I was all set to write a perky post about discovering my former supervisor has food allergies! I shared the news this morning with her that my son had passed the pea challenge. She, in turn, shared that she has an anaphylactic nut allergy, autoimmune urticaria and idiopathic anaphylaxis. Who knew!
I launched into several minutes on FAHF-2 and how it will benefit her if the researchers are able to bring it to market. I could see her eyes start to glaze and her uneasy glance around the office. Even when you have these conditions — perhaps especially when you have them — you have to be careful talking too much about them. People judge.
The reason I'm a mess, though, is that I sit right next to a guy who died today. No, he didn't die right in front of me. It happened off-site, at a hotel where he was staying overnight. (He commuted from a town some distance away and kept a room at a hotel for nights when he didn't drive home.) He and I had also had conversations about allergies, as his wife has an anaphylactic allergic to milk. He referenced it quite often, brought food from home she couldn't have, wanted to share the pain and frustrations...but also not. There was always a point where he would shut down and stop talking.
And now he's dead. Probably a heart attack.
My thoughts have been so random today. I thought "I should go to the funeral and take her an Epi-Pen. I know he said she wouldn't carry one. Now that she's the only parent, she really needs to have one." I thought "I should send her that box of milk-free chocolates for Valentine's Day that he isn't going to be able to send her now. I'm the only one who knows where to get them."
Relief and shame, all at once. It's what I think adults feel when they recognize someone understands their food allergy. They don't really want to talk about it, but they need to. It's sad to watch the conflict, and to see the self-censorship win almost every time.
I wrote a long, complicated post about the reasons food allergies attract this stigma. I promise that I will edit it and post it at some point. But today, I just wanted to reflect on how sad it is that the stigma is there.
We need to just have those supportive conversations and stop caring so much about what the judgers of the world think. Time isn't limitless.
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