Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Normal?

Today, Lynn and I are talking about the adjustment period after being diagnosed with a nut allergy.  This is part of our series on nut allergies which arose from our questions and dialog about living with a severe allergy to nuts.  Stop by Lynn's blog to read her story.  

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When you realize that ingesting nuts has the potential to kill you, walls go up.  

Serious walls.  

For me, after my husband's kiss, I realized the true severity of my allergic reaction which propelled me into a world of fear.  

Why would I eat something that had the potential to harm me?
How could I trust that there really wasn't any nuts in this food?
Isn't it better to be safe (i.e., not eat) than sorry (i.e., eat the food and have a reaction)?  

These walls are not easily broken down.  And, they take a LOT of adjusting to - not only by the person with the allergy, but the family and friends of that person as well.  

For me, it was a period of about 2 and a half years of re-defining what's normal.  My new normal.  

It was no longer normal for me to go out to dinner.
It was no longer normal for me to eat dinner at other people's homes.
It was no longer normal for me to eat at a pot luck.
It was no longer normal for me to munch on common snacks at a BBQ or party.
It was no longer normal for me to go out for dessert with my friends.  

My new normal, for now, is:
  • If I choose to go out for dinner, 99% of the time, I eat before hand and go out solely for the company.  
  • If I choose to eat at other people's homes, it's only those who know me incredibly well and who know how to cook for me (this is a future Wednesday Nut-Allergy Series topic)
  • If I choose to attend a pot luck, I bring a main dish and parse out my serving before placing my dish on the line (where it's subject to cross-contamination).  
  • If I choose to attend a party where there are common snacks, I don't eat them, unless I provide them.
  • If I go out with friends for dessert/treats, I enjoy their company, but don't eat anything.  
That's my new normal right now.  

This is where I am comfortable and where I need to have my boundaries drawn at this point.  

Most of my friends and family know this about me, but it can often be more uncomfortable for others than it is for me because this is my new normal.  

I choose to err of the side of caution rather than on the side of risk.  

This new normal will likely continue to change and develop over the years.  In fact, even in the last two years, I've gone from not eating out at all (no exceptions) to eating out at one restaurant that I trust.  I believe I'll continue to make strides towards what my "old normal" was, but I have come to terms with the fact that the old normal will not be my new normal.  

And, that's finally (4.5 years after that first kiss) okay with me.  


  1. just curious, how do you handle explaining this to your friends? i mean, i feel uncomfortable if we are eating and someone is not. Do they feel uncomfortable with it?

    i know one person with a peanut allergy and it scares me a bit to have them over as we eat alot of peanut butter. They usually always bring a epi-pin with them, and i check any snacks really well that i would if we had ice cream etc before when they came over, but it makes me nervous.
    Any tips? He is like 12 years old and my sons friend.

  2. Hi Martha,

    You've hit the nail on the head -- that's next week's topic exactly! I know that the situation is often more uncomfortable for other folks than it is for me (since that is my "new normal"). Typically, if I'm meeting people, say for a business lunch, I try to arrange it for a place I know I can eat.

    If I'm around many of my friends, they felt uncomfortable at first - but once I explained it to them (that I wasn't trying to offend them or anything) and as they got to know me, they became more comfortable with it.

    Email me if you'd like to dialog more... but we'll be talking about interacting with folks with nut allergies next week!


  3. I have really been enjoying this series. Although I don't have a food allergy (except I am allergic to peaches, which totally stinks) I have really enjoyed learning more about it. Thanks so much to you and Lynn for doing this!


Thanks for stopping by! I'd love to hear from you; especially how you're finding JOY in your kitchen.

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