My birthday was a couple weeks ago, and I have now been living with food allergies for ten years! No, I’m not ten — that’s just how long I’ve been living with food allergies. Here are my top ten lessons I’ve learned in these past ten years.
1. Your allergies don’t define you
Your allergies shouldn’t, and don’t, define you. Food allergic individuals are so much more than just people with food allergies. You are smart, funny, kind, beautiful, creative; a daughter/son, a sibling, a friend, a student. Lindiwe, from The Allergy Table Blog, created the wonderful campaign of Behind the Allergy. This campaign highlights the people behind their food allergies, and how we are all so much more than our food allergies. You can check that out here.
2. You can live a full life with food allergies
Trust me; your food allergies won’t stop you from living a full life. While it’s still a challenge, it should never limit you from being the awesome person that I know you can be. If there’s a will, there’s always a way.
3. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your safety for others
Say this with me: you should NEVER have to sacrifice your safety for others. If someone offers you something that you can’t eat, don’t feel bad for not eating it. If they don’t understand, they’re not your friend. When people are eating your allergen right next to you on a plane, don’t feel bad kindly asking them to eat it when they’re off the plane. They can live without the food for 8 hours that you have been living without your whole life. Again, don’t sacrifice your safety for others!
4. You are stronger, not weaker
Some people will make jokes about, for example, how people with peanut allergies are just crybabies. But this is far from the truth. With food allergies, you have to learn how to be responsible and careful from a young age. You have to face the things that could kill you everyday. If that isn’t bravery, I don’t know what is.
5. Food allergies aren’t flaws, they’re quirks
Think of any book or movie. Now think of your favorite character from that book or movie. Why are they your favorite? You’ll notice that all of our favorite characters are our favorites because of their quirks. Food allergies are our quirks. They make us, us, and they give us the unique qualities that we all want.
6. Always be prepared
When you have food allergies, you learn very quickly that you need to ALWAYS be prepared. You never know when or where an allergic reaction will happen, so it’s important for us to always carry our epipens. We get to learn that it is better to be over prepared than under prepared. We also learn how to be responsible pretty quickly.
7. Advocating is a skill that you will need, even without food allergies
We live in a world that needs changing. In order to change this world, we need to use the tool that is given to all of us; our voices. Our voices are such powerful tools, but only if we learn how to use them correctly. Having food allergies has given me the chance to be able to learn how to use my voice to advocate for myself and others. Without food allergies, I don’t think I would have ever learned how to advocate. (Also! You can still join my December advocacy challenge. Read more about it here.)
8. You need to stand up for yourself
You can’t have food allergies and not stand up for yourself. You need to stand up for yourself when someone says you are just being picky or unreasonable. You need to stand up for yourself when someone makes a joke about food allergies. Again, even without food allergies, this is such a useful skill to have.
9. Food allergies can be used to your advantage
Here’s a secret: anything can be used to your advantage. You only have to figure out how. With food allergies, they have taught me how to be responsible and how to advocate. It has opened up many opportunities for creating change and making new friends. Food allergies don’t have to be “burdens”. You just have to remember to look at the bright side.
10. You wouldn’t be who you are today without your food allergies
Last but certainly not least, I have learned that food allergies make me who I am. Every experience that I’ve had wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t have food allergies. I wouldn’t be here writing on this blog, or on the FARE Teen Advisory Group, or a part of the wonderful food allergy community. Food allergies have taught me to be empathetic, responsible, and independent. Everything in my life has been influenced by my food allergies, whether for worse or for better. I’m actually glad that I have food allergies, because I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. These are just some of the things that I have learned in my ten years of having food allergies; and let’s just say, it’s definitely been a journey.
What are some things that your food allergies have taught you? Let me know in the comments!