Letting Go of Food Paranoia

Using up CG's farmers market produce for dinner before it goes bad

Using up CG’s farmers market produce for dinner before it goes bad

You can’t help it sometimes. Okay, most times. You learn you have food allergies/intolerances and everything looks like a potential hazard. There will always be paranoia when anaphylaxis is a reaction. Heck, I have a healthy enough paranoia that my peanut allergy could wind up in an anaphylactic reaction that I’m not tempted to go near peanuts.

Paranoia makes you hypervigilant. Too much hypervigilance creates stress. Too much stress can lead to adrenal fatigue and triggering autoimmune disorders.

I had to let go of some of that paranoia to lower my stress levels.

But what does that mean?

It means offering to cook when I stay with friends.

It means educating others when it is called for and not until then.

It means packing food for road trips when there are no restaurant options along the way. Packing food in the suitcase and carry-on luggage for potential food emergencies in the airport, plane, and destination.

It means researching potential restaurants before traveling.

It means taking my own food when going to big social gatherings when food options are slim to none and/or potential for cross-contact is high.

It means releasing family and friends from the expectation that they have something available for you.

Steeler bought gf bread mix while I was resting. I had to politely tell him I couldn't have it after checking the ingredients.

Steeler bought gf bread mix while I was resting. I had to politely tell him I couldn’t have it after checking the ingredients.

You cannot let go of all of your food paranoia. It would make us lax in checking everything and we could end up in worse health than before. But there is some unnecessary paranoia and stress we put ourselves through that I think would make it so much easier if we would just let it go.

The paranoia serves us well when we are first diagnosed, but we cannot keep up the same level of paranoia all the time. Again, severe allergies aside. My paranoia levels at home are low because if Chaz wants to bring in something with gluten, he keeps it separate from the rest of the food. He has his own spot in the dining room for his food he brings in. It is nowhere near the pantry or the refrigerator. He brought in bread for the first time a few months ago and was toasting it in the oven. I got a bit paranoid and was throwing foil down on the pan and cleaning the counter after him. He hasn’t brought bread in since. He knows to wash his hands and face after eating anything I react to just in case. He ate something with gluten in the car a couple of years ago then reached for me. I pulled away, “You have gluten on your hands!” We have now dubbed them “gluten cooties.” It keeps it light and less stressful for me.

Steeler made cedar plank salmon, green bean salad, and cucumber & tomato salad. All safe for me after double checking everything.

Steeler made cedar plank salmon, green bean salad, and cucumber & tomato salad. All safe for me after double checking everything.

There are places I feel comfortable if someone else cooks for me and other places I don’t. That is okay and I plan accordingly. It keeps it low stress for everyone.

I know that going to see family and friends when food is involved means food in most situations and we all want to partake and feel included when the food is involved. However, our family and friends don’t always get it or their kitchens are a cross-contact nightmare. There is no rule that says you can’t bring your own food. That way when you are socializing, yes, you may not have what everyone else is having, but you have something safe for you. I’ve found when I take that food element away from the socialization that it becomes more about being with your family and friends than it does about the food.

Double checking ingredients no longer feels paranoid to me. It is just routine. I’m happier with  where I am and how I need to eat because I don’t make it stressful or turn something into a stressful situation when it doesn’t need to be. I can’t have it? I move on. No sense ruminating over it because it does nothing but create stress. If you haven’t been paying attention (or just started following me) I do not need nor do I want the stress. I have better and more productive things to do with my time.

All Apologies

PathVacations and getting out of town requires planning and food preparation when you have food allergies and intolerances. Food you need on hand for your road trip/flight. Food you need to carry with you when you’re out and about. Meals when you are away.

My first weekend was with some of my fellow gluten-free food bloggers. It was a great weekend, but I was struck by my friends apologizing to me for making or bringing something I could not eat because of my multiple allergies. My friends, of all people, know what it is like to accept not being able to eat what everyone else is eating. There were a handful of things brought/prepared that I could not have. I was not upset about it. There was plenty of food for me to eat.

My next few days was with friends in Washington, D.C. There is a chain of Italian ice/gelato shops nearby that they love. I passed on it pretty sure that the gelato was not safe and unsure of the Italian ice. I would rather be safe than sorry, and I really was full from dinner. They sat in their living room eating theirs while we were talking telling me how horrible it was and apologizing for eating something I could not have in front of me. They finally stopped the apologizing when I told them they don’t have to, several times. A few days later they were apologizing again because Jerm came home from work with cupcakes a co-worker brought in to celebrate his birthday early.

The tail end was spent with another friend in Manassas and her husband. I fixed dinner the first night. She and I went out the next night while he was at a draft for his fantasy football league. The last night, the hubs cooked. I was lying down in the guest room after returning from the Renaissance Festival (adrenals needed some recovery time). I already let them know I would make my own salad dressing because theirs had soy and wheat in it. When I finally came down about an hour later, salmon was being cedar planked (oh, how I love thee, cedar plank salmon), veggies were made, and the hubs came to me with questions. He bought a dressing at the store and asked if it was okay. It was. Next he handed me a box for a gluten-free bread mix for approval. He already had it mixed and ready to go and I had to let him down easy. There was whey and a couple of other milk derivatives in it. He was apologetic several times and I had to keep telling him it was okay. I stopped counting after three apologies that night.

I was also struck by the offer to cater to me after the apology during the first weekend. I have eleven different food allergies/intolerances. Had I not been tolerating yeast from my allergy treatment a month ago, it would have been twelve. That twelfth, like gluten, takes a lot of different foods off the table. It is extremely doable. I know my friend’s hubs had good intentions the last weekend when he bought that bread mix to try to make me feel included. I’m pretty sure he bought it on a whim while he was at the store. I do appreciate when people want me to feel included, but my multiple food allergies make it difficult and I don’t expect to be catered to since they are difficult for people who aren’t used to food allergies.

I am used to my life riddled with food allergies. I am used to passing on foods I once loved. I am used to bringing food with me to make sure I have enough to eat when I’m at someone’s house not used to dealing with food allergies. Not cheating with these Debi-allergenic foods when I discover them is integral to my recovery and health and journey. I remove these things then move on with life as if it was always that way.

I don’t expect anyone to apologize to me for having something I can’t have in my presence. If you can have something, by all means, eat it without guilt while you’re with me. I don’t expect anyone to cater to me. I understand that we all want family and close friends to make an effort to include us and our food needs. However, my food needs are such that it is hard for Chaz to keep up and we live in the same home. It is easier for me to prepare a meal and take it with me to a party than to try to get the host to make things without cross-contamination.

Go on, no apologies or catering.

Unless it’s my birthday.

Unconditional Love

Honolulu - Capitol Building, DebiI started writing this post with the intention for it to be part of the July Self-Care Retreat, but as I kept writing it became something more.

Indulge me just a little.

You would think I would be an expert in self-care by now. After all, that is why I quit my job last December. To devote all my time to take care of myself so I can recover. My self-care when I started out was reading, scrapbooking, writing (oodles of it), going to the movies, shopping, spending time with friends as I was able, sitting on the patio and enjoying the sun, painting my nails (yes, I need a pretty pretty now and then), yoga, and interval runs. However, with each new challenge thrown into my lap since comes a firestorm of emotions within. Anger, sadness, fear, doubt, grief.

I once posted on Facebook that when we go through years of being misdiagnosed then finally get on the right track it is like peeling an onion. You take off one layer and there is another one waiting. I feel like I have an onion that doubles every time I peel back a layer. Adrenal fatigue. Multiple food allergies. Leaky gut. Sjogren’s Syndrome. More allergies.

Through it all, I do what I feel I need to do each day to take care of myself. Put off doing chores because I feel like crap and go to a movie instead? Yes. Read a book instead of vacuum because I have no energy? Yes. It’s the Spoon Theory at work. There are things I have to do each day: shower, floss, brush my teeth (up to four times a day), and cook dinner. Those tasks are spoons that are spoken for as soon as I wake up. The rest of the household tasks and exercise depends on how many spoons I have left. If those are all the spoons I have for the day, then the rest of my day is spent doing whatever doesn’t take much energy.

Sjögren’s is taking a toll on me. I still fatigue easily if I’m not careful.  It’s tough reminding myself that I’m not simply being lazy. I’m not lazy. It’s tough looking at the mess that sometimes grows around me and remind myself tomorrow is another day. Even if tomorrow turns out to be like today.

The baby thing is still living in my head. I can’t seem to shake it. At least not right now. It’s reminding me of a lesson from my years in martial arts that no matter how much I think I know, I know nothing. It’s also teaching me a new lesson.

We need to love ourselves. I’m not talking about loving who we are: strong, independent, witty, talented, etc. It’s loving who we are how we are in each moment. Broken, scarred, flawed. I have to love the me riddled with health problems, may never have children no matter how much I may want them, and functions on a how-do-I-feel-right-now basis.

It’s harder than it sounds. Just yesterday I lamented out loud, “I hate being sick.” A far cry from self-loathing and yes, I’m allowed to have feelings and express them. But I beat myself up for even saying it. That’s not loving myself.

I have to allow myself my feelings without judging myself and move on. Sound weird? Maybe. But we don’t want others to judge us. Why is it okay for us to judge ourselves? Why is it okay for us to love ourselves only when we feel we are perfect or only for those traits that we feel are good? We can love others unconditionally, but not ourselves.

This is work I do every day. Accept and love me for the sick me I am right now as much as I accepted and loved the healthy me.