Wednesday, 4 September 2013

An Emotional Journey

The recent trials and tribulations of eating out have lead me to ponder the emotional side of requiring a freefrom diet. 

At the first sign of persistent symptoms, nearly 4 years ago (with many unsuspected symptoms further back), I was concerned and annoyed that I felt so poorly for no apparent reason. Little did I know that this was just the start of an emotional challenge that would still be unresolved many years later.

There are obvious physical problems with avoiding food triggers or allergens. You have to read labels on every food you buy. You make most, if not all, of your food from scratch. There is less choice than your previous diet as you are now hyper aware of what you are putting in your body. The pinnacle of most problems appears to be eating out, where you are are trusting some one else (probably a stranger) to provide a safe meal for you. This is where the physical turns into the emotional.

The impact of requiring a specialist diet for me varies between the matter of fact approach, where it's a necessary part of my day to day life, to the obsessive control of every aspect of each meal, snack or drink. As a freefrom customer you require a different approach from cafes, restaurants and hotels. In public surroundings it is difficult not to draw attention to yourself. There are many questions to be asked before choosing suitable food. You have to trust the person who is serving you to understand your requirements. The establishment has to prove to your instincts that they won't damage your health. The chef has to have the skill to produce something safe for you to eat. In some cases the food you are presented with not only looks unappealing to you but also to your friends and colleagues.

Even the daily work lunch requires differentiation from your work colleagues. This could lead to exclusion from eating out or in company. Luckily for me my work lunch is either shared with my husband, our toddler or the dog who are the most understanding bunch of colleagues. 

The journey to diagnosis is a tough and tiring one. Anyone in the same position will understand the anger, frustration and emotional strain of uncaring, dismissive, inept or unknowledgeable medical professionals. It is common place be kept in a system where open ended referrals are a long time coming only to be concluded with a 5 minute appointment with no further information. This is often followed by a period of fighting with your GP to gain a more suitable approach to resolving your symptoms. Then followed by another period of waiting and possible disappointment. There is also an emotional challenge in the constant not knowing. 
Chronic undiagnosed illness takes it toll on your energy levels. It can also make the people closest to you seem uncaring as the battle with hearing the same problems time and time again is a difficult one.

For those who have been successfully diagnosed and are on the road to recovery I do not belittle or begrudge you your own struggles. I have yet to have the challenge of being told a diagnosis. I will have to come to terms with that demon when it finally arrives. I have read other peoples experiences and know that each person is different and every diagnosis is traumatic for that person. 

It is sad but reassuring to know that there are many other people feeling the same way. Food allergies, intolerance's and related illnesses present us with an emotional challenge. Fortunately there is much support to be found online. The presence of social media, bloggers, specialist manufacturers and support groups enable us all to research and share our troubles. 

Many of these people can be found through the links page on our website,

I wish you a happy and healthy day today x

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