This post is for all of us with severe food allergies on Thanksgiving. This is for each of us who battle through the anxiety and fear provoked when eating in non-typical (and potentially non-safe) environments. This is for our struggle on this incredibly food-centric holiday. And this is also to express my gratitude that I have the education and skills to navigate safe travel through the dangerous waters of food that can kill me.
Thanksgiving is a great time of year for us in the good old USA to share and remember those things for which we are thankful. It’s a great reminder of the plentiful gifts bestowed upon us by the people and experiences in our lives. It is also one of the most difficult for me due to emotions in the realm of wanting to know I can eat safely mixed with not wanting to be a burden nor make anyone alter their Thanksgiving traditions to accommodate my food-related disability. It remains complicated for me, so over the past several years, I have made my own Thanksgiving tradition for which I am so thankful!
I struggled for years trying to find a good plan for this November holiday, but not wanting to travel the hundreds of miles home to my Mom’s house each year (as we all know Thanksgiving is a difficult travel experience for us all), I found myself in a conundrum. My choices seemed to be go to a home with friends where I either won’t be able to eat, will need to bring my own food, or they will need to be educated and vastly modify what they usually do on this holiday; be alone and cook my own food; create my own version of this holiday that freed me from feeling lonely and reduced my food anxiety all at once. I chose the last option!
I determined what I am most thankful for during this time of year is time to relax, unwind, rest, and be at peace. As our days grow shorter and darkness hits at 4:30pm (I live in Boston, and it becomes nighttime dark so early), and I think of all I have and have not accomplished this year with only one month left before the new year… it seemed the best option for me was to create a time period of days that involved only me where I could be safe and happy.
I am an extrovert, so at first this seemed like a strange choice for me. But as an extrovert, when I am surrounded by others, I get more and more excited and outgoing. To carve out a few days of “me time” where I can let my central nervous system rest and my energy roll to a beautiful valley low is now so important to me. My current Thanksgiving tradition of unwinding the year and ensuring I am as free as possible from the anxieties and fears provoked by foods that can kill me is an absolute blessing! I am so thankful I was able to re-write my Thanksgiving story!! I am forever grateful to have these days to refill my spirit so my light can shine brighter and stronger.
To each of you out there navigating the emotions of life-threatening food allergies on this food-focused holiday, I hold the same space in my heart for each of you that I have found for myself. No matter what your Thanksgiving story is, know you are surrounded by love and understanding because as a food allergy informed community we give that to each other, near and far!! To the adults with food allergies, the parents taking a child to grandma’s for the first time after a diagnosis, to the food-allergic college kids eating away from your parents – to all of you, I know you’ve got this!!