Fear. It’s a debilitating feeling we are all familiar with. And if you’re a parent or caregiver to someone other than yourself, you know what it’s like to fear for others as well.
This week I’ve watched my children go back to school, contemplating the usual worries. What if I don’t know anyone in my class? What if I can’t find my classroom? What if I don’t have a good teacher? What if I can’t find anyone to eat lunch with?
Those with special situations such as asthma and food allergies often experience additional worries. What if someone sits next to me that’s eating peanut butter? What if I have an asthma attack at school? What if someone bullies me because of my food allergy?
I have a love hate relationship with what if questions. My husband says I should make a career out of them. I’m a planner so I love to think about them, but I hate that I feel the need to. Honestly, if I don’t make myself simply be still, I am the queen of worry. No really.
Did you notice the transition of the above paragraphs? I went from talking about children’s back to school worries to discussing my worries. Interesting.
The transition, although unplanned, illustrates my point beautifully.
You Are Being Watched
As a parent, I often internalize my children’s fears because I hurt for them. As children, they often internalize my fears because they sense my emotional stress and feel discord.
- Do you fill out all your son’s back to school allergy forms for school with deep sighs and a furrowed brow of concentration? How must that look to him? How does it make him feel?
- Do you go into crisis mode when she talks about the class field trip coming up? How must that look to her? How does it make her feel?
- Do you hover with your son’s asthma inhaler at his soccer game so much that you never really see him play? How must that look to him? How does it make him feel?
If you are guilty of any of these, welcome. Pull up a chair right next to me. You are not alone!
Don’t believe me? Check out this outstanding article “When Allergies Make You: Afraid of Food” by Jennifer Van Evra from Allergic Living. I absolutely love Dr. Gordon Cochrane’s quote on page three about the consequences of over-protecting our children. It’s a sentiment I often need to remind myself of.
How Fear Finds Us
In the last month, I have seen approximately five stories about individuals dying from asthma complications, a bee sting, ingestion of a food allergen, and more. As a parent, especially as a parent of a child with asthma and food allergies, my heart skips a beat or two as I read these stories and think of my own precious babies. My stomach clenches. I can feel the blood pumping through my veins with a surge of adrenaline. Fear has paid me a visit…and is thinking about moving in.
These stories are heartbreaking in ways so gut-wrenching that most of us simply cannot even imagine. So many affected by these kind of situations have great resilience and strength which they gracefully use to educate others with a life-saving message. There are no words capable of describing how truly amazing and selfless these individuals are.
But all too often, I not only hear the crucial life-saving message, but store it away in the corner of my brain to eat at me day after day after day after day. When I replay it over and over daily in my brain, it manifests itself in my actions and it creates new worries and fear that can be all too readily observed in the lines of my face…even by a child. Fear takes over.
Older children already online and active on social media may see these stories on their own, and so often process them alone. If we experience worry for our children, imagine the worry they must feel themselves when the issue affects THEIR own health. Fear takes over.
Personal witness to or experience of an allergic reaction and/or asthma attack doesn’t even give you to time to realize Fear is in the room. The experience itself is extremely stressful for the individual as well as onlookers and often paves the way for residual fear and anxiety…and understandably so.
We must pay tribute to tragic loss of life and loved ones’ messages that can save lives. We must be respectful and understanding of those who have encountered a life-threatening and sometimes near-death experience. We must learn from these situations and evaluate our own circumstances. Then we must move on and tell fear it is no longer welcome here so we can get on with life.
Knowing that you need to send fear packing is the easy part. Doing it can be the hard part.
Dealing with fear is not a one-size fits all solution, but you can find a solution that works for you.
- For myself, I lean heavily on my faith in God. He sustains me and is my rock and shield when I’m too overwhelmed to take that step of moving forward. And for what it’s worth, it’s something I have to remind myself of every day…even after 10 years on this journey.
- Sometimes a cup of hot coffee with a close friend that offers the amazing gift of listening (and maybe a shoulder to cry on) can do wonders for the soul.
- Consulting a licensed physician and/or counselor and discussing your anxiety, can be a source of comfort.
Wishing you peace and comfort, from one food allergy mom to another.