Updated: Jun 30, 2018
It can be a lonely journey that not everyone around you can understand. Here are some resources and some ways to find support.
After we discovered my son's food allergies, I realized that I was feeling alone, overwhelmed, and perhaps even suffering from some PTSD after unexpectedly seeing such a severe allergic reaction for the first time. I recall vividly at the end of an allergist appointment, when I asked if there were any support groups, I received a puzzled look and then just an answer, "not that I know of". If it wasn't for the kindness of some other moms who referred me to other allergy moms they knew, who then directed me to some resources, I don't know what I would've done!
Whether you're new to food allergies or you've been on this journey for quite some time, it's helpful to try to carve out some time for self-care. Managing food allergies on a day-to-day basis is incredibly hard work. The hypervigilance, the constant cooking and cleaning, and trying to create a safe environment when there's essentially deadly poison all around you - it's utterly exhausting. It requires so much pouring out, that if you don't try to carve out some time to refresh and refuel, it will just completely drain you of the energy you need to fully be there for your loved one. Self-care is also a form of caring for those under your care.
Where and how to find support? Here are a few ideas and resources:
Find and connect with other allergy moms or sufferers in your network. Ask around. Chances are your friends, co-workers, teachers, etc. may know someone else who suffers from or cares for someone with food allergies. Many times, those individuals are very willing to connect and share tips and experiences, as being a food allergy family is something only another family that's affected can understand.
Find a therapist. Don't be afraid to seek some professional help. The impact of the life-threatening nature of food allergies is not to be taken lightly; it's tough to feel like you are living so close to the edge all the time. There is often also feelings of unfairness and loneliness to have to process through, along with the burden that can come with this life, not to mention any PTSD from dealing with severe reactions.
Carve out time to take a break and even be normal. It's OK to miss life before food allergies. Find some childcare so that you can get away. Rest. Get a massage. Or go to your favorite restaurant without your loved one who has allergies and indulge in some allergenic foods. It's OK. Don't feel guilty.
Join an online support group. It's worth noting that while these can sometimes also provoke more anxiety, they do provide a forum to connect with other people experiencing the same challenges and can provide some resources and support (just be sure to guard yourself emotionally if need be). No Nuts Moms Group is a large one where sufferers from all types of food allergies are welcome. They also have local offshoots of that group. A simple search within facebook will also reveal other allergy support groups for all types of allergies.
Meditate. Research has shown that mindfulness and meditation can help reduce anxiety and stress levels. If life is too busy, taking a few moments out to pause and practice mindfulness can help recenter and re-energize you. There are an increasing number of guided programs out there, like Headspace, that make it easy and simple, or you can find some examples on Youtube.
Managing food allergies is both physically and emotionally demanding. It's not only OK but also important to take care of yourself.
Note: The above is not a substitute for professional medical advice and is meant to be just one perspective. Always consult and seek the advice of your doctor.