When I was growing up, everything used to embarrass, worry or panic me. Everything from my mum picking me up from school to people looking at me when I walked down the street. As an adult reading this, I can imagine that right now you probably want to just call a counsellor to talk to me about my issues. As a child/teen reading this, i’m sure you’ll react completely differently, especially if you have an allergy. As every single teen in the entire world knows, all you want to do in life is fit in and be normal. Now, as a teen with a nut allergy, I instantly had a footnote next to my personality that would tell people i’m not quite normal because i have this “condition”. I truly believe that my paranoia and anxiety about fitting in and being embarrassed while I was growing up, stemmed from eating at school.
Right now i’m sure you’re thinking, “How on Earth could eating at school give you such anxiety and worries?”. Well it did, and to be honest it’s simple really. The first moment that I became aware of my allergy and the affect that it would have on my life was when I was at school, eating. The first time I ever thought I was different from ‘normal’ was when I was eating my lunch in primary school while everyone else was eating theirs. I even remember thinking when I was probably 8 or 9 years old, how come they can eat school dinners and I have to eat packed lunches. Well, that’s when it must have dawned on me like an epiphany when I thought “Hmmm….what’s the difference between me and everyone else at school?” with the answer of course being that I had an allergy.
Even from an early age, I used to panic and worry about fitting in and being normal and to be honest the only time it really affected me before I was about 13 years old, was when I used to eat my school dinners. That was the only time that I used to feel abnormal and that something was wrong with me. Well something wasn’t wrong with me. All that was different was that I couldn’t eat nuts, those puny, (probably disgusting!), little grains that used to cause me such panic!
Now as a bright young boy trying to fit in at school, I did everything within my power to do so! I used to get my mum to make me nice looking (slightly unhealthy) food, so that the other kids wouldn’t wonder why I wasn’t eating hot dinners, but instead want to eat what I had. I used to eat my food at a separate time, away from my friends so that they didn’t question me. And, I even used to occasionally risk it and eat a hot dinner! Bad I know. These little tricks helped me at school to fit in…at first. Then eventually when I made it to secondary school, people used to ask, “Why aren’t you eating lunch with us?”. That’s when it dawned on me that it didn’t matter! I
If there’s one think that i’d like to teach you readers about having a nut allergy it’s that you should NEVER be someone that you’re not and NEVER act differently just because you have a nut allergy! You DON’T need to hide who you are, what you’re eating or your real personality just because you have a nut allergy. I tried it and IT DOESN’T WORK! It will make you sad, depressed and lonely. You NEED to show people who you are, that you have this pesky condition and that IT IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED ABOUT!
Growing up, particularly in your early teens, those will be hard words to even try to comprehend. Everything that I used to do was to fit in and i’m sure that some of you did/do that too. But one day I just turned around and thought, “Do you know what? I can’t be bothered with this any more!”. That’s when I realised that eating a Marmite sandwich and a bag of crisps instead of pizza and chips was the last thing that I needed to worry about. People weren’t talking about me and my weird intolerance behind my back. They didn’t care and why would they! I think that that’s when my confident grew, and that was when I started making some more permanent friends and being happier in general. Now when people ask me why i’m usually eating differently to them (which is very rarely!), I simply tell them “Yeah, I have a nut allergy, it sucks!”. That’s all they need to know and all I want to tell them.
I haven’t been embarrassed about my allergy in years and it’s because I found the confidence to just say “I can’t be bothered with this!” and act like me! People won’t judge you when you act like yourself and if they do, that means there’s something wrong with them, NOT something wrong with you!