You might be reading this thinking, yes I am! What does she mean?
Well you’re not. At least not most of the time anyway.
It’s a lesson I learnt from Frans Timmermans, President and CEO of the European Anaphylaxis Task Force, who I met many years ago in Copenhagen at the The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI ) annual conference.
He told me that I needed to reframe how I viewed myself. To completely rethink how I perceived this condition that I had.
He said, “You’re not anaphylactic, you’re just at risk of anaphylaxis if you eat certain foods, the two statements are very different.”
And he’s right!
It’s something I discuss in my book, The Reluctant Allergy Expert – How to kill the fear that anaphylaxis could kill you.
99.9999% of the time I’m successful at avoiding my trigger allergens. My last serious reaction was in November 2018 and I hope I can avoid having another ever again.
100% of the time I’ve been successful at surviving the reactions I’ve had and only a fraction of my life has been spent having these reactions.
Yet I’ve spent far too many hours, months and even years feeling fearful, angry and confused about how to live with what often felt like a life sentence and a terrifying prospect.
It’s all about reframing things. About seeing them differently.
It really does help to put them into perspective, for me anyway.
He went on to say. “You do live with restrictions, but your life is not restricted!”
By taking control back and reframing life, it becomes easier to deal with.
I could be feeling down that I can’t just eat out anywhere without planning… Instead I choose to believe that I can afford to buy fresh, exciting ingredients locally and cook myself safe, healthy meals. It’s taught me to explore in the kitchen, to be adventurous, try new things and get creative. It’s also given me a much greater understanding of nutrition and what my body needs to be healthy.
I could be cross and depressed that I can’t eat certain foods… instead I am excited to try all the thousands of different fruit, vegetables, grains and pulses out there. There is a whole rainbow of foods just waiting to be discovered.
I could bemoan that there is never a holiday from allergies and that’s a big one for me. Even holidays can mean extra stress. But for now, for me, I choose to believe that there are many, many places that I can visit, with careful planning, and taking as much safe food to fall back on if needs be. I choose self catering because that gives me back the control.
And right now no one can go on holiday anyway! So let’s embrace the staycation and self care at home, which can feel like you’ve had a mini holiday if you do it right!
I love this life. It’s challenging at times and especially at the moment, but it’s amazing. It’s incredible. There is so much to learn, see and explore.
I am not going to let me allergies hold me back. I can do anything… just not eat a snickers bar!
Katherine Karalus says
Love this attitude Ruth – well done on mastering your own mind and taking back control!
Ruth Holroyd says
Thanks Katherine! It’s not been easy and has taken me some time to really feel in control. Every time I have an anaphylactic reaction it does dent my confidence but having the right attitude is so important, otherwise this condition can feel completely overwhelming and crippling socially. I hope you’re well! One day we can meet again!
Andrew Williams says
What a fabulous post. Everyone of us could do with reframing our lives. It’s a very powerful tool which enables us to enjoy our lives much more. Though nothing material is different, the perspective is completely changed. I’ve never had a chat with Frans so am jealous of you opportunity. I was there in Copenhagen though that year. It was ace.
Thanks again Ruth, A
Ruth Holroyd says
Thanks Andrew. It is something I have to work at. And it’s definitely harder after a near miss or an anaphylactic reaction. But it is so helpful for me because I am so lucky in every other way.
I have so many amazing memories of going to that conference and hope I can go back one day. The organisers were great and offered me so many amazing opportunities to interview people. I met the guy who was head of EAACI too (forgotten is name – Greek guy) and also Dr William Frankland, who sadly died last year aged an incredible 108 years old! I did try to meet some Allergy Specialists but they proved trickier to pin down! A great opportunity and Frans was an amazing guy. He was so interesting and his whole outlook and perspective really got me thinking differently about living with anaphylaxis. Copenhagen was also fantastic! I’ll definitely go back there again one day.