Friday, May 22, 2009

Passing the Food Allergy Test of Character

I've changed.

For the better and the worse. Quelle surprise.

For the better, I take better care of myself and have stopped trying to find "normal people food" that works for me. I'm as done with looking for substitutes, I've moved on to enjoying the complex tastes of my organic locally grown veggies and trying to get as much corn-free protein as I can.

For the worse, I test people like I test food. No, I don't use the poison protocol with them, but it gets close. :P (Besides, if I did a patch test with most people, I'd probably react) It is not a fun thing to do and worries me while I do it since I always want them to pass. But, the people challenge isn't as hard as the food challenge test (the Epi-Pen is almost NEVER involved) and you just have to shake it off when someone fails.

In an ethical / moral sense we are always evaluating others, as much as we may like to think that we are not. Is this person trustworthy? Is that guy safe? Is she reliable? The food allergy just amplifies the issue. Allergy parents have this test thrust upon them in a more upfront manner when they are challenged to allow their child to sleepover at a friends house or attend an outing without them. Making the judgment call about the safety of a child must be infinitely more difficult that making that call about your own safety as an adult. I can't begin to imagine the stress. (All my hats are off to you, Allergy Parents!)

As I’ve been writing about lately, I do my best to be upfront, provide disclosure and let people decide for themselves. I hope for the best and try to be prepared for the “ maybe it’s just stress,” “my cousin’s friend’s sister once had food allergies, but she did x, y, and z and she is all better now,” and my all time favorite, “You are not going to get better with that sort of attitude.” As if I caused my food allergies. *sigh* I though we had moved beyond the language of blaming people for diseases. Really, darlings, that is just so 70’s. 1670s.

All semantics and attitude aside, I think there may be another upside to serious food allergies. The food allergy test of character. Those who pass, usually do so with such grace and style that it brings tears to my eyes. Recently I had to do the whole allergy song and dance for a friend I’d been out of touch with for almost a decade, the last time we had worked together I had been the one finding the fun restaurants, now I’m the one doesn’t eat out. I was trying to avoid talking about allergies at all -- just wanted to catch up on the last 10 years, but the idea of getting together for dinner came up. Long story short, as soon as he had gotten a grasp on the corn is in everything issue, and quickly recognized that I’m really not getting enough protein in my diet (I’m working on it, really!) he was brainstorming unique solutions. I was so charmed by this that I may have missed a few great ideas while I was grinning at the phone. Allergy test of character, Gold Star A+.

Went to see a the fabulous Ms. M. in another play last night with my social director, J. While we were chatting during intermission he asked a question about my allergy tag and I realized I never gave him the full brief on my emergency protocol, so out came the Activeaid bag with my Epi-Pens and Benadryl and I did the quick run down. He had some good questions and we got into a bit of a discussion. When I explained about the Epi-Pen, “I can do this myself, but its better for me if someone else does it because I have a hard time overcoming the reflex to pull the needle out before the 10 seconds are up.” J didn’t miss a beat, he calmly replied “10 seconds. I can do that.” I didn’t realize I was stressed about this, till his answer left me almost limp with relief at having someone accept this so matter of factly and be ready to help. Allergy test of character, another A+.

I don’t expect that everyone can step up and say, “You have a reaction when I’m around, give me the Epi-Pen. I’ve got your back.” Or to help me figure out how to solve my food access issues. Mostly, I just hope that people don’t think that I’ve gone crazy and and are willing deal with a few inconveniences in order not to poison me. Let’s try not to kill Christine— it’s a fun game, I play it every day. Poison? Safe? Touch? Don’t touch? Guess!

It’s amazing to have people pass the food allergy test of character with such flying colors. There have also been some spectacular failures, those stories will have to wait for another day. For now, I can happily say that this allergy test involves no needles and usually doesn’t hurt one bit. Kudos to all of you that have aced this one.

I need to find a nice explanation for this and figure out how to tell people that they have an passed the food allergy test of character with an A+, Gold Standard rating . Thoughts?


Cowboy said...

Once again, thank goodness for your organic farmers and grocers. Anyway, I'd rather have a veggie meal in your good company than eat at any corny four-star restaurant.
You rock, Christine!

Christine said...

You have a standing invite to dinner anytime you make it to the lower 48!

Your character has never needed to be tested -- you are always already Gold Standard.

(While I was writing this, I kept having nagging thoughts about Nicomachean Ethics, but ultimately thought it best not to go there since I do want people to read the blog.)


Jason said...

Good read. I'm hoping to get to the 'Not trying to find normal food I can eat.' I'm trying to take a utilitarian view on food, it's a necessity.


Christine said...

Hi Jason,

I looked at your blog -- wow, that's quite a list of allergies.

Have you tried quiona as a side dish grain? I helps with feeling full and I read today that it is a complete protein w/a complete set of amino acids. Go for the pre-rinsed kind for easy cooking and watch out for the pasta, it contains corn.

Be careful out there. It will get easier, but the learning curve is steep at first.

It took me years to get to the point of not caring about food and to stop wanting to eat "normal people food." Nothing tastes as good as being well, and nothing EVER tastes better than breathing. That works for me.

Take care.