A Letter to My Allergy

Becca Grae, Candle Editor

Dear Peanut Allergy,

Why do you make me live in fear? I feel like there is a possibility of death every time I take a bite of food. I have to check the ingredients many times. Like I am about to jump off the high dive, you make me keep checking and checking how far I am from the ground to decide if  it is safe to jump. You are like a war scene– people shooting and I have to dodge everything around me, hoping that I will not be the victim left in a pool of blood. You make me feel a sense of  hopelessness, not knowing if I will make it out alive.

You make people make fun of me and not take allergies seriously. They just laugh it off,  even though my life can end. If they joke that there are peanuts in something, my stress escalates, and I just imagine my throat closing and then they say, “Just kidding.”

You make me never feel safe eating at new restaurants ,and everyone thinks I am crazy. You make people think that I am a picky eater, but I am really not. I just do not want to die. You make me feel uncomfortable if there is a single peanut on the menu; it becomes the blaring sound of an ambulance in my mind, and I cannot get it out of my head. My body shakes and I  feel very weak. I feel like death is just around the corner. My throat becomes more and more swollen and suddenly what I just ate comes out of me.  Then I get a shot that looks like a monotonous robot  in my leg, and the loud sirens pick me up, and I am rushed to the hospital where I get hooked up with stickers and a huge IV. Nurses work on me to save my life, while I am just hoping I will make it out alive.

But to be fair, Peanut Allergy, you do make me independent and  responsible. I have an epi-pen with me every time I leave the house, even if I am going to tap dancing class because you never know if you’ll trip in a puddle of peanut butter. And  I don’t rely on my parents to figure out what is safe for me. I have my own conversations with waiters, chefs, bakers, and restaurant managers.  I have learned how to read people and know if they are knowledgeable and trustworthy. If they are not confident when they tell me a dish has no nuts, I do not take the chance. 

And I guess I also appreciate how you make me empathetic and compassionate to others. I know how it feels to be different and not be able to fully participate in something everyone else is doing. For example, when I was younger, being the only one not having the scrumptious cupcake at a birthday party. I know how it feels to work harder for something and not have it come easily, like it seems to for everyone else.

It would be great if doctors figure out a way to get you out of my life, Peanut Allergy. I know they are working on a cure. The worries would float away and I could jump off the high dive (or eat a cookie) without thinking twice. I could be just like all of the other kids and be able to eat at any kind of restaurant. I could go to Panda Express! No more calling over the waiter with 10 questions. Just the ability to truly relax.

But for now, we are stuck together. So I’ll keep reading the fine print on ingredient labels, asking waiters what kind of oil they use in the fryer, and grabbing my epi-pen on my way out the door. And living with fear. But I guess I should also thank you for making me a better person – to myself and to others.

Your victim,