encourage you to use this as a way of working through the disappointments with them. If you have a child with food allergies, you can work through these steps together. I would encourage starting the process by allowing your child to vent their feelings and hurts to you. Once they have verbalized these negative feelings, affirm them. Hearing things like, “that must be frustrating,” or “that would make me sad too,” is helpful to hear. Once you have affirmed, move on to the positive steps. If your child missed out on dessert at a birthday party, could you make a treat together? You do not necessarily have to match every single instance with a treat or prize, but any encouragement (even just verbal) is beneficial.
Do you have any other tips or tricks? Leave a comment below!