When Olivia was first diagnosed with all of her food allergies, it felt like the entire universe was crumbling around me. Growing up I identified myself with food. Bad break up? Mozzarella sticks will fix that! Birthday? Cake! New job? Time to order pizza! Every good or bad experience I had went hand in hand with some sort of cuisine. I turned to food when I needed to celebrate or find comfort and because of this, it shaped a lot of how I’ve learned to cope with anything life threw at me.
Food has always been a safe place of warmth for me — feels like the warm hug of a freshly baked croissant you might say.
But when Olivia was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs and wheat, that warm place to land melted away. The very thing that always brought me so much comfort was now the very thing that caused me debilitating anxiety. Going out to eat to celebrate the good, or find comfort from the bad, was no longer something we could do because restaurants are full of dangerous foods! I could see I was starting to hide at home where I knew Olivia would be safe. I started turning down invitations out and didn’t even want people over just in case they had eaten peanut butter and maybe didn’t realize it. I was diving into a really dark rabbit hole.
This is where our amazing friends and family came in. Instead of making me feel silly or like I was being dramatic, my best friends told me to take a deep breath. When we have scheduled play dates, they make sure their kids stayed away from any peanut or peanut butter products. They make sure to have their kids eat their cheesy snacks and milk in a place that won’t harm Olivia and help me to encourage the kids to give hugs but not kisses. Our friends without kids wash their floors and counters from top to bottom just to make sure it is safe for her to play.
To my friends,
I cannot thank you enough for being you. Thank you for thinking of my daughter as one of your own. Thank you for taking her food allergies as seriously as we do and making me feel supported rather than laughed at. Thank you for loving her despite these challenges and creating such a safe environment for her to grow with your children and with you. Thank you going that extra mile to make sure she is safe and happy. We couldn’t ask for more.
Instead of minimizing Olivia’s allergies, our families cut out peanut butter from their diets. You won’t find a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups or a container of mixed nuts at their houses. This is a change no one would expect them to make and yet, they did.
To my family,
I cannot thank you enough for your unwavering support. We are incredibly lucky to have you in our daughter’s life as not only a huge source of support, but as her biggest advocates. Thank you for always making sure there is “Livey safe” butter around to make mashed potatoes, and that she has a cupcake or cookies to celebrate every birthday. Thank you for having her wipes ready when the “boom boom” aka puppies come around to give her kisses (she’s also allergic to her favorite — dogs).
Thank you for always making her and us feel included. I never feel like Olivia is missing out and it is because of you. Most of all, thank you for always picking up the phone when I call in tears because I’m scared or overwhelmed. Thank you for talking me down and reminding me that everything will be OK and yes, reminding me peanut proteins are not going to grow legs and feet with little sneakers on and jump into Olivia’s mouth! Gotta love anxiety, right?!
My anxiety is still something I am working on every day, but thanks to our friends and family, I don’t feel alone. You guys are our people, our ohana, our family. Thank you for not leaving us behind while we continue to deal with our new normal.
We will keep advocating.
And again, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for always going that extra mile for our family.