Allergies pose inner struggle, provide learning opportunity

Savera Zulfiqar, columnist

I had been throwing up for about seven minutes in a shrub covered ditch that served as the side of a parking lot. It was an unusually cold and cloudy September day back in 2010.

My mother asked, “Are you feeling better now?” with a revolted yet concerned expression on her face as she apprehensively approached my crouched figure.

“I don’t know,” I said. My throat still felt as if someone had stuffed it with feathers, but I got up and got back in the car.

The following days brought a loss of appetite, throat pain, heavy sneezing, runny nose, irritated eyes, and fever; all the perks of having your immune system under attack. Did I mention the crippling weakness? I could be reduced to a gasping, vomiting mess in mere minutes by consuming anything that had even touched a nut.

That’s just what I go through when I get anaphylactic shock. For many people, allergic reactions include hives, swelling, constricting throat and puffy eyes.

As I grew older, I decided that I could either completely fall a hapless victim to my allergy or learn to control it. I chose the latter because trying to conquer a near lost cause is so much more fun than waiting for another attack.

Enough was enough. I decided to go to an allergist for the first time in twelve years and the day of the visit, October 3, 2016, is forever seared into my memory. As the nurse tested me, she rambled off what I was and was not allergic to. She listed the nuts I was not allergic to which surprisingly was the majority of nuts.

A lot of people go through their day to day lives without knowing how it feels to have their life in danger any minute of the day, but that’s the constant fear I live in. So the skepticism was understandable when my mother told me I was allowed to eat peanuts.

My mind continued to refuse this information. For all my life I was allergic to all nuts. All nuts were fatal. I could not eat peanuts, not now not ever. But I did. After we had gotten home, I took our jar of Skippy Smooth Peanut Butter and ate a large spoonful as my family cheered. Fear jabbed my insides as I waited for the familiar feeling of a closing throat and heavy mouth, but the feeling never came.

Now, I try to eat peanut butter with everything I can. I don’t exactly love it, but I don’t care. I mean, I will eventually right? Being able to defy what is death, even in the form of peanut butter made me feel a new strength. I now possessed an ability I never had before.

Some may argue that being void of a simple spread is not the most life changing experience. After all, there are more unfortunate people in the world who are deprived of food for the necessity of living. Although I do understand that compared to the universal tragedies of starvation, my nut allergies seem trivial, but to me, it means the world.

Allergies to me are a self-experienced struggle rather than a universal and outside struggle. Yes, in the grand scheme it is insignificant but for the lives of those who live with allergies it is a large portion of their lives.

Yes, I know my situation could be a lot worse. No, this is not as groundbreaking as being unable to eat chocolate, or drink milk or eat wheat, but food allergies are all the same. They all estrange a person to another. Allergies, although may seem insignificant because they aren’t a prevalent world problem, but it is a constant silent trouble for those who have it.