As the new year settles in, some of my food allergy anxiety is surfacing. I feel like another year has come and gone and we're still not making the kind of progress I'd like to see. When I think back to over 10 years ago, I was so hopeful when the allergist talked about outgrowing many, if not all, food allergies. I felt so optimistic about a cure right around the corner. I anticipated the necessary life-changes to be temporary.A state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties...A state of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting from the anticipation of a realistic or fantasized threatening event or situation, often impairing physical and psychological functioning. (The Free Dictionary)
Each new year reminds me that time is marching on. Recently, things have even slid backwards a bit as I've now stopped putting a baked egg in cake recipes because it was causing allergic symptoms. It's hard to know what is the right thing to do. We are, however, anticipating this summer and the start of peanut immunotherapy.
Of course there's some anxiety to accompany that as well...sigh!
There have been studies over the years about food allergies and feelings of anxiety. Both the food allergic and their loved ones report feeling worried, nervous and fearful. Children with food allergies are often reluctant to try new foods and report feelings of loneliness due in part to social isolation. Parents and caregivers deal with their own anxieties- is he getting enough nutrients?, is she growing properly?, will he have friends who really understand?, will she get bullied?, will he be able to date and go off to college?
It's perfectly normal to experience anxiety about these things. We need to look for ways to manage the worry- beyond the chocolate bowl, that is! It's time to take a deep breath and take stock. For our family, entering the teen years with food allergies is going to bring a whole host of new issues. I'm looking ahead to give my soon-to-be teenager the tools needed for this next part of the journey. Here's my toolkit:
- 504 Plan- continue to update and ensure that accommodations are being made at school.
- Knowledge- share what I've learned (and continue to learn) with my food allergic child and others to make sure everyone understands the seriousness and the stakes.
- Resources- There are great role models out there like Morgan from Allergic Child and Sloane from Please Don't Pass the Nuts. FARE offers a teen summit and website to help this age group navigate school, friendships and the real world.
- Patience- for family members and friends who "still don't get it". It is hard to truly understand something unless you live with it each day (yup, that's what I'll keep repeating to myself over and over).
- Fearlessness with a twist- we need to travel, eat out and try new foods, using a reasonable amount of caution and common sense.
- Balance- family, friends, social activities, food and non-food events can all co-exist in a steady manner. Maintain a steady course.