Let’s get really, really real for a minute. I’ve touched on my Anxiety here and on social media for years. If you read this blog, you know – to some extent – that it exists. For the last few years it’s been fairly well controlled, although I did have a bit of a setback when Connor was born in January.
Basically, I’ve had anxiety and OCD all of my life. When I was younger it was really well controlled and barely noticeable because, as a kid living with my parents and growing up in a small town, my life was full of routine. And anxiety and OCD love routine. There were a few incidences that if they had been looked at a little more closely at the time someone might have said “oh, this chick has anxiety” (actually, I can think of exactly one time that someone did say that – but that was all that was ever said about it), but they were blips. And so I just lived my life none the wiser.
And then I went away to college. And my safe little bubble disappeared. And my routine ceased to exist. And all hell broke loose.
The first few months of college were decidedly blah until I was officially diagnosed with Panic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder and prescribed a few things. After a few weeks and a couple slight medication adjustments, my life went back to being normal. I knew what I was dealing with, I formed new routines, and I stopped taking my medication.
And then, I graduated from college. And my bubble disappeared. And my routines ceased to exist. But other things happened this time as well. I was having strange health issues that took a while to diagnose. And suddenly my anxiety went from something kind of annoying to something all encompassing. Things I could do before – things I didn’t even think about as I did them – suddenly became arduous. I was afraid to be alone. I was afraid to fall asleep, and when I did I would wake up having a panic attack – sometimes multiple time per night. I didn’t want to “break the status quo” which to me meant that if at that very moment everything was fine, I couldn’t change anything. If I woke up in the morning and I wasn’t anxious – awesome! But I couldn’t do anything to change it… I couldn’t brush my teeth, eat, change my clothes… I had to keep everything exactly as it was. It was exhausting (and – to be honest – ridiculous. And frustrating. And isolating. And just awful.).
At this time I also became terrified of developing Food allergies. The weird health issues I was having ended up being a condition called LPR (Laryngopharyngeal Reflux) which is basically a form of acid reflux that was burning my vocal cords and causing a near-constant lump in my throat and certain things would make it worse – including eating. It felt like I was constantly choking and unable to breath and I attributed this to being allergic to certain things – things that I had been eating for my whole life without issue. Things I ate every day without issue. So I stopped eating everything except for one never-changing meal per day and every time that I ate that meal I was afraid that overnight I might have become allergic to the ingredients (which were lettuce, cheese, and the bread… yeah). I lost 25 pounds in 2 months and people started to really notice that something was not right. I learned everything I could about allergies – signs and symptoms, the likelihood of adult onset allergies, potential causes of allergies – it was ridiculous. I was trying to gain control of something in my life that didn’t actually exist and I was doing it in a really weird, unhealthy way. Eventually, I couldn’t hide my anxiety anymore. I was crying constantly, I was refusing to eat, I was flipping out at people for no reason (example: if I was at home with my sister and she said she was going out to do an errand I would flip out at her for not telling me in advance that she was going out and how dare she leave me by myself… at the tender young age of… 23. Uhm, what?).
So two more diagnoses (OCD/OCPD [which is just a slight different version of the more commonly known OCD] and health anxiety/hypochondria), more medication, and eons of therapy later and things started getting better. The first big changes were that I was able to drive again. Then I started adding foods into my diet. And slowly, over the course of a few years things started getting back to “normal.” (And, by the way, when all of this started my darling husband and I were still just dating – and he was basically the world’s most patient, kind, understanding human being – or as understanding as you can be when you have literally no idea WTF is going on and you’re just watching someone lose their mind on a regular basis. True story: one night I was hysterically crying in his apartment because I was convinced I was allergic to water. I wasn’t, obviously. My medication had just caused me to have dry mouth and it was so dry and irritated that even water was causing discomfort.)
And now, we arrive at today.
I love my son. I love him so much that I cannot believe it’s even possible to love someone this much. And before I even got pregnant my husband and I started having long talks about how my anxiety would impact our future kids’ lives and how we really, really didn’t want it to. I’ve done everything I can to try and push my anxiety aside as I’ve done all of the normal Mom things for the first time, like introducing solid foods to my kid. Let me tell you – introducing foods to a kid for the first time when you, yourself, are terrified of food allergies, is just an absolutely horrific experience. My husband and I knew it was going to be a hard thing for me to do. My therapist and psychiatrist knew it was going to be hard for me. Probably every one who has ever met me knew this was going to suck. (One of my sorority sisters found special baby food pouches made by a company called Inspired Start that help parents introduce allergens to their babies, which was amazing!) But I’ve done it. And I’ve worked hard at it. And maybe it’s gone a little slower than other parents do things because I am anxious about it – but it’s happening.
And then, just after Thanksgiving the Universe played a sick joke on me.
I gave my son a food (one of the pouches, actually) containing eggs for the first time, and his precious little face that I love so much turned bright red and started breaking out in hives. And I – the Queen of planning for emergencies – picked up my cell phone (with my house phone right next to me in case I needed to simultaneously call 911), called the pediatrician with a detailed timeline of what had happened and exact amounts of the food I’d given him, and asked how much Benadryl to give him and if I needed to bring him to the ER or to their office or just stay home. They told me the dosage and told me to bring him into their office. By the time we got to their office, about 30 minutes after the first bite of food that he’d had, he was behaving just as he always does and his reaction seemed to be almost gone. By the time we left the doctors’ office he was basically back to normal.
And I cried. A lot. Sometimes, I feel like my anxiety is right back in full-force. I’m back to being afraid of eating – not because I’m afraid I’ll be allergic to something, but because I’m afraid I’ll eat something my son is allergic to and then touch him and cause him to have a reaction. I’m petrified of feeding him new foods, and even feeding him foods that I know he’s fine with is freaking me out. I feel like I let him down once already (by getting preeclampsia and causing him to have to be born early), and now I feel like I’ve done it again by giving him genetics that have predisposed him to allergies. Or jinxing him by being afraid of having allergies myself when none existed.
A few days later, after I thought I’d finally come to terms with the egg allergy and being happy that we had a plan in place (allergist the following week for testing, egg-free home until we knew how severe the allergy is, etc.) I realized that when we went to the allergist we might learn that he’s allergic to more things – not JUST eggs. And it set me off again.
I don’t know how people do this parenting thing. Even when everything is going perfectly and there’s nothing wrong it’s terrifying. And then something happens – something that could potentially be life threatening – and there isn’t even a WORD to describe how scary that is.
So that’s where I’m at. I am now the mother of an allergy child. Right now, we know he’s got 1 allergy – the allergy tests confirmed that based on what they tested. (They tested egg whites, egg yolk, peanut, and soy – even though he had already had both peanut and soy before.) We also know he is NOT allergic to lots of foods, including peanuts, soy, wheat, dairy, and corn (some of the most common allergens). But if I’m being honest, I’ve stopped feeding him “new” foods – I’ve introduced a few very low-allergy risk foods here and there since then, but I haven’t yet done treenuts, fish, shellfish, or sesame because I’m nervous about seeing his little face puff up again. Egg allergies are apparently one of the more common childhood allergies and most children tend to outgrow it by the time they’re in high school, so fingers crossed that our little man outgrows his and quickly (his allergist will be doing skin tests every 6 months until he’s 2 years old, and then we’ll move on to food challenges if those come back okay to see if he can at least tolerate baked egg).
If not… I’m gonna need a lot more Xanax.
And there you have it, the 900th big parenting challenge I’ve faced (and am still facing). Do you have any awesome egg-free recipes for your littles? Share them in the comments!
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