AnxietyChildrenFawn McNeil-HaberFood allergiesParentsTeens

The Normalcy of Food Allergy Anxiety

Mom and son food allergies

(Today’s blog is a little different. A little more personal)

 

I’ve been doing a bit of avoiding of the to do list today.

 

It’s that time of the year for me again.

 

Summer camps, birthday parties, and Epipen renewal.  I knew there was a reason my stomach was churning this morning.

 

Today, I have to make phone calls to talk to strangers about my child’s food allergy needs.  I can already feel my body priming itself for each blow.

 

“We don’t allow outside food.”

“I don’t think we have the ability to accommodate your child’s needs.”

 

But none of this is new.  I have done my research. I always ask for the manager.  I know the questions to ask to start to measure their ability to keep my son safe.   It’s still rough.

 

I can feel my body tense when I make the call.  Will the person be welcoming? Will I just be an inconvenience?  Will they care at all about my family’s needs? My thoughts keep turning over.

 

Mom researching food allergy safe summer campsSummer camp research begins early for me especially if I have to consider someplace new.  There’s that pit in my stomach. I’m not interested in your cooking classes. I’m not yet ready to put my 7 year old on a school bus to camp.  I still need to look you in the eye each morning and remind you that my kid has life threatening allergies. I need you to reassure me that you’ve got his epi is right here and it will be with him all day.  I almost fell in love that one year where the camp counselor said, “I have allergies and an epipen. I understand.” I teared up.

 

That first year giving my 4 year old to a camp counselor, I was nauseous in the bathroom for a chunk of my day.  I had never done that before. I had done my due diligence and felt he was in good hands. But my body was on a different page.  My sympathetic nervous system had kicked in. Fight or flight hit hard and my anxiety was through the roof. No amount of logical self talk brought me back to calm.  I just had to ride out the sensations. Only holding my child safe that evening and hearing about the AMAZING day at summer camp calmed me. The camp was great and it got easier to leave him with each successful day because that is how anxiety works.  It  lessens as you planfully face the challenge. I was good. At least until he outgrew that camp.

 

And here I am as spring approaches doing my due diligence.  Noticing my discomfort at the idea of trusting anyone but making the calls anyway.  

 

Food allergy mom talking on the phoneMy first calls will be about the birthday party.  A teenager answers the phone and gives me the company line… no outside food.  I tell them that I have been their several years in a row and they have made an exception for my family.  You see, I don’t see myself paying money for a party where any of my children have to be left out of the fun.  So I wait and keep my mama bear in check while the teenager finds a manager. Will it be the same manager or do I have to tell my whole story again and leave it to their judgment whether my son is worthy to eat all the same food as his friends at the party.  I can feel my head getting hot. Back on the phone, they tell me they have a record of the previous year and that I am all set. I exhale and finish the transaction.

 

Next, it’s the epipen shortage.  So I call pharmacy after pharmacy inquiring about if they have the life saving medication in stock.  Nope. No. Not for over a month. I glance at my soon to be expiring son’s epipen. I am viscerally aware (in a way I wasn’t 30 minutes ago) that this is a medication that could mean life or death for my child.  I always know that truth. Hearing pharmacy after pharmacy point out the shortage brings it to the forefront of my mind in a way I don’t typically have to think about. There’s that pit in my stomach again. I’m feeling a little agitation in my chest, too.

 

Finally, I’m back to the summer camp calls.  Actually, I’m done for today. Enough thinking about my child’s mortality and the willingness of the world to let him enjoy life the way every child should be allowed to.  Safe. Carefree.

 

Food allergy anxiety thoughts and feelings can easily get away and spiral out of control.  They can take over.

 

For me, I’ll take some slow breaths.  Let the sensations pass. But I know I’ll be a little more emotionally drained today than usual.

 

To learn more about food allergy anxiety check out our four part series:

  1. Food Allergies and Anxiety Series (Part 1 of 4): What does anxiety look like?
  2. Food Allergies and Anxiety (Part 2 of 4): Helping Young Children
  3. Food Allergies and Anxiety (Part 3 of 4): Helping Teens
  4. 8 Tips to Become a Less Stressed Food Allergy Parent (Part 4 of 4)

 

 

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Brave Minds Psychological Services helps children, teens and families overcome severe anxiety, stress, and painful experiences.  We specialize in developing brave minded youth that can move forward despite fears and significant challenges.