Help dealing with my wife\'s allergy

Posted on: Wed, 04/23/2003 - 7:17am
littleBuddha's picture
Joined: 04/23/2003 - 09:00

It's been almost three years since my wife was hospitalized with a severe peanut reaction. She nearly died just getting to the hospital and spent a day and a half on life support. It was the most traumatic event of my life, driving her to the hospital while her sister performed mouth-to-mouth. She was unprepared, obviously, for that type of reaction and has since carried at least one epi pen at all times.

Here's my problem: my apprehensions and fears about eating out, traveling, flying on airplanes, etc., are GROWING, not diminishing over time. I'm a wreck when we eat out, and have walked away from meals at restaurants after not getting a straight answer from a server, or after tasting something myself that was suspicious.

I'm worried that I'm either over-reacting, or working up to a bigger over-reaction. It's getting harder to deal with this, even though I know it's HER at risk, not me. The anxiety is mine, anyway.

Any thoughts? Has anybody here been able to work through this anxiety and live a "normal" life? Any resources you can point me toward would be greatly appreciated.


Posted on: Wed, 04/23/2003 - 8:14am
teacher's picture
Joined: 11/02/2000 - 09:00

Gosh, I was just reading about post-traumatic stress disorder this afternoon. Your scenario sounds exactly like this. Have you considered seeing a therapist? Your reaction (to seeing her reaction) seems natural and normal to me. Anybody would feel like you do now! Obviously you recognize that the way you deal with things now is over-the-top, but I would say that at this point, it's almost automatic, like a habit. You need to learn some skills -- some of that "inner talk" -- to be able to get yourself past this every time. You CAN get past it. (Remind yourself with things like the number of deaths from peanut ingestion every year is actually pretty low, relatively speaking. Just a suggestion.) I'm sure everybody here would agree that you don't want to swing the other direction and become careless, but you CAN live a relatively normal life without fear of her dying every day. Speaking for myself, I rarely think seriously about the potential for my son to die -- my focus is on his good GENERAL health. Every other bridge I'll cross when I get there. I am prepared, well-educated, and I know I can handle it -- BUT I have to remind myself of that every day.
I hope this can somehow be of help.
Just one small suggestion that the others may or may not agree with ... When I was first dealing with understanding this allergy, I was completely shell-shocked by what I read on this message board. I could only take it in small bits at a time -- it was so much to digest. I would suggest that if you're having an equally difficult time, don't purposely force yourself into scenarios where you are going to make yourself more anxious. The idea, I would think, would be to equip yourself with the knowledge and self-confidence that you know you can handle whatever comes your way. You handled it once before ... you love her ... you'll do it again if you have to. But for now, she's safe and sound and you have a lot of living to do together!
Good luck! [img][/img]

Posted on: Wed, 04/23/2003 - 9:19am
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

As a member of a whole family with life-threatening atopic conditions, I can assure you (as maybe a therapist unfamiliar with this territory might not) that you are ALWAYS more concerned for those you love than you are for yourself. That is okay.
As an example, my husband and I do not carry epinephrine, though an allergist would certainly encourage us to- (he's walnut and I am yellowjacket). It is ironic that he thinks I might need one and I think he might... [img][/img] (We both ought to know better.) It is our daughter that we worry for. Some of it IS post-traumatic. We have watched her nearly die, and the very thought is unthinkable.
For a long time after a reaction, you spend a lot of time thinking about it- and the only way (for me) to work through those feelings is to just talk about them and try to hash it out. In about a year or 18 months, things seem to subside. BUT- (here's the catch) any kind of truly dangerous situation can cause flashbacks, and another reaction, even a minor one, causes the whole process to start over again.
It is a struggle- but don't let a mental health professional diminish the very real fears that we all have- this is not an irrational fear. It is just one that you have to find ways to put aside so that you are not paralyzed by it. Have you considered confiding to your wife that situations revolving around food are making you increasingly nervous? She might be able to help you find ways to enjoy going out and socializing in less nerve-wracking ways (ie- pack a picnic from home and go listen to jazz in the park, for example, instead of eating at a romantic restaurant). Occasionally, I allow myself a moment or two of total hysteria- (usually in the shower when nobody else will know) and then I pick myself up and move on. When I am feeling those feelings becoming overwhelming, I also try to up my physical activity level- and I also try to get outside to do that (even if the weather is lousy, the sunlight helps a lot). Constant stress can very easily lead to clinical depression, so we should all be aware of the warning signs and take action when we see them- this time of the year (at the end of winter) is a particularly bad one.
One other tip I would give you is to periodically take a vacation from the world- lock yourselves up with safe food and movies/books/music/other fun entertainment for a weekend (or longer!) and just relax. Let go and know that its okay to do that (even if it is never ok to leave the epinephrine behind... sigh) because YOU are in control of your environment. It is SOOOOO worth it.
You can let out a breath that you didn't know you'd been holding for months. [img][/img] There really aren't words- I hope that made sense.
Hang in there- through the good days and the bad ones (there are plenty of both)!

Posted on: Wed, 04/23/2003 - 11:21am
darthcleo's picture
Joined: 11/08/2000 - 09:00

I'm not sure it's over reacting.
My son has never been near death, he only had one slightly worrisome reaction to peanuts which went away without medication. So I cannot be suffering from post-stress whatever. Yet, we won't take him to restaurants, we won't let him eat at a friend's place. In fact, the more I know about the food industry, or the restaurant industry, the less I trust them, for my son, or for anyone!
I had a boyfriend who was a chef in Paris France. He also had a restaurant in Montreal for a while, but eventually quit the business. The horror stories he told me about what they can do in the kitchen.. shudders... No thanks, I'll eat my own food.

Posted on: Wed, 04/23/2003 - 12:17pm
becca's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

I would agree your worries are not unreasonably or over the top. However the anxiety you are feeling might be, in terms of how stress can be an unhealthy thing.
My Dad had lots of nightmares(not directly related to the event), sleep walking, genral stress, I would say even borderline agorophobia, after a near death incident with my mom(she had a very chronic terminal illness, but lived some time after this episode). It wore him down terribly, all the worry.
I think you should be sure you are doing all the safe things you both can, and talk about it openly, but then go on living. Maybe it means finding food free interests and more picnics, but you can still enjoy a very full and cultured life. If the anxiety is preventing this, then maybe you should seek professional help, to put things in perspective. It is safer now that you know the allergy is there and carry epinephrine, etc... than before the big reaction, in actuality. It is now the "devil you know" and you both are better prepared. Best wishes, and how nice that she has you looking out for her like you are. Becca

Posted on: Wed, 04/23/2003 - 11:52pm
Cedar's picture
Joined: 04/15/2003 - 09:00

Link below tips on handling stress of anaphylaxis:

Posted on: Thu, 04/24/2003 - 2:21am
cathlina's picture
Joined: 06/29/2001 - 09:00

I don't stress out from restaurants...I eat at to cook and BBQ.

Posted on: Thu, 04/24/2003 - 6:43am
California Mom's picture
Joined: 07/14/2000 - 09:00

I sought professional help when I realized that my own anxieties were becoming overwhelming and were not helping my daughter at all. The precautions you take do not sound over the top, to me, but some therapy to help you with your anxiety may be useful. Good luck! Miriam

Posted on: Thu, 04/24/2003 - 8:28am
littleBuddha's picture
Joined: 04/23/2003 - 09:00

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words. I've spoken to a therapist, but she didn't think my issues were going to stand in the way of a healthy relationship with my wife, or in the way of my own health.
I also meditate, practice Zen sitting, take prescribed meds to keep my blood pressure (my own hereditary issues at play) in the normal range, and exercise regularly.

Posted on: Fri, 04/25/2003 - 8:37am
Sandy's picture
Joined: 05/27/2002 - 09:00

bda,...All the people on this message board understand exactly what you are going through. It is a very very scary thing. Even though some of us don't have the peanut allergy ourselves, we do feel the heavy anxiety that goes along with it.
Try not to put yourself in a situation (like going to restaurants) that will give you doubt. Cook at home, have friends over. I know that it is not like going out, but we adjust. We have to.
Check out "Safe Restaurants" in this message board. It has helped my family tremendously, and the support is really comforting.

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