The first time I had to deal with my allergies was at school. It was very hard for me to follow the same process the other children were, especially when it came to school trips or camps. Luckily I was able to participate in these activities thanks to the strong collaboration between the camps’ kitchen department supervisor and my mother, who prepared a full week’s menu for me take on site (yup, I got there with food for a complete week!).
Birthday parties that were frequently held by children at school were probably the most important moment during the year at that time, and a good excuse to joyfully eat a big cake prepared with love. There again, dealing with my differences was difficult because at that time avoidance was the only possible route for me: special flour was still not available in shops; so no apple pies, no Delicatessen for me during this time….
Although I had my strict diet, I did go to school cafeterias – with my own meal of course. These places allowed me to make friends, even if people wondered why I was not eating the same meal as they were. Most of the other children were curious about my condition. In fact, they were curious about my inability to eat the same ice cream or candies they ate. When they asked why, I answered as best as I could at the time (I was 8 years old so we didn’t talk about genetics back then).
Grown-up people mainly had the same reaction as the children, except very few of them who understood what I was going through toughly.
Having talked about my young years, let’s fast forward to the present. I wasn’t alone in this challenge, my close friends have always been powerful teammates. In a way I can say that allergies let me understand quickly if someone was just an acquaintance or truly a friend. True friends have shown me that my physiological difference wasn’t a barrier to their friendship, by inviting me to memorable meals and nights out.
I will always remember an incident that took place one night when my friends and I tried a new place to hang out. A barman, whom I had informed I had severe allergies, told me that I had to stop with this “nightmare” that a bit of something that I am allergic to wasn’t going to harm me.
Before I even had the time to answer this man, two of my friends were already yelling at him in a way I think he still remembers to this day!
When I was young, some grown-ups didn’t believe me when I told them my difference, thinking that I was just a turbulent child. But when I grew up and reiterated the same about my diet, they were forced to accept that maybe, this difference I was talking about when I was a child, was true and not just an infant whim. Another point that has changed the older I got was that people tended to trust me more if I told them about allergies, something that was more difficult to make people understand when I was a child.
My difference slowly led me to a quest for autonomy, although still not complete it has advanced a lot. It taught me to keep a place clean (I’m also allergic to domestic dust) or to cook different varieties of meals in order to keep in good health (restaurants are still quite dangerous for me).
Having these troubles allowed me become more self confident and sometimes I had no other choices to trust myself and others that what would happen was safe for me. It is still difficult for me to eat outside sometimes even if I know the cook. There is always this “what if…” that plays inside my head while savouring the meal. Hopefully, I learnt to feel the signs that lead to anaphylactic shock.
I had to learn how to understand my body early on and to look for allergy signs. Introduction tests have taught me to know that if I had a particular sort of cough after 10 or 15 minutes, it was probably the first step to an allergic reaction (and by the time, I was 10 or 13 years old). I remember that for a while after a reaction I always waited patiently 15 minutes before eating a meal I had to eat, even if it was me who had cooked it. Luckily now, I am beyond fearing everything I eat (even if I still have my severe allergies) and even though I cannot eat everything I still manage to enjoy my life.
I’m Mathias, I’m 22 years old and I’m from Lausanne.
*Testimonial from Allergissima www.allergissima.ch