Sneaky Little Allergies

The word “allergy” was one that sat in the dusty, cobweb-covered corner of the vocabulary archive in my mind, for the majority of my life. It applied to the poor kid who couldn’t eat peanuts, or the one who couldn’t eat popcorn, or the one whose face turned scarlet around mangos. I was perfectly free to eat peanuts and popcorn and be around mangos. I was blissfully allergy free. And that’s how I lived my life, enjoying whatever foods and products I liked whenever I was struck by the desire to do so—until I couldn’t anymore.

Turns out, younger me, that allergies can sneak up on you at any point in life. Additionally, younger me, you’re going to be wishing you were that poor kid who couldn’t eat this, or be around that, from the beginning. Allergies are hard—harder still when you’re sixteen and already used to living a certain way.

I’m Tabitha, a college student who’s not sixteen anymore, but who is definitely still struggling with this whole allergy thing.

It is important to be aware of your body. It seems simple enough, knowing what’s normal and what’s not, but it can be quite tricky. We use so many products and eat so many things throughout the day that it can be hard to pinpoint the culprit of a mild discoloration in the skin, or a stomach ache. Most of the time, we don’t even recognize that the mild discoloration in the skin, or the stomach ache, is attributed to something we used or ate.

I started going to the dermatologist when I noticed a slightly darker hue around my neck and underarms. I tried product after product, but the results were never satisfactory. After many failed attempts, my dermatologist recommended that I take an allergy test. I went to a lab, gave them some blood, and waited while they sent it off to another lab in Miami for definitive results. After a few weeks, I received a list. I expected that list to be short, perhaps non-existent. I’d never been allergic to anything in my life! I remember repeatedly pointing this out to my mother when she dragged me to the lab to get my blood taken. The list was not short, and definitely not non-existent.

Once you’ve identified your allergies, it is important to adjust yourself to this new discovery; listen to your body. I did not do that. According to a piece of paper from a medical lab, I was allergic to gluten, lactose, coffee, some type of tree or other, and carrots (though that last one is mild). I was a stubborn sixteen-year-old who refused to attain myself to a new dietary plan. I tried, but found it hard and quickly gave up. I’d lived this long, right?

Just as allergies can sometimes become milder however, allergies can also become stronger. It was around the middle of my freshman year in college when my allergies started to affect me, causing cramps and stomach aches. Still, I ignored them, using the excuse that it was just too inconvenient to attain myself to a certain diet while I was living on campus. And so it continued until the following summer, during which my body fought back with severe cramps and stomach aches. I was in pain for weeks and, eventually, had to clean out my stomach like one does before an operation. That’s when I knew I needed to make a change—and fast.

I’ve been making those changes, slowly but surely. It’s hard. I still make mistakes, but I’m learning a lot along the way, and by sharing it, I hope to learn more and perhaps help someone who is going through the same thing.

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