Sunday, March 12, 2017

Are YOUR Allergies Being Harassed?

I've been hesitating to discuss this but I feel the time has come to address it. I am admittedly the blogger that says what she feels but, as always, I do so to continue to educate rather than harm and to let others within the food allergy community know that unspoken words can actually harm our support system. A few months ago, I wrote this article (here) as it was about the time that this subject began to come into the media's spotlight. The summer was pretty heated when stories of epinephrine flew everywhere into wee hours of the morning for many, many weeks. It was a stressful time for many but more than that, it was a time that I began to question some of the resources that are available to our community. There is a saying- a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link so what happens when one weak link is found, then two, then (possibly) more? With all that we have gone through together, this is the opposite of what we need right now.

Isn't continued support between us, regardless of some differences, what keeps us knowing that there are virtual food allergy family members out there in "twitterverse" that still have our back?  I always look for the good in people because I know not everyone's allergy needs are the same, not everyone's daily struggles are the same and certainly our personal decisions on how to handle our family's allergies strategy is not the same. I am ok with this- I will still be there to listen, even when I don't agree. I will still give you my opinion without judging or scolding you because you don't feel the same as I do. But what happens when others choose not to use this way of support? What happens when you bear your soul, ask for help and you are met with those who make you feel inferior or uneducated about what you shared when all you asked for was help?

It Starts With a Buzz So what happens if you read the latest article or just want to help fellow allergy sufferers and you are, instead, verbally attacked within these online sites? I have seen an ongoing pattern that is a continual cycle- post an allergy-related question, bash those who do not agree with you, then block them and continue to bash them without allowing them to continue the conversation. I see this as wanting to have the highest rankings within a Google search on a particular subject rather than meaning to support those who need it. Make your own decisions of course but please understand that just like a true best friend, a true allergy resource would never, ever do this to anyone if they were dedicated to their true mission to help others. My mission each and every day is not to get more numbers- my mission is to offer guidance and support and nothing more. At the end of the day, if I have helped even one person I have done what I woke up to accomplish. Support is not about how many but how you support. I choose to welcome with open arms and I hope that many of you want to be welcomed as such. My point? Food allergies are a long, long journey - choose those that want to take that journey with you.

Oh, It Works Let me repeat this again- each person has different allergy needs. None of us should ever feel judged, criticized or be told that what we decide to do makes us a bad person or parent. Sharing our journey and being able to ask questions without facing repercussions is the only way any of our allergy plans will work. Listening is so very, very crucial. Supporting is so very, very important. Disagreeing is understandable but brutal, impolite harassment with those who don't agree with your plan of action is harsh and damaging. Each and every day parents with an allergic child begin their day doubting themselves- wondering if one of their decisions might be the cause of an allergic reaction or worse. There is nothing that we can do to ensure complete safety, only find ways to stay proactive and be as prepared as possible. To "scream" at people who are already unsure of what's right or wrong is not only damaging to the people that desperately need the support from their peers, it's also damaging to our entire community. With so much allergy support being accessible at a moment's notice online, one fierce comment could literally mean showcasing our food allergy resources as overbearing, unsympathetic and downright questionable. Disagreements are natural but consider before you share openly on a community forum or sending out a tweet- how will those words impact that person as well as those not even associated with allergies? Better yet, reach out privately and see how you can help each other. I guarantee that those who you took an extra step to help out will remember that kindness far better than being questioned in front of the entire world.

Talk Don't Attack We all have immensely important voices, passion and energy so why waste it? Be a part of the solution, not the problem and find out how you can use your voice for the good of the cause. There seems to be a rivalry about some within the allergy community refusing support from outside sources such as parents, bloggers, non-profits, companies and even drug companies. These are all of the people that we have been screaming at to pitch in and be on our side. These are all of the places that our food allergy community needs additional support from. Look at how far we have come with allergen knowledge in our foods, in our schools and beyond. Why, suddenly, are some of us trying to tell them that we don't need their help and that what they are trying to offer is is simply wrong? Stop, breath and think- be a part of the solution. If these companies should alter what they are offering, ask them how you can help them achieve what they are seeking and more. It's very simple to be someone who wants to be a part of the action but doesn't want to take a step beyond that. It is incredibly important to be one of the few that stands up, dusts themselves off and is ready to see how their energies can result in something amazing for all of the community.

In my opinion, if you are going to be a staunch supporter of the allergy community, then don't do anything less than your best for yourself and others. Be wary of those that become fanatical and insist that you must handle your scenarios exactly as they do. The only time this may not be the case is if the person informing you is a board certified allergist (and even sometimes, if you don't feel they have your best interest at heart, it may be time to find another allergist). Many of these groups that are so easily spouting off what they feel is supportive do not have the education that should be part of their support.  Just because they feel their motives are good, it doesn't mean that it is for you. Do your own research, find a group that is known for their support and education rather than how many people they have decided were not worthy of their support. Disagreeing is healthy but insisting that no body else can disagree is not.

Your word is everything- it's what all of your peers rely on to know that whatever you share with them is reliable. I stick with my morals because I feel that my word is my word, always. If you aim to help others, take the high road and not the road paved with inconsistency, doubt and anger for others. The only one that you can be angry at is yourself for not being what you said you would be.

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