The Ridiculous Things People Say About Food Allergies and How to Deal with It

by Leila on February 22, 2013

Walk a Mile in My Shoes or… Not?

It has been said many times, “No one understands what severe food allergies are like until they experience it themselves.” But, I think it’s more accurate to say that those who don’t understand is because they don’t want to experience it or ever care to. That may seem harsh or mean but if someone cared enough to understand the painful reality of someone else’s path then they would try. 

When my daughter was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies I was prepared to do what was necessary to keep her healthy and safe. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of negativity, judgment and asses out there that would, for whatever reason, had to fling their nasty word poo at us like angry entitled monkeys.

That visual? Freaking priceless.

Thankfully, but unfortunately I suppose, I grew up with tough skin and learned at a young age how to deal with people who just like to be mean and feel entitled. It wasn’t something I expected to use to defend my infant, toddler and now ten year old daughter.

I’ve had minor food allergies and eczema since I was a kid and watched my brother, cousins and relatives deal with similar my entire life. At that time, I thought that defined what food allergies were because that was the extend of my experience. No one had life threatening food allergies in my family and I hadn’t heard of an EpiPen until my daughter was a month old. No one I knew could possibly die from anaphylaxis shock if they ate the wrong food… everyone just got uncomfortable when they ate something they shouldn’t have and benadryl fixed it.

So, I get the not understanding something when you don’t experience it first hand. But, is that a valid reason or just an empty excuse to just not care? And regardless of the not knowing or not understanding… why are some people so vile? Why can’t they just be cool or leave it be?

These are not the shoes you expected but you learn to walk in the just the same…

When your life goes from having a vague understanding of something to living the truth of it, everything changes and you don’t usually have time to try to adjust. I wish my daughter did not have the hurdles she constantly faces but it has become a source of strength, resources, humor (we have to laugh about it) and inspiration…

It also became a source of WTF moments and frustrations when it comes to other people and their opinions.

Changing our diet and lifestyle so that it was safe for her seemed like a logical step. Certain foods can kill her so keep those foods away. Simple for us, however, a source of annoyance, judgment and anger for others.

Some of you may be wondering why my daughter’s food allergies are a source of negativity for anyone? Well, I’m still trying to figure that out and I probably won’t ever understand it completely.

I spent many years being angry and resentful towards others who were so wrapped up in their own selfish worlds that they could not have sympathy or compassion for a girl who could die from their death cupcakes. I just accept it now. Okay, I accept it, shake my head and want to shake them but I won’t waste my time on them. No one will listen to what I have to say if they aren’t even willing to hear something other than their own voice.

I won’t just take it from them and I won’t stop advocating for my kids. I have just reached a point where I accept that some people just do not get it or do not want to. This holds true with most topics for people on opposing points of views but to prevent me from getting ranty I will just stay on point with the food allergy thing.

Did you really just say that?!

I have heard ridiculous accusations since becoming a mother of a kid who has life threatening food allergies. I never pretend to be coy in these matters and I’m sure I could handle things better. If someone has the nerve to press my mama bear buttons when it comes to my children or the people I love there is little room to backtrack. On the other hand I do have a deep, yet annoying, understanding that some people just don’t get it and I try to educate rather than berate.

I’ve mentioned on twitter and facebook some of the insanity that people have said and was shocked at how many of my ninjas were shocked at anyone saying these things. It’s become such a sad expected response that when it’s not an issue I’m pleasantly surprised.

So, I decided to make a little list. I’m not going to go into details on who said it or what I said… just some internal monologue for kicks. Yes, these things have been said to me or about us and many of which were said more than once.

People are so rad.

“There is no such thing as food allergies”Yes, no such thing. There also isn’t a clue in your pea-head.

“No one can die from food allergies”Absolutely, tell that to the grieving parents, widows and siblings who have lost someone to anaphylaxis shock.

“What did you do when you were pregnant to make her like this”All I can say to this is that the visuals inside my head were like a scene from Matrix, Game of Thrones and Dragonball Z combined.

“You just need to toughen her up with the food she is allergic to and give her more of it”Nothing says ‘toughening up’ like angioedema, urticaria and anaphylaxis. People who claim this toughening up nonsense never know what those three words mean and that always proves my point.

“She is making it up for attention” - … What is wrong with people?

“How do you deal with it?”This one isn’t so bad depending on the situation but I felt it should be mentioned. How do you deal with a child who doesn’t want to go to sleep? A picky eater? A cold? A sudden change of plans? A restaurant not serving your favorite meal anymore? You just do and some handle it better than others. I don’t handle everything the best that I could but I try damn hard to.

“It’s not fair to XYZ to have to go without these things because of her”Apply this to me, siblings, my family, her classmates… It is said or implied many ways and often. Sometimes it’s much more pointed and accusatory while others it’s honestly innocent or purposely passive aggressive. When it comes down to it, I feel, the priority goes to the person who could lose their LIFE over a decision where others could just be inconvenienced. If it wasn’t my kid who was teetering on that death line the answer would still be the same. Life is always more important than inconvenience.

“Why would you want to have more children who could end up like her?”I’ve never gotten over this one and probably never will. I hope all my children and the children in our lives “end up like her”. She is kind, strong, funny, social, outgoing, polite and a bit insane (in a good way). Sure, she can be lazy, argumentative, bold and tries to go against me at times… because she is a ten year old going on diva. My daughter isn’t “the allergy kid” or “the one with the autoimmune disease” and never “the sick kid”… she is just my kid. I love her endlessly and unconditionally and when she damages my calm I want to rip my hair out just the same. Yes, it had and has crossed my mind many times what the roll of the dice could be if I had another and I just look at my son who has mild food allergies, mild asthma and mild insanity. He is insane because of his personality not because of an illness. I could have another who could be in his shoes, hers, neither or worse. Regardless, does that mean I shouldn’t raise amazing people or expand my family because there might be a health hurdle or two? If so then how come these same people with that judgmental tone aren’t evaluating their genetic lines and choosing not to breed because of a possible genetic issue? If I birthed another child who had the same, or worse, health hurdles as my ten year old princess of doom, then, we would simply be more prepared. If I knew everything I did then, that I know now, I would have saved myself a lot of sleepless night, tears and gray hairs.

“Don’t you miss (insert food allergen here)”I would miss her more.

“Isn’t it hard that she isn’t a normal kid?”If you look at her grades, the mess she tries to hide in her closet, her collection of knick knacks and the music she insists on torturing me with then yes, she is exactly like every other kid. If you look at her health records, diet, supplements and medication then no… I guess not. When she was an infant everyone thought it would be too hard to travel with her. We have been to or through half the states in the US. It was assumed she would not be able to go to school, participate in activities or have a ‘normal’ social life… well, she goes to school (not without hurdles), she is involved in whatever activities she wants (yes, I have to manage, lead or be active in the most of the time) and she has more awesome friends than we are able to juggle on her social calendar. She is a normal kid with some extra stuff thrown in.

Damn them all! Or Damn the Man and Save the Empire!

I could talk to every judgmental, opinionated or downright malicious person who has ever uttered a word of judgment on my daughter or I and explain, in detail, with doctor’s records and proof of everything we go through… but it wouldn’t make a difference. Yes, it’s draining and it sucks to have to deal with so much of it. It hurts, it damages and it causes massive problems. I can’t change the fact that those people will always be there. Some may stop their negativity but there will always be more.

All I can do, and all I can teach her to do, is accept that there are people who will support, understand and accept her and there are those that won’t. We can’t change those that won’t because they don’t want to be anything other than righteous and set in their ways… and that is fine. Let them be. No matter how much proof, struggles or inspiring moments someone won’t see the truth of it if they don’t want to. We can’t waste our time on people who, in the end, won’t reciprocate positives in our lives and only weigh us down. We have to accept them and move forward.

There are exceptions to the rules, of course, and my blog has been a seed for that growth. I’ve had countless emails and messages from those that have been changed or inspired because of what we share and those are moments I absolutely relish.

And on the other hand I have had my fair share of flaming, anger, drama and weirdness. Eh, I prefer to delete those and look at the awesomeness… and yes, sometimes laugh at it. Okay, I laugh at the ridiculousness a lot and make fun of it with my friends. It’s how I deal with things… and it makes me laugh.

I would rather be laughing than fighting pointless battles in a pissing contest of who is right and who is a jackass. I also want my kids to learn to let those things go and be happy no matter what. I will come in and lay a can of whoop ass on the table if I need to in order to protect my kids… but the small battles? It’s just not worth the energy spent. They can either choose to accept and be a positive part of things or kick rocks.

If you find yourself dealing with similar situations, and not just with food allergies, with anything. Just remember, your life is your choice and no one can control that. They can try, but in the end, how you deal with every situation and how you resolve them are up to you. There is a lot of negativity, judgment and jerks in the world and nothing will change that. Just sidestep it, don’t get sucked in. Let it roll off your shoulders the best you can and keep moving forward to find your happiness because it won’t be defined by someone else’s bitterness or judgments.

Even I lose sight of that sometimes and get weighed down by it. Then, I need a reality check and a kick in the ass and remember that life truly is too short to be miserable. I’d rather be laughing, making the most of it and getting through it.

About Leila DontSpeakWhinese

Leila, aka The Ninja, is the advocate for all things not whining. Parenting is fun when everyone stops b*tching! She is the Mom of a big blended family of four awesome kids. They ninja kick through life together. Oh and she is a total jackass.

Comments

  1. _themaven says:

    You forgot “So what happens if she eats XYZ? A small amount won’t really hurt her”

  2. arbinevh says:

    “Keep moving forward to find your happiness because it won’t be defined by someone else’s bitterness or judgments.” You inspire me so much. And I love Empire Records. :)

  3. somedayilllearn says:

    Seriously, thank you for posting this! This is really a small thing in comparison, I’m sure, but I can relate…my breastfeeding son is intolerant to dairy and gluten, among other things. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been asked what I did differently with this pregnancy to “make him this way” and why I don’t give up on breastfeeding and give him formula so that other people don’t have to be inconvenienced with our special dietary needs. Or why I don’t force-feed him those things to “toughen him up.” I tell them they’re welcome to spend hours in the emergency room with my hive-covered, uncontrollably wailing infant if they feel so inclined. *bangs head on wall*

  4. Ashley Sears says:

    Girl, I could hug you! My daughter has severe allergies as well, which have developed from eczema to extremely severe psoriasis. We are always dealing with idiots that seem to think it’s ok to peel the cheese off of a sandwich if they mess up her order in a restaurant, and my favorite are the grown adults that have asked her “what is wrong with your face?” directly to her. (Because of the psoriasis on her face)

    It’s knowing there are moms like you out there that helps keep me sane. Keep fighting the good fight girl!
    Ashley Sears recently posted..Comment on Make Your Own Kitchen Herb Garden by Ashley SearsMy Profile

    1. Leila says:

      You have no idea how much this means to me! Thank you for finding me and reaching out!!

      I’m so sorry you and your daughter deal with these things. People are such idiots and the way they can be with kids who have special health needs makes my blood boil. How do you maintain if people ask that?! I’ve had my fair share of “crazy mom” moments where I have gone off on people for being absolute tools. Sadly, it usually doesn’t change anything. People are so consumed by their own little bubbles that they care little about the world around them.

      We need more Moms like us in the world who fight the good fight and -get- it. We have to weed through a lot but we are out there :)

  5. Rachelle says:

    I have had allergies my whole life, milk eggs and peanuts. The last one can cause anaphylaxis. There is even a whole aisle in every grocery store that I just don’t bother going down and I have to read the ingredients in everything. I am fortunate to have people around me who care and try their best to make things I can eat but I am always wary because I know anyone can make a mistake.
    One time I went to a restaurant with a couple of my aunts and my mom. The waitress insisted that the frozen dessert had no dairy in it yet I still had a reaction and had to take some benedryl. I have learned to avoid desserts from unknown sources unless its just a plain fruit salad or jello cubes.

  6. michelle says:

    My child happens to be allergic to online blogging. In fact she is only allergic to “your” blogs specifically. It is a life-threatening allergy that I don’t expect you to understand. I know it may be an inconvenience to you because you really enjoy blogging, but please stop because I fear for my child’s life. I hope you show some empathy because we both have children with allergies.

    1. Leila says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope she grows out of it… but they say avoidance is the best way to control allergies. Unfortunately, my severe allergy to asshats isn’t so easy to avoid since there are just so many of you.
      Leila recently posted..Life should never be too busy to appreciate moments with our kidsMy Profile

  7. Mrs Smith says:

    “Don’t you miss (insert food allergen here)” – I would miss her more.
    Thank you for that^^^^ – I breastfeed my son who has dairy and egg allergies, and so I have been dairy and egg free for about two years now. Yes I would love a slice of pizza or an ice cream sundae. But having my son be safe and healthy is far more important than that two-second taste of food. He is worth every moment, and while I sometimes wish he didn’t have the allergies, I am grateful for who he is. No other version of him would quite compare.

  8. Dawn says:

    I don’t have a child with food allergies, but I did have a child in the daycare I worked at have her first reaction to peanuts and had to call 911. This is 12 years ago now- but it was terrifying and not even my child. People truly are stupid and selfish when it comes to food allergies!

  9. Damon says:

    Whenever I read your posts about food allergies, it always feels so lonely. Probably because you seem like such a nice person, and don’t deserve to be faced with such challenges from the people around you.

    I imagine it’s cathartic for you, and I hope our online solidarity is meaningful. That said, I would love to see a post sometime talking about the most awesome people in your life when it comes to food allergies. The friend who’s unwaveringly supportive? The family member who made a turn from confusion towards boundless sympathy? (Maybe I already missed this post. I should dig around.)

    Anyway, just a selfish reader hoping there are also lots of good apples surrounding you.

    And with all that said, there’s still so much good humor in your post and many of these points are amazing. My favorites in particular are the last two.

    ” ‘Don’t you miss (insert food allergen here)’ – I would miss her more.”
    “If you look at her grades, the mess she tries to hide in her closet, her collection of knick knacks and the music she insists on torturing me with then yes, she is exactly like every other kid.”

    Genuinely touching.

    And finally, *shudder* I do NOT want to live in a world with human-sized, angry, poo-flinging monkeys!

    Thanks for another good read, Leila.
    Damon recently posted..Book Review: Quiet by Susan CainMy Profile

  10. Maya says:

    “All I can say to this is that the visuals inside my head were like a scene from Matrix, Game of Thrones and Dragonball Z combined.” –this totally made me laugh out loud.

    Its nice to read the thoughts of a mama who gets it…

    thank you.
    Maya recently posted..Are Adults With Food Allergies or People With Gluten Intolerance Disabled?My Profile

  11. Laura says:

    Thank you for this. My child is allergic to sesame seeds and tree nuts. (Her peanut allergy seems to have gone away — we’ve been advised to introduce PB to her!)

    Last year, at an annual cookie party, hosted by a friend, I sent out a general e-mail to all the guests, requesting nut-free cookies be baked this year. All the guests who responded did so with understanding. The host, however, found my public request to be offensive. She said that she “couldn’t imagine Christmas cookies without nuts.” As it turned out, our daughter was fine at the party and never touched any nuts. (She was almost 3 at the time.) Now I really don’t feel like letting my daughter go this year. The host of this annual event is a sweet and kind and considerate person. I was, honestly, really shocked by her response. I think she felt like I was over-stepping my bounds as a guest to her party by e-mailing all the guests before talking it over with her first. And we did, subsequently, have a long phone conversation about this. However, I still feel like this was inconsiderate of her. She happens to HATE HATE bananas. (She is not allergic, but the smell of them makes her ill.) When I have her over, I wouldn’t dream of making anything with bananas, and if I have some on the counter, I ask her if they are bothering her, and/or I move them away or freeze them. All she has is an aversion, yet, my daughter could die if her ingested tree nuts or sesame seeds. Anyway… not sure what we’ll do this year… Thanks for your blog!

  12. I love this post. My niece is peanut allergic and every time I hear some jackass saying that they wish peanut allergic kids would just homeschool so our school could allow nuts, I want to physically harm them.
    We never, ever, ever put the knife into the jam after it’s been in peanut butter. In case she comes over some day (not likely) and asks for a sunbutter and jam sandwich (more likely).
    Seriously, people. Love is so much more important than your ignorance. Try some. You’ll like it.
    Naptimewriting recently posted..A truer course to steerMy Profile

  13. Jennifer says:

    The “just keep your peanut kid home so we can have Nutter Butters in our classroom” makes me furious. There are SO MANY kids who have reactions to peanut who were never previously diagnosed as allergic. This is why we are fighting so hard for stock epi in our schools. Peanut allergies can be life-threatening and with so many alternatives, keeping public places peanut- and tree-nut free just seems like a no-brainer.

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