I can tell autumn is here because the leaves are changing. They are turning from green to brown and red. Falling to the ground they are creating that carpet I used to love as a child, the one that you can walk through and hear. That crunch and crackle that would echo around the pavement as I walked to school.
Now, just the simple sound can transport me back to those days. That and the silvering of the grass. When you get up early and look across the fields and the grass has such a heavy dew that it shines silver in the sun. Those are my autumn days.
In the past though I would have walked and I’d not have felt fear. My own fragile form would not have entered my mind. Yet, now, it fills me with worry. You see I’m not as strong as I think I am. I wish I were and I am trying to get there.
But sometimes I slip…
I push myself beyond what I can do. I mean I ought to do more, other people do…
When I was a child my mum was told that I ought to be kept in an almost sterile environment. I was allergic to dust, animals, birds, wool, flowers, trees, grass… Basically life. My mum took this in her stride and refused.
Instead I was introduced to the world slowly. I was allowed to work at a dog kennels. I had rabbits and cats and a dog. I was allowed to live. And yes, I used to have an inhaler to help me at the worst times, but I acclimatised.
So that by the time I hit adulthood I was able to do what I wanted without too much of a reaction. Then I hit my early thirties. I started to nap too much. I had a hormone imbalance. I lost weight and it helped but still I slept.
I was given a barrage of tests. I was told I was allergic, but there was something else.
“We don’t know what it is,” the doctor had said. “But it is as if your body is combating the flu everyday.”
That was why I slept.
Just over a year ago I ate a handful of nuts and stopped breathing. Instant anaphylaxis… There is was a tree nut allergy.
No more nuts, which meant no more chocolate or fresh bread… And then I started to react to palm oil… Do you know that stuff is in everything? So my diet became more restricted. Take today as an example – I have had to make a batch of digestive biscuits because I can’t eat bought ones… My diet has become difficult.
But, and this is huge, I don’t nap in the day. I am not so tired that I wobble just walking from my bedroom to the kitchen. I’m good.
Except that sometimes I get a reaction. Sometimes I eat out and the restaurant or bar isn’t as vigilant as I hoped it would be. So far it has been only traces. I swell up around my throat and chin. My tongue gets cut on my own teeth as it gets too big, but I don’t stop breathing. I take the pills and wait for forty eight hours for the all clear.
I can react up to forty eight hours after I’ve had a reaction.
But it is as if someone has flipped a switch. I am back to that girl who needed to nap. I can feel the tiredness slip over me like a familiar blanket. And I hate it. And I refuse to give in. Instead, I carry on. And that is where I slip up.
You see, I’m not that strong. I try to be, but I’m not. So as I push through everything and my body and immune system wavers.
What happens? Well, I find myself full of cold, or tonsillitis or something. I’m not looking for pity, but I am trying to find my own limits. What is too much? When can I stop before I push myself into an illness?
I know I will work it out. And hopefully before I get another cold, because I hate them. And yes, I am sitting here in the dark unable to sleep because I have a cold. I pushed myself too hard… Why can I never find my own limits?
I wish I could explain to the places I eat that for me their place of business is a game of Russian roulette. That their tired smile and glance at the ingredients list is not enough. I could die… I want them to take heed and do it carefully. To tell the chef and for him to worry. Some places are wonderful. In those places the owner will come to the table and reassure me that everything will be fine. That the chef knows and is cooking everything separately. But it is those places who do not care…
Ah… you say, it’s the cheaper places…
Except is isn’t. Some of the worst are the most expensive. It is almost as if they feel the places ego will keep them safe. That I won’t die because it would be unheard of.
Every year there are 20 deaths from anaphylaxis in the UK (from NHS data)… not all are food allergies. But I have no wish to be one of those 20.
Why not stop eating out?
Really? Is that what I must do? Become a hermit or sit and watch others? No, that is something I refuse. And anyway for every bad restaurant there are five good ones. I just have to play a little roulette. I like to eat out… I love to laugh with friends over a good meal… And I don’t want to give it up.
So if you have a food allergy and want to know where to eat locally let me know and I’ll tell you where I felt safe. Until then I’m going to give myself a break and let my body recover from the last ‘trace’ reaction… And the cold that has happened because of the stress.