Sunday, September 04, 2016


Food allergies are never easy.  Adults and children alike struggle with how to navigate daily life; along with how much to share, how much to hide, and how much risk to take.
It's hard at any age.  
Kids can blame their parents.  But adults are left to justify their reactions, their risk management plans, their ongoing learning curve.  And in that justification, we sometimes over explain, over justify, over share.  It's not meant to be self centered.  It's not a plea for attention.  But sometimes, outsiders think it is.  

I've noticed that I'm not the only one who does this, and I'm pretty sure that others are saying the same thing I am.  Having a condition that affects my ability to eat freely makes me feel like I'm less.  Less valuable, less interesting, less desirable.  Intellectually, I know that my thoughts and insight are just as valuable as someone else's, but I also know that it's easier to connect with someone you understand.  And it's hard to bond with someone who can't share your or a cup of coffee with you.  It's awkward to go out to eat with someone who doesn't eat.  And when you can't even commiserate over calorie consumption and temptation, it's easier to just walk away.  

There was an episode of Charles in Charge (Am I the only one who watched that show?) where Charles and his girlfriend come home from an outing, arguing because she ordered salad off the menu and everyone else was having ice cream.  It made others feel bad about their choice to splurge while she sat there virtuously eating diet food.  

I think it's sometimes the same way with food allergies.  I don't indulge in pizza because I don't find bloating and vomiting to be indulgent.  But I recognize that the consequences would be different for someone else.  And I know that pizza tastes good.  When I can afford it, I don't hesitate to treat my kids to box of gluten free, dairy free, pizzeria made pizza.  (Yes, there is such a thing!  And I'm told it tastes better than the frozen version.)  

I don't drink coffee because it causes pain and discomfort which makes me less productive, rather than giving me that caffeine rush that adds to someone else's productivity.  But I can appreciate the desire for a treat that makes one feel more energetic, and fortifies you for the day.  If I could, I'd drink it; and I'd experiment with additions until I found the perfect blend.  But I can't.  I don't even dwell on it (outside of this blog post, that is)

But when I'm offered some, the whole scenario sometimes starts playing through my head.  I'd love some.  I can't.  Maybe this  Brain reminds me of pain, discomfort, I'll spare you the details.  I hesitantly say, "I wish I could..." and then the justifying begins.  I'm not anorexic.  That's not why I'm saying no.  Really.  I have these food allergies.  And I'm not just being paranoid.  Or, if I am, it's just because I've been burned so many times before.  Really.

And the more I get that look...the look of disbelief, the "uh, huh, sure", the twist of the mouth, the chewing of the lips followed by a polite smile, the more I want to keep talking and say things like, "Let me explain what I'm dealing with..."

In other words, I overshare.  It's pathetic, really.  I *think/hope* that I'm getting better.  I recognize it coming on and bite my tongue.  I see it in others and try not to cringe outwardly; I try to listen and actively respond.  I see through the oversharing to that tender center, the "please don't hate me, don't just walk away, I really wish..."  But I know others don't know what's behind the oversharing.  I've even heard them discussing it later, that man or woman who went on and on...Well.  That's what inspired this blog post.

So here it is.  In my personal, non professional, layperson's opinion, here is what someone is saying when they start oversharing about a medical condition you don't really care about:

"Don't judge me.  I'm doing the best I can.  I don't know how exactly to deal with what's wrong, but I'm trying to understand it.  Sometimes talking it through helps me deal.  Sometimes talking makes me feel less crazy, even if it makes me look crazier.  I feel vulnerable.  I feel judged.  I feel isolated and incompetent" (though why having to turn down a piece of candy or a cup of coffee might make me feel incompetent is beyond me.  It's still true.  I've found myself turning food down and then thinking that I shouldn't be there, someone else who can share and bond over junk food is somehow more qualified to be involved than I am.  I mean, I can't even eat normally...It doesn't make sense but there you have it.  Then you add in wearing a mask if popcorn or cornstarch is involved and I really feel out of place.)

Oversharing is a way of saying "Like me anyways.  I'm not really weird."

Several years in, I recognize this and am striving to embrace the weird.  Food allergies and the struggle to identify them have made me much more conscious about so many things.  Unfortunately, I have not grown more eloquent, and my awareness of multiple viewpoints only worsen my communication skills.  But I do try to embrace the weird and recognize that others simply aren't here.

And I wanted to share.  In case you, too, are struggling with oversharing, or know someone who is.  

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