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Therapeutic Thursday: how shrimp conquered my fears

Growing up I didn’t know much that was 100% certain. Sadly, most of the things I ‘knew’ in that manner weren’t true.

I knew by the time I went back to school in the eighth grade that The Waterboy was creepily close to home for me. Knowing what I know as an adult, it’s even closer.

My mother wanted me to be her little clone. Every parent likes the idea of dressing like your kid or hoping your kid will be cool or like you – whatever. This is a whole different level of creepy that I can’t really put into words.

She talked about things that violate the parent-child relationship up until a certain age, like her sex life with the man who sexually assaulted me or mental health issues and how I was the only reason she was alive or how I would really like chocolate truffles at 9 because they’re like an orgasm in your mouth. Some of these things I think were because my mother doesn’t have great social skills or a good filter but others were specifically to guilt or hurt me. No one wants to think of others as being that malicious – especially a parent – but it is what it is.

One of the ways we were supposed to be the same was our allergies. When my SJIA was finally diagnosed, she claimed it was what she had growing up and likely what her deceased father had as a child as well. She also decided that my sister had the same exact thing without taking her to a doctor.

Self-diagnosis or diagnosis by parent/others can be helpful and useful. In this case, I’m not sure. I still feel that my sister may have had something closer to lupus. Right now her labs don’t show any typical autoimmune arthritis signs, but we also know that doesn’t always mean a lot.

My mother convinced me that certain things were just inevitable. She used fear to rule me with these ideas. One that I’ve spoken about before was obviously the use of fear to control me protecting my sister or telling anyone (when I had someone to tell) about the abuse. I was threatened with the idea that we would become wards of the state and it was a sure thing that no one would adopt us together.

Another biggie was allergies. It sounds benign in type, but let me explain a bit more… Instead of me figuring out what allergies I had, it was obvious that, as her daughter and the golden child in the home, I would have the same allergies as my mother. This meant that when I got stung by bees as a child I thought I was going to die. This is one of the first times I can say I had a panic or anxiety attack.

The other biggie, though, was her allergy to shellfish. We were also told it was one of those poof up and probably die type of allergies. I was told to stay away from those foods because I probably had it too.

I was scared out of my wits. I made sure to mark everywhere that shellfish and penicillin were both allergies because it was made clear to me that it was the case.

I did really well in high school biology. I’ve always loved genetics and such. You would think at some point that I would have realized there was a chance I didn’t have these allergies. You would be right, but two things stopped me from testing that out – lack of medical care and possibility of death.

I’ve been on penicillin-related antibiotics now so I’m fine there.

In college, Katy and I tried to look all over to see if this delicious gumbo has shrimp in it and we couldn’t see anything. We sit down and start enjoying it, only for me to half chew one in my mouth by the time she saw one in her bowl. I quickly grabbed something else to eat and we stayed together most of the rest of the day. I thought I was having an allergic reaction, but it turns out it must have been another anxiety attack…

Because earlier this year I started seeing an allergist. She tested me for the biggies and the only allergy she found was to ragweed. Sadly this confirms my reactions to stevia, which is a member of the ragweed family. Happily, though, it means taking a list of things off my allergy problem list.

I was encouraged to try shrimp, but to keep my new epi-pen close at hand just in case.

We went to our favorite local restaurant full of Venezuelan food and tried their ceviche. It was so acidic that it gave me mouth sores – and it made it hard to really try the shrimp. It also made me worry that I might not figure out the reaction so I didn’t eat much. I wasn’t sure if it was something like with my intolerances where I can have a tiny amount with no reaction.

I went to Whole Foods over my lunch break one day and they had gluten free fried shrimp – all you had to do was finish cooking it. We got some tiny steaks during our next grocery trip and T make me steak with peppers and shrimp… while I found GF cheddar biscuits at WF the same day.

Best GF biscuits I’ve ever had!

I was excited to try shrimp, but also very scared. Despite the obvious issues with these types of allergies, it was a fear that had been instilled in me from a young age. The only thing I can explain is it’s like how you might find out certain holiday characters are more fictional than not. I was scared to break that fear and, to be honest, part of me hoped that at least this one time she would have been telling the truth.

My plate was adorned with tasty looking food as soon as I got home from work. I was anxious and worried and all that good stuff.

I did it. I ate real shrimp by itself and I LOVED it.

I was kind of overcome with emotion. I kept checking my pulse and breathing without any tools to make sure I was okay. I kept just eating those little guys though. It was amazing.

Not only was shrimp delicious, but it helped me conquer a few fears – dying and scary allergies definitely but also my mother. It was one of the last things where she still held power over me. Now that’s all gone and I can really and truly just be me and work on healing.

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