I am watching and listening to the rain fall and wind gust between claps of thunder right now. The power has flickered off a few times now. My first severe allergic reaction occurred in a storm just like this one five years ago. In order to have an allergy to a food, you must eat it or be exposed to it at least once. The day before my first allergic reaction I tried sugar snap peas for the first time. The next day I couldn't stop eating sugar snap peas. I loved them — for a short time. Then my mouth, lips, and throat started to itch. My eyes swelled up and watered like I was sobbing. I was sneezing, and my nose and eyes were really itchy. I started vomiting right when the power went out during the storm. A year later, I was enjoying Ethel M chocolates — the almond coated toffee variety to be exact. My lips swelled up Angelina Jolie-style and my throat was really itchy. Shortly after this, I went to the allergist, and discovered that I am allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, soy, peas, and environmental allergies I already knew about.
Read about how Mandygm copes with her allergies after the break.
My life changed completely after the diagnosis. Ever since that day, I now have to read the label on every single item of food that I want to eat. Every single label . . . I can't just pick up a piece of food and eat it. I can never just order at a restaurant. I can't eat anything from a bakery, or any baked good I haven't watched be made. I watch people eat delicious looking food while they apologize profusely for eating something so tasty in front of me. I am always in charge of picking restaurants when going out to eat, and sometimes have to walk out of a restaurant if it does not seem "safe" for me to eat at. I have learned how to cook and bake. I have learned to speak up, even though it is sometimes hard to do or remember. I carry an Epi-Pen everywhere I go, and sometimes two. I have learned to use an Epi-Pen the minute I feel the first symptom of an allergic reaction. I have used the Epi-Pen twice — terrified both times.
I remember crying many times the first few weeks after being diagnosed with food allergies. It just didn't seem fair. It seemed like I couldn't eat anything. In the last four years I have tried so many new foods, and found that there are a lot of options for people with food allergies, such as Peanut Free Planet. Most of the time, it does not bother me if people eat desserts in front of me, but every once in a while I have a few bad days of feeling sorry for myself. Yesterday was one of those days. I went to the grocery after running eight miles-a bad time to grocery shop. Everything looked good, but most of the delicious looking items were made on shared equipment with peanuts and tree nuts. After four years, I should've known that none of the options I was looking at were safe, but I always have a little bit of hope that a company will have changed their manufacturing. Today I had a much better day. I know I will always have to read labels, and that I will continue to read labels on foods I know I cannot eat. Someday, maybe I will pick up a package of something like a chocolate fudge brownie and be pleasantly surprised that I can eat it.