First of all, you are not alone. The first thing you need to do, if you have a diagnosis for a serious life threatening allergy is to arm yourself with all the information you can. Get the best help, get tests done, see a specialist. Easier said than done I know, but don’t give up, if you are not happy with the advice you’ve been given keep on searching.
Find out exactly what you need to know to stay safe. Understand it’s OK to feel like this. It’s alright to feel fear, anxiety and anger. Helplessness, hopelessness and a total lost of control. But you get one chance at this life. Don’t let the fear consume you. Right now I’m not the best advert for that myself but I’m working my through the emotional assault. Don’t suffer in silence.
Here are my tips, the things that have helped me.
- Speak to people – Tell your friends and family. Do you know anyone with a similar medical condition? I have found recent allergy focused events, including The Anaphylaxis Campaign Conference and Food Matters Live encouraged me to share and talk to my fellow bloggers, parents of allergic kids and people in the allergy community. It was tough at times and I didn’t hold it together as much as I’d hoped but I came away from both events knowing that it had helps, I was making progress just by sharing.
- Contact professional organisations – I have also spoken to Allergy UK and The Anaphylaxis Campaign who both have free helplines which you can phone and also loads of advice and resources. They also have local support groups so you may find one local to you which will help you to attend. The Anaphylaxis Campaign also offer one free referral to a counsellor but do be aware, she is busy. I wasn’t able to get an appointment until 2018 but it’s worth considering as it could help you.
- Writing about it – this might not work for everyone, but as a writer and blogger, writing about my recent experience, how it makes me feel and how I plan to use these emotions positively is really helping me. I appreciate that it might not work for others but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. So basically guys, you are my therapy. Whether you like it or not, this blog will be following my journey dealing with this. It’s already helping. And it’s already tough. Bottling it up, my earlier preferred coping mechanism wasn’t working and ultimately you have to deal with emotions and move forward.
- Update your Action Plan – One thing I realised after my recent allergic reaction was that my Allergy Action Plan needs updating. It has literally disintegrated with overuse. Having a strict plan and protocol in place can really help you and those who may need to care for you if you have a reaction know what to do. If you don’t have one, write one!
- Anger management – Feeling angry isn’t an emotion I’m used to dealing with. I’m far less tolerant and quick to rise, where before I rarely felt anger. It’s almost like a rage building in me and I have grown very intolerant of people. Apologies if you’ve been on the other end of my anger. I don’t like feeling like this and I am working on taming it. This book, if you can ignore the Christian references is very helpful. It is written by a Christian but deal with anger in a very sensible way. It’s a natural emotion and actually quite healthy. Don’t beat yourself up (as well as snapping at others… lol) Try reading ‘Taming a Powerful Emotion’ by Gary Chapman
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)– If you think counselling might help you to deal with fear and anxiety then CBT is probably the most useful kind of treatment available. There are loads of organisations who can help, from the NHS, Mind and private counsellors. Research what’s available and find a solution that works for you.
- Health Minds referral scheme – you can self refer yourself for counselling using the NHS Healthy Minds Self Referral scheme. I have already had the initial assessment and have my first session scheduled for next week. I already feel calmer after just having organised this. The first assessment was gruelling enough and I know this will be tough, but I really think it will help me to talk about how I feel with a neutral person, someone who does not know me and is qualified to help me work through this and find ways of coping with how I’m feeling. This is the most convenient solution for me at the moment because they arrange a phone call with you on a weekly basis at a time convenient to you, which is easier to fit into my life at the moment.
- I am, I am, I am by Maggie O’Farrell – this book is beautifully written and covers Maggie’s memoirs; seventeen brushes with death. This may sound macabre and something you definitely shouldn’t be reading when faced with your own near death experiences, but I challenge you. You will finish reading this feeling newly conscious, and determined to make every heart beat count. The final chapter recounts an experience when Maggie’s own daughter has an anaphylactic attack and has to be rushed to hospital. Read this book, if you have allergies or are a mother of allergic kids – I am, I am, I am, by Maggie O’Farrell – it will help you.
- Run, Run, Run – Again this might not be for everyone but the sentiment is the same. Find something that you can do that completely takes you out of how you’re feeling. Something that clears your mind. This is running for me. I’m running my brain back to normal. Well maybe not normal, but back to stable. This could be something creative, fundraising, volunteer for a local charity. Anything that gives you new perspective. The latter being something I may look into when I can find more time. Giving something back can really help you feel your worth in society, because you are worth so much.
- Wear your Medicalert bracelet – This is really important. In my recent allergic reaction I was unconscious and couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. I had been wearing my Medicalert bracelet but when the reaction took place, that morning I had slipped it into my purse because it was irritating the eczema on my wrist. No one knew this and I was told that the paramedics were searching or one. It has made my realise I need to have more than one option of how to wear mine. I have a necklace too but need to find something softer for when my skin is sensitive. Writing this I realise I have not resolved this one yet!
I hope this helps. It’s not an exhaustive list and I may add to it as I think of other things. But as you can see, there are so many practical steps you take to help you cope.
One thing I am doing a lot of is sleeping. Emotions are exhausting. Be kind to yourself. Let your mind and body heal. Stay safe allergy warriors. Be prepared, never take risks and always, always carry your adrenaline injectors #takethekit
I will leave you with this video. If you know someone with anaphylaxis who does not carry their adrenaline, or even worse, has not been prescribed any, ask them to watch this short but very moving video
Word cloud courtesy of Worditout
nb>If you feel really depressed or have any thoughts that make you really scared, don’t know what to do and just need to speak to someone any time of day, call the Samaritans 116 123 from any phone any time of day or night. Someone will speak to you and just the act of talking could help.