Ask Amy: Allergies bring on rash of restrictions
Dear Amy: I currently am wrestling with several serious food allergies. Lab bloodwork has just revealed an autoimmune disorder. I am scheduled to see a rheumatologist in two months.
My body is thrown into a vicious cycle for weeks after consuming foods that trigger allergies.
So, what should I do when I get together with friends or family for dinners and they try to make special food for me? I don’t want to risk even trying this food because of past experiences with bad reactions.
Recently, a host assured me that all of the ingredients were safe for me, only to learn later that they’d buttered the pan with margarine, which set off my allergies.
They just don’t understand how I have to pay for eating even a trace of that for the next three weeks, but they feel bad because I can’t eat what they eat, and they love food so much that they want to share it with me.
What I prefer to do is bring my own food, but of course people are either very offended or feel so sorry for me that they will try to make something just for me.
I try to avoid dinner parties at all costs with certain people because of this.
What can I say to people who insist I try their food because they made it just for me and they made sure they didn’t put anything in it that I can’t have?
I’m tired of being sick and tired of offending people.
– Sick and Tired
Dear Sick and Tired: It is hard to imagine a person with an undefined autoimmune disorder gathering with others for dinner parties during a pandemic, but, in the absence of that concern, you need only know this: You are responsible for your health and well-being. Don’t leave something so important to someone else.
Your question is full of anticipation and speculation regarding how others will (or might) respond to your self-advocacy. Don’t concentrate so much on how others might pressure you, and keep your focus on your own health.
The answer is that you must bring your own food to gatherings involving food, because you can only safely eat something that you have prepared. Communicate with the host beforehand: “I am on an extremely restricted medical diet because of my allergies, so I need to bring my own food. Will that bother you? I really don’t want to impose or make a big deal about it, but until I get my diagnosis sorted out, it is vital that I only eat food I’ve prepared myself.”
If you feel pressured, respond, “Sorry, no. I know this is a bummer and I appreciate your efforts, but I have to be very strict about this.”
If your friends and family don’t or won’t adjust to your needs, then yes, you will have to avoid situations where you can’t safely resist this pressure.
Dear Amy: “Conflicted” wrote to you, describing herself as an adopted woman who is hesitant to share news of her birth family connection with her sister.
You are right. Birth family relationships affect everyone in the family.
Both of our children are adopted, fully open with three of their four birth families. Knowing their individual birth families has been a tremendous benefit to both children.
At first, it was scary, but today each birth family seems like another in-law relationship. Everyone loves a common child, so we have come to love one another.
More love is never a bad thing.
We have a “family orchard” instead of a family tree: one tree each for my husband’s family, my family, and each of their birth parents’ extended family.
Our kids are the roots, intertwined with their birth families, us, and each other.
– Fully Open Adoptive Mom
Dear Fully Open: A “family orchard” also describes my own family – and many others.
Thank you for the beautiful imagery. It’s the perfect way to picture the experience of being in a loving, complex, modern family.
Dear Amy: “Afraid Grandma” was frantically worried about her grandchildren corresponding with pen pals, thinking that they might be endangered.
Surely, she is old enough to remember when every year most people received a big directory of everybody’s name, phone number and address? Also known as: The phone book?!
– I Remember
Dear I Remember: Touche!
I think it is wise to be careful about any correspondence – physical or virtual – but these children had parents close at hand, so Grandma needs to let them parent their children.