I'll admit it. I still live at home. If you have multiple food allergies or health issues and are older than the social standard, you owe no one an apology for this. I'm going to tell you why.
|People with extreme food sensitivities develop keen observation skills kind of like a telescope.|
You worry about what your next meal will be. You cannot eat in any food court or grab a bite from the deli across the street because everything is cross contaminated. You worry about what people are touching that might contain your allergen and you worry about every surface you have to touch. To do simple things like putting gas in your car, you might need to wear nitrile gloves because your hands are full of cuts and open scabs from itching them so badly the night before, you cried yourself to sleep. With all of your allergies, you might have noticed a contact allergic reaction to paper money due to your multiple environmental and food allergens or coin money because of the nickel content. Maybe you can't even breathe around it because you are that sensitive to the ink it is printed with. If you have a severe or anaphylactic reaction to foods, you have to worry about the air you breathe and what people are eating within a ten foot radius away from you and if it creates crumbs or dust particles that you can breathe in. I used to worry about this while riding the LIRR to work in the city; there were a few times I had to move to a different train car because someone was eating something peanut-based nearby. Or maybe you have a very valid fear of whether they might try to hug or kiss you after eating your allergen to simply say hello. This actually happened to me a few years ago.
One of my flirtatious coworkers saw me walking in from the parking lot and was holding a granola bar he was chomping on before he hugged and kissed me on the cheek. It just happened all too quickly for me to prevent it and I immediately felt my cheek getting itchy and I must have looked crazy as I'm sure my voice was cracking and trembling from nerves.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but are those peanuts?" I asked, pointing at the bar.
Another time, I was picking up my Epi-Pen and allergy medications at a nearby popular pharmacy. I'm the next in line and I happen to look up to see the girl who looked in her 20s (pharmacist?) handling medications and stapling possibly my package finishing up the last two inches of a Snickers bar. I kid you not.
The sweet older lady who was ringing up customers was on the phone, so I motioned to her and smiled to let her know I needed her attention asap. She hung up the phone and with a shaky, serious tone I said (rather calmly, might I add, given the severity of this situation) "That girl is eating a peanut butter Snickers bar and is putting together my medications. I have the peanut allergy."
With those five magic words, she swept up the bags, removed the contents and put them in new bags.
"So what do you do for money?"
I used to run from that question because there were just too many possible answers and its such a long story.
I used to love doing makeup, but I realized painting my art on canvas and freelance writing is much safer for me than working as a makeup artist or doing office work somewhere else.
For a few years I also worked as a promotional model doing wine and liquor tastings at various liquor stores and special events. I had to get out of that because schedules were set every week prior to the promotion. Allergic reactions from foods or the environment can happen at any time and there was no way to possibly back out of a promotion within 24 hours. Covering up the soy or environmental reactions that showed up on my face from time to time was a feat in itself; Vaseline and concealer were my best friends. I had to literally peel off one layer of skin around my lips before applying anything because the skin was flaking off so badly. Being self-conscious because of itchy peeling skin around my lips along with trying to appear awake while meeting new clients and promoting high-end wines on a cocktail of 25mg of hydroxyzine and a double-espresso from Starbucks was making me hate my life. I needed something freelance so that I could call out on a moment's notice since my health is so fragile.
I had mandatory makeup trainings and certifications in Manhattan for several days where they served snacks throughout the programs. One day I went for a training for one particular high-end cosmetics line being sold in our store. During our fifteen minute break, I went to the bathroom only to come back to a room permeated with the smell of peanuts. My anxiety went through the roof and I went to the snack and coffee tables to see a large platter of a sticky-looking, spiced up pile of peanuts sitting there and my heart felt like it dropped to my stomach. I ran over to the girl next to me whom I had befriended during the program who had just sat down with her plate of my lethal conglomerate Kryptonite, "Can you do me a huge favor and let me know if those are peanuts?"
I learned the hard way that I had to have my store manager email the powers that be about my severe allergy so that no peanuts or tree-nuts were served. Even when she did this, they served mini candies and chocolate bars, including peanut Snickers! Observation equals survival, because had I not seen one of the trainers putting them into baskets in the middle of each table, I would not have been able to let her know I have an extreme peanut allergy that will cause hives and asthma (and possibly worse) just from inhalation in a closed space.
Almost every job I've held has a food allergy tale of extreme anxiety, suffering and feeling completely alone. I've gone home numerous times for severe reactions from makeup or contact dermatitis to soy derivatives, nut derivatives, nickel, dimethicone, lanolin and many other silicone derivatives.
The depression and anxiety faced by those with severe food allergies, celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance is not normal and should not be treated as such. My personal opinion is that many people who are in similar boats and situations as me probably deal with similar mental anguish and pain. I have been using steroid creams and topical medications since I was a child and I am currently in my early 30s. In my teens, my family used to tell me to cut down my use of steroid creams because it will make me crazy. If my constantly itchy skin didn't do it first, I thought. There is a good chance that all the steroids I've been on throughout my life have worsened my anxiety, depression and symptoms of personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder. I believe that my food and environmental sensitivities also make me emotionally sensitive. I'm not afraid to admit it anymore because once again, only I can know what I go through on a daily basis and I think anyone who traveled the roads I did would have faced similar issues.