It’s been a while since I’ve written on this blog. It feels good to be back! Isn’t that what we all need to find these days, something positive to focus on? Especially if we can dig deep and find that positivity within ourselves.
It’s been a year for all of us-
My food allergy life mantra has always been, “Just Keep Swimming!” Whatever food allergy hell I was going through, I knew if I didn’t get caught up in the awfulness, I could find a way to help myself and my family move forward. It’s always worked, and I’ve passed it on to many others in the food allergy space. This simple phrase changes my stubborn mindset.
We hit March of 2020, and our world shut down due to a global pandemic.
It’s pretty hard to keep swimming when everything becomes terrifying and life comes to a grinding halt, right? I felt that way. I wanted to shut my door and the world out.
I’m a nurse. This past fall semester I began working on my Master’s in Public Health. Because of my background and interest in health, and what I was learning in graduate school, I decided to learn as much as possible about COVID-19.
I realized there were so many parallels between managing food allergies and mitigating the risks of this virus. Food allergy families had already made many of these difficult health behavior changes long before the pandemic took over. Many of us just needed to add a mask! Some of us already did this in public places and on airplanes.
Hand-washing, surface cleaning, not sharing food and drinks, not being able to safely eat out in many restaurants, extremely stressful airline experiences, feeling isolated in school due to social distancing at lunch, some difficulty finding favorite foods in the grocery store, no toilet paper… ok, let’s talk about this, toilet paper? Not being able to find toilet paper has never happened to me or anyone I know, until this pandemic. Insanity!
You get the point, as families navigating life with this invisible, life threatening diagnosis, we’ve experienced and felt many of these situations pre-pandemic. My fourteen year old daughter said to me, “Mom. I’ve been training my whole life for this!” We both had a laugh and agreed.
On social media, I saw how many food allergic families related. There were even memes about the comparison. It was a silver lining, and gave us something to laugh about, during such a bizarre time.
Not everyone was as fortunate.
The pandemic showed an x-ray of society, one of “the have and have nots.”
Many people still refuse to believe this virus remains a very serious public health threat, despite the death tolls and overflowing hospitals. People blatantly ignore public health measures and evidence based science. Conspiracy theories grew like wildfire.
With life at a standstill, everything became clear. As I am learning in graduate school, racism is also a pubic health issue. We could not ignore the realtime, glaring facts about social injustice, healthcare disparities and racism.
I learned a new call to action: how to be antiracist. I thank my 16 year old daughter for enlightening me on how to be antiracist! We continue to listen and learn from our BIPOC friends, and all people who have been excluded by society, deepening our compassion and empathy for those who are suffering.
There is no comparison to the injustices the BIPOC community have faced for centuries; however, as a food allergy family who understands the lack of human decency from time to time, we know how it feels to be ignored, placed in unsafe situations, or treated as an inconvenience because of a disability. Our hearts were already open to learning more. We will continue to do so, to bring meaningful change, healing, unity and peace to our country.
The new year finally came and we were excited with the promise of hope, a new day and VACCINES!
Then, January 6th happened, and our Capitol was attacked by domestic terrorists.
And for the first time in this food allergy life, “Just Keep Swimming!” felt exhausting.
I needed to stop.
I needed to breathe.
I needed to rest.
I needed to write this piece.
If you too are struggling and feeling the weight of it all, “Just Keep Breathing!”
We will swim again.