I'm here to talk about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly when it comes to food allergies in middle school.
I am an 11 year old girl just like any other ordinary tween. Only I'm extraordinary because my body has a super power! It knows how to identify and "protect" me by attacking and karate chopping specific food proteins (egg, peanut, various nuts) traveling through my digestive system. Doctors like to simplify my amazing superpower by calling it anaphylaxis -- I know, not nearly as cool as calling it a superpower.
However, my allergies don't define who I am. They are just a few ingredients in the glorious recipe that makes me, ME! There's so much more to me. My favorite sport is horseback riding (one of the few sports that thank goodness doesn't include eating food - I mean what horse eats a peanut butter sandwich or eggs for lunch?). My favorite animal is an adorable pony I ride named Butter (good thing I'm not anaphylactic to dairy - that would be ironic). My sister introduced me to hip hop dance last year, and it's growing on me as a secondary hobby. (Another great sport that doesn't involve food or team snacks AND I have a considerate and super cool hip hop teacher who looks out for me. She even got me my own special cookies at the last dance show). I feel very blessed to have an extremely loving and caring family. My mom and younger sister are my best friends. My dad is one of the funniest people I know, minus some super annoying jokes. I always feel like my family has my back when it comes to my food allergies. My sister will scream at anyone who comes within a 10 foot radius of me with an egg :)~
I have always loved writing and decided to start blogging yesterday after a rough start to 6th Grade. I am here to share my story and hope my blog can inspire or educate others on what it's like to be a middle schooler with food allergies. So share away! Share with your teachers, friends, coaches, and even family. Feel free to follow and comment about your own personal experiences when it comes to food allergies, it will help me come up with future ideas of what to post about. It's nice to know we're not alone.
So What's It Really Like To Be A Middle Schooler With A Food Allergy?
Every year poses new challenges when you have food allergies, but this year took me over some bumps and lumps, twists and turns, hurdles I didn't expect. Everyone has hurdles in life, don't get me wrong. That's a part of life. However, most people jump over their hurdles one foot in front of the other without much thought, but when you have food allergies it's sometimes like trying to jump with your shoelaces tied together in one big giant knot. Most the time your peers, teachers, and even your principal don't understand this, and they expect you to jump over your hurdles in the same way as everyone else.
But kids with anaphylactic food allergies have a different set of hurdles to tackle, a different mindset and approach - see, certain foods can potentially kill us - that's right, let's just put it out there as we see it. So whenever there is an activity that involves food, I see a giant hurdle ahead of me made out of donuts. A million sirens go off in my head - birthday celebrations, class projects involving food, teachers eating snacks, fellow students eating lunch, donuts served after mass - most kids don't have to give these different occasions any thought whatsoever. But let me explain how my brain sees it when I see unknown or the offending food at school.
Welcome Into My Brain!
- Does it have egg in it? (quickly assessing the situation - oh no! It's mayonnaise - danger, danger, danger!)
- Are they dribbling it everywhere? (I then proceed to carefully navigate over, or preferably around, the area if they happened to dribble as I don't want anything to get accidentally stuck to the bottom of my shoe! Heck no! Because then it might follow me home and stick in the car!
- Is it all over their hands? Are they going to wash their hands? (Great, now I am going to have to use my sleeve to turn on the water at the bathroom sink - oh crap! I have short sleeves on! Good thing God gave me an elbow)
- What door handle are they touching next? (I pull my sleeve over my hand to open the door if I am lucky enough to be wearing a long sleeve)
- Are they going to touch my pen? (I run and quickly put my pens away and anything else on my desk that they may TOUCH)
- Now where are they going with those contaminated hands? (Great, now I have to monitor the situation until they leave the classroom)
Anaphylaxis happens when your immune system (specifically IgE antibodies) attacks a food protein. This process releases chemicals that cause an allergic reaction that can make you feel itchy, or worse, cause your throat to close and give you trouble breathing, or even drop your blood pressure to the point that you pass out. Some kids are even more highly sensitive to a food and even breathing it in or having it touch their skin can trigger a reaction. When a severe enough reaction catches the attention of a teacher, you will inevitably be stabbed by an epi-pen. Who wants that to happen in school?! I sure don't.
So my brain is doing its job. It's keeping me safe. I mean would you swim across a lagoon full of hungry sharks? Your heart would start beating a little faster and you might even feel a little queasy in your stomach. Your brain would sound the alarms when you see 100 shark fins thrashing in the water and tell you not to jump in and to walk around it. Your brain is doing its job to keep you alive just like my brain does when it sees eggs.