Having a life-threatening disease can be thought of as anything but positive. The constant fear of having an allergic reaction, the millions of delicious foods and treats you miss out on, and the hassle of reminding and alerting those around you does not sound ideal.
However, living with food allergies for half my life (and having a sister who has extremely severe allergies to milk, eggs, and nuts) has taught me some invaluable life lessons that I probably would not have known otherwise.
By having food allergies, I learn how to advocate for myself. I was forced to - if I couldn’t speak up at a party (without my parents) about my peanut allergy, then I would risk the chance of having an allergic reaction. I understood the significance of independence, such as when I would teach my friends how to administer the Epi-pen in case of an emergency. Food allergies require you to protect and speak up for yourself - there’s no exception.
By having food allergies, I learned to embrace being different. I’m sure all those with food allergies can agree that we’ve felt like the odd man out one time or another. Whether it be by being the only one at a party not eating the cake, or the one taking 10 minutes to order food (because you have to tell the waiter all about your allergies), we all know the feeling of not fitting in. But with this feeling (and through time), we learn that it is okay (and even important) to be different. We begin to find support groups with those facing similar experiences, allergy-free brands with delicious alternatives, and suddenly, our “difference” is what makes us a pivotal part of a welcoming community. We accept and celebrate our food allergies, and we realize there is nothing to be ashamed of.
By having (a sister with) food allergies, I also learn the importance of thorough cleaning. Washing your hands after every time you handle food is not just recommended - it’s required. If I ate a cheeseburger and then type on a keyboard, my sister could touch that very same keyboard (even days later) and still have a reaction. If I don’t use hot water, soap, and a sponge to scrub down the pan after making scrambled eggs, my sister could literally die after using that same pan due to the egg residue. Food allergies teach us the importance of being careful - something many people without allergies may not always understand.
Though some may consider it a burden, it is important to recognize the life lessons that food allergies can give us. This sense of empowerment, independence, and even just the skills it takes to avoid cross-contamination are lessons that may be hard to learn without food allergies. Although food allergies can be a hurdle, you grow and become stronger by overcoming them.