I’ve been contemplating my posts for this week for quite some time. What issues should I cover? Who should I reach out to? How can I positively raise awareness for food allergies?
Finally, my husband and I worked together and came up with the following slogan for this week’s posts: “Be Aware. Be Prepared. Don’t Scare.” It’s short, sweet, and covers just about everything.
For information on how to “Be Aware” and “Be Prepared” please take a few minutes to read my previous posts.
For this post, let’s focus on how we, “Don’t Scare.”
I’m going to come clean here, this post is one that is so very near and dear to my heart. And this is why. I’m going to say something wildly unpopular and controversial here…so you might want to sit down.
I don’t think bullying is something only between children with and without food allergies. I think as food allergy caregivers we sometimes unintentionally bully each other. We can scare each other into wrongfully thinking that if I don’t follow your way, or vice versa, we are not doing our best. Making someone think that they aren’t doing everything they can to protect their loved ones from food allergies…that IS scary and heartbreaking!
Let me clarify. At some point, we are all guilty of thinking “our” way (whatever way that may be) is the best way to handle the food allergy life. And although it may very well be the way that works best for OUR family and OUR diagnosis, it doesn’t make it the best for ALL food allergy families. Just because it’s not my way or your way, it doesn’t make it wrong. It just makes it different. Because out of the whole food allergy community and even this great big world, not any two of us are exactly alike.
As a whole, I think every caregiver’s goal is to keep their loved ones safe and happy. It is possible to impart the seriousness of having a life-threatening food allergy to others without making them feel threatened. For example, think of how it would feel to be caring for a child with a diagnosis you knew nothing about. Would you want their caregiver to calmly and carefully walk you through caring for their child or instill in you a fear so great, you feel too immobilized by panic to act?
It is my own personal experience that living in constant fear is really no life at all. Living in a constant state of awareness and vigilance is absolutely necessary. Fear doesn’t have to be. In the beginning of my son’s diagnosis, I was so immobilized by fear that I made myself and those around me sick with worry. It is not a stage of my journey I recall fondly, yet going through it is what eventually bridged the gap to where I am today. Almost ten years into our family’s food allergy journey: I am educated (but continuing to learn new things every day), I am responsible, and I rely heavily on my faith.
I don’t have my head stuck in the sand. I realize it won’t always be a perfect life. But all of these things combined, give me and my family the peace we need to live a positive, common-sense approach to the daily food allergy life…one day at a time.
Here are some of the “Don’t Scare” techniques we employ in my family:
-Literature for kids: “Nutley, the Nut-Free Squirrel” by Stephanie Sorkin is a wonderful picture book for young children learning about food allergies. It can also be used as a learning tool in peer groups.
-Literature for caregivers: My favorite food allergy book for caregivers of all time is The Food Allergy Experience by Dr. Ruchi Gupta. It is not a book of here is what you should do and here is what not to do. It is simply a wonderful compilation of quotes from parents from various places on the food allergy spectrum. No one is condemned or hailed superior. It is a way for caregivers to see the many different sides of living with food allergies. Personally, I found myself in many of the quotes…each at a different stage in my family’s own food allergy journey. I absolutely love this book!
-Fundraising: Participating in the annual FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) Walk is tradition for my family and I! It began as a way to find camaraderie…to find others that knew the same struggles my family struggled with on a day to day basis. Then it morphed into a wonderful opportunity to learn about medical and grocery vendors serving the food allergy community. Now, we walk every single year for the opportunity to meet new friends, find new products and services, and raise money for a cure! There are FARE Walks happening throughout the year all across the nation. To find the event nearest you, click here.
-Support Groups: It is crucial to find credible online and in-person support groups. Even more important is to find positive and credible support groups. Case in point, I once joined a local support group thinking it would be just the thing to get me thinking positively. Do you know that when I left, all I heard was an earful about how hard life would be from this moment forward? Ugh. NOT what I was looking for. Find an uplifting support group and stick with it!
-Thanks: Thank those around you who work so hard to keep your loved one safe from allergens. Thank your teachers, nurses, restaurant servers, Sunday School teachers, doctors, allergists, family, and friends for giving of themselves to protect another.
Thank YOU for all you are doing to raise food allergy awareness and serve the food allergy community! Smile on, friends!