Thursday, February 19, 2009

Other Peoples' Reactions

As I get older, it seems my friends, or other adults who know about my allergies, get more nervous about them than I do. “Can I eat this peanut butter at the same table?” I often get asked. “Yes, it’s fine. Don’t worry,” I say. I am so used to people eating food I am allergic to in the same vicinity that I can’t worry about it anymore. It happens, even if you try to avoid it. People aren’t mind readers. I don’t wear a sign on me that says “Hi, my name is Allie. I am anaphylactic to peanuts, tree nuts, and fish. Please don’t eat any of those foods anywhere near me.”

I actually had a circumstance a few months ago, where as I look back, I would have handled it a bit differently. I was at an NFL game sitting in the stands, and the man sitting behind me two seats down was eating peanuts. He kept cracking the peanut shells and dropping them on the ground. He was pretty sloppy about it, and the shells were all over. I could even see peanut shell on my seat. I wouldn’t sit down the whole game. Now, I could have turned around and said to the man, “Hey do you mind being a bit more careful. I am severely allergic to peanuts. Thanks.” Instead, I kept quiet about it for the full four hours we were there.
How could that guy possibly read my mind and know that I was allergic. He couldn’t. It wasn’t his fault he was eating peanuts and making me uncomfortable. He had no idea. For some reason, I just didn’t feel like bothering him. I know I could have handled this better. I could have spoken up and said something to him. The problem is that sometimes I feel like maybe I am bothering someone by asking them to be careful. I don’t like bothering people, but I have a right as much as that guy, to feel comfortable sitting in my seat at a football game. Remember that!! 

At my age, I know my comfort zone.  I do what makes me feel comfortable.  Everyone has their own comfort zone.  The other morning my friends and I were all eating breakfast together, and one of them took out peanut butter to put on his bagel. He sat across from me, and while I knew it was there and I recognized the peanut butter, I also knew that I could easily stay away. Although I would always prefer to not be near the peanut butter, I am comfortable enough to stay where I am sitting.  If it bothered me, I could move my seat.  

My friend told me a story about how he went to a bar with some of his friends, and they had peanuts at the bar. They ended up playing a game with the peanuts and the next thing they were throwing peanuts threw the air. This would be a situation that I would not be comfortable in. It would definitely not be or feel safe to be in that type of environment.  

What it really comes down to as an allergic-reactor, is putting yourself in situations that match your own personal comfort zone.  As you get older, your comfort zone may change.  It is always important to keep yourself safe.  Becoming more responsible for yourself though, also means that you will start to decide what feels safe and comfortable to you with your allergies.  BUT, NO MATTER WHAT, CARRY YOUR EPI-PEN!  That will never be about comfort, that is always going to be important, no matter what age! 

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