25 November 2014

"Sticks & Stones"

by Lauren Pechacek

Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.  - Oh really?!

The words we speak to ourselves can often be the words that hurt us the most.

I remember coming home from the doctor with my list of “can’t have” foods.

I stood in front of pantry with bitter determination, thinking, “how bad could this possibly be?”

Several grocery bags later, an empty pantry, refrigerator, and icebox...I realized that this was bad.
Reading labels opened up a whole new world...my pesky allergens were in EVERYTHING!

What was I going to eat? What was I supposed to do when I craved the things I was allergic too? I had to literally change my mind about good, “healthy food.” These things I could no longer have were not inherently bad or evil, but my body's response to them was. How was I going to change my entire diet...overnight?

I confess, like many adults struggling with food allergies, I did not handle it well.

My “adjustment” was radical. I ate very little in the first few weeks. All of my go-to recipes were no longer safe.
Eating out was definitely not an option. In all of this, I struggled not to just have a little of (the offensive food).

I began telling myself, “I can’t have that, it will kill me.”
Was this a true statement?
Well, yes it was. But in my effort to keep myself safe from my own desires and cravings, cross-contact, and a host of other terrifying scenarios, I began building an unscalable wall around me, in my own mind.

Years ago I made the decision to stop watching CSI, Criminal Minds, and NCIS. I found my mind overwhelmed with fear. I would always drive around a bit before parking my car, envisioning one of the many episodes where a serial killer was hiding behind a bush. Although the possibility of someone attacking me is not impossible, it was certainly not something I needed occupying my thoughts all the time.

So, several years after receiving my “list” a few trips to the hospital and the “list” growing, I had to make another decision. Is having a reaction a possibility? Absolutely. Do I need to be constantly telling myself “That will kill me.” No. The goal is to stay safe and healthy.

While I was staying safe, I was making myself unhealthy. So from freedom to the snares of bondage, I think I have found a balance in my words.

I now say, “I can’t have that, but I can have this.” Now, it is less fear based, and more about my choice, “This makes me sick but this does not.”

I know it is popular to refer to our food allergies as “life-threatening” and there are times and places that is needed. But, not in our heads and our hearts.

I know the reality of my food allergies. I know what it means to use an Epi-Pen, several times over. I also know what it is to live in a self-made hell of fear. Dwelling on all the possibilities of what could go wrong, dealing with the aftermath of reaction when you have been so careful.

I get it. But, instead of surrounding our minds with forty-foot walls fifteen feet deep, topped with barbed-wired and broken glass bottles, maybe we could change it out for a little white picket fence? One you can see over and through. ? One that allows us the you freedom to think creatively about living and flourishing with your food allergies?

What words are you speaking to yourself? Are they helpful or hurtful? Do you feel walled-in? Would you like to stay safe and also be healthy? Maybe consider writing down the words you speak to yourself. What could you change them to?

We can’t change the reality of food allergies, but we can certainly change how we view and interact with them. 

Lauren is owner of Flourish with Food Allergies, a certified AllerCoach firm based out of Houston, Texas. You can personally connect with Lauren at facoachtx@gmail.com

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