So today my latte has espresso and rice milk, and a couple flavorings I know are safe. The reason I’m using rice milk today instead of coconut milk totally relates to this blog. I’ve had a rough morning, a lot of reactions lately, and my body feels poised for a bad one, so I’m trying to back it down. So, I’m cutting back to the very basic, very limited allergy diet that I know tends to be extremely safe, and that includes rice milk over coconut milk. I’ll stay on it till my body feels like it’s in balance again.
So, go get your coffee, or whatever you want to drink, settle down and let’s talk about how to adapt to a new normal when your life takes an abrupt turn and everything changes.
The term new normal originally was a financial term, but it has become standardized across all facets of life. Simply put, it means adapting to something that is a new standard in your life — usually something outside of your comfort zone. It can be health related, family related, or any number of things. One of the common denominators, is that it’s not always easy to accept the changes that come with it.
I’ve always had shifting conditions in my life, but I have to say one of the most difficult to deal with has been the new normal I am adapting to with regards to my food allergies, histamine intolerance, and balancing those with type II diabetes. (See Part 1 and Part 2 for more about Histamine Intolerance). In 2011 I was diagnosed with mild type II diabetes. I immediately went low-carb and pulled it back into remission diet only. I was doing great, I lost over 100 pounds, but in 2012 something happened. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was when histamine intolerance hit full blast.
In October 2012, I had two massive reactions. I developed severe angioedema on my face, horrendous hives, and basically ended up on prednisone for a week — some of you may remember my prednisone induced mania on twitter. We weren’t quite sure what caused it, although dairy seems to be one of the biggest culprits. I wasn’t eating cow dairy, which I knew I was allergic to, but I was eating a lot of goat dairy which I thought I could get away with. You can see in the pictures below what happened to me — I ended up in urgent care, with prednisone, a prescription for an EpiPen, and a strict instruction to see my doctor as soon as possible.
I’ve always had food allergies since I was a kid, you can read more about them under the blog search for food allergies. And I knew I had to be gluten free, but I was eating a lot of nuts and leftover meats and bone broths. All of which are great for low carb, but anathema for histamine intolerance. My doctor suggested the possibility of histamine intolerance back then, but I think I didn’t want to hear it and I sort of brushed it away.
Fast-forward: today. I have a severe case of histamine intolerance, I have food allergies, and I’m constantly walking a balance beam, trying to keep my blood sugar normal with diet, and yet eat low histamine. One of the biggest problems for me with that is that I cannot eat leftovers. Every single thing I eat that relates to meat, has to be cooked fresh. Rice, I can’t eat much of due to my blood sugar but if I do eat it it has to be cooked within the past day or two. Vegetables? Preferably fresh cooked, at least what I *can* eat of them–there are a number of vegetables that my system cannot tolerate. I can handle a few canned vegetables unlike some people with histamine intolerance, namely pears and beets. The only herbs or spices I can eat any more are parsley, oregano, marjoram, sage, and sometimes a little thyme.
My body doesn’t like nightshades anymore, and tomatoes are high in histamine — so my favorite food is off the table as well. No more fish, no more nuts, no more shellfish, no more pork or bacon or ham, no dried fruit, nothing fermented, no vinegar. No fresh berries, in fact — with fresh fruits I’m best if I stick to apples and sometimes pears. I can handle frozen blackberries, frozen raspberries. With melon, when I cut the rind off, I then have to wash the melon, washed the knife, washed the cutting board, and then cut the melon into squares because melons get a lot of mold on the outside of the rind even though you don’t see it, and that causes histamine issues.
So my new normal has become a balancing act between Benadryl, food, stress — which releases histamine into the body, outside histamine issues like pollen, and so on. I can’t eat out in restaurants, I don’t dare try any food that I don’t know what the ingredients in, or if I suspect that there may even be a slight chance of cross-contamination, I have to carry my Epi-pens everywhere I go along with Benadryl. And even when I’m incredibly careful, sometimes? Hey, boom, reaction.
Unfortunately I’ve done some stupid things over the years, like eating things I know will trigger me off, or taking a chance when I’m not sure on something. It gets so frustrating at times that it drives me up the wall.
But here is the fact of the matter: my doctor tells me I have such a severe case that I probably will always have this. In other words: don’t count on it going away.
So I’m adapting. I’m learning to accept that this is a new normal in my life. It’s not always easy, but accepting it is safer than not, and right now, safe is what I need.
So how do you go about adapting to a new normal? How do you make the changes even though they’re difficult?
- Mourn what you have lost. Go ahead and cry, get angry, throw a temper tantrum. Don’t pretend that it doesn’t hurt or make you upset. You have to be okay with your emotions and not repress them.
- Look for ways to make it easier. My husband does a remarkable job on asking me if I’ve eaten on time, and when it comes time to cook he always reminds me to “smell the meat” — which we have a good laugh over. You see, my histamine intolerance is so advanced that I can actually smell when meat is too old for me to eat. Most people won’t smell anything, but I can smell the rising cadaverine long before it becomes strong enough to affect most people (aged beef which tastes incredible? FAR too old for my body to handle. A bruised apple? Most likely too old for me). If I can smell a faint vinegary scent, I can’t eat the meat. So enlist family and friends to help you alter the behaviors you need to change, or to vent to when you need to talk.
- Realize that there is really no such thing as normal. Everybody has some issue that they have to deal with in their life. You may not see it — but every time you find yourself envying someone for what seems like a golden life, stop and think that they may be dealing with a parent who has Alzheimer’s. They may have a child with severe food allergies that constantly keeps them on alert. They may have a hidden disability that you don’t see, but that affects every aspect of their life. Never assume someone’s life is so much better than yours just because it appears so on the outside. Accept that we’re all human, and we all have issues to deal with. My husband deals with constant issues due to his type 1 diabetes and neurological conditions that nobody really has a clue about. I’m in chronic pain due to an old accident. From the outside? You might not know.
- Seek out a support group if you need to. It can be an official support group, or just friends who understand what you’re dealing with and are supportive. Now be aware — we all have met certain people who claim to be supportive but actually either sabotage us, or constantly deride and derail our needs. I once had a friend who told me he didn’t believe I had food allergies and he thought I was just faking it. That is not the kind of support that I need. And I don’t need a friend who encourages me to eat things that will trigger off reactions because “you deserve a treat” or “a little won’t hurt you.” People trying to enable destructive behavior like that will only hurt you in the long run.
- Remember: act in a way that supports your body and your soul and heart. Look for those things that buoy you up, that bolster your mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical health. As much as I love tomatoes, and they are my favorite food, I have to realize that every time I try to eat them, it hurts my body to such a degree that it could be dangerous. Tomatoes are wonderful, but they aren’t wonderful enough to jeopardize my life. So I don’t eat them. I look for the positive, because it leads to finding it, and keeps me from spiraling.
So, there are five steps to help you adapt to whatever your new normal is. I also call on my spiritual sources — the gods that I follow, to shore up my strength. And I research my condition, because understanding what’s happening helps me to adapt to what’s going on in my body.
Now, tell me ways that you have successfully adapted to your new normal. Because that’s what we’re about: making a success of our lives. So we look for the positive, and accentuate it.
6 thoughts on “But First, Coffee: Five Steps to Adapt to Your New Normal”
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 09, and then with fibromyalgia in 2014. I completely understand the smelling of the foods and had to cut a lot out of my diet. I can’t have pork either, and am constantly told that whoever is talking to me would rather die than not have bacon. I tell them it feels like I’m dying and I wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone if I eat bacon. I get made fun of and sometimes called names because of my normal. I also can’t do leftovers, thats a sick I don’t want. I have to carry an epi pen as well, found out that cilantro could kill me. My husband and kids are incredibly supportive and loving. They never really complain when I can’t do something or when I’m bed bound. I have to go every 8 weeks to get an infusion to help keep me alive. Three of my meds kill my immune system, so I’m a proud germaphobe. I try not to ever complain, cause it could be so much worse. But life is definitely harder when you’re not “normal.” People can be cruel and disrespectful, but I try to talk to them and educate them.
In the past few years, I’ve learned that I can’t handle meat except maybe once a month. There are foods with meat that I enjoy. Yet, due to how sick it makes me, I can’t eat it. So I’ve had to switch to an almost complete vegetarian diet. My new normal is accepting that I can’t really eat meat and enjoying the foods I can eat, and once a month getting to enjoy a meal with meat, that’s why I don’t claim to be a vegetarian. I’ve had people who tell me to just eat more meat slowly to adjust my body to it. I’m sorry, but at 32 and spending so much time with either health problems or getting sick so frequently and removing the meat from my diet almost completely and they go away, I’m not taking that change. I know my body and it says no. So I’ve just learned to find the foods or alternatives and try them. Helps that my family is supportive and will find a way to adjust meals to ensure I’m not sick. Yet, the positive change to my health has made it worth it, even when it’s been difficult.
Thanks for this. I really needed to see it today. I need to lose 25 pounds, I need to modify my daily patterns in order to succeed at this, and it seems really daunting. OK, it IS daunting. Your wise words will help me focus and get to it.
I am just beginning to learn I have food limitations, and accepting that is extremely difficult. I’ve slowly become lactose intolerant over the last couple years, but recently it has become a definite intolerance, possibly an allergy. I’ve been type II diabetic for 18 years or so, but last year I had to switch from diet-controlled to medicated. Also, have GERD so I have to take meds for that or else EVERYTHING causes reflux. So, my issues are nowhere near as bad as yours, but I’m getting so frustrated with the fact that all my favorite foods are off-limits to me now. I can’t afford a special diet =(
I know what you mean about being able to smell it, I have been always been able to smell when cow’s milk was about to go bad. Reading your words I get it now because I get when I smell that food is off and my brain is telling me not to eat it when others don’t smell the same smell. I also get the mourning of what you can’t have, I truly love cheese but even now most days I can’t tolerate it because of my milk allergy (its not lactose but milk proteins, I’ve tried lactose free and its still affects me the same.) I’ve also discovered on my own that lentils, beans, and peanuts do almost the same as milk. In this I have rediscovered my love of various hot teas. I still drink my coffee with almond milk when I have a craving now but I discovered I really love tea. I feel like Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole but having to find other things to like as far as food has actually reopened that door that I opened as a kid in trying new things, food and otherwise. My hubby laughs because I’ve been thanking Loki instead of cursing him and our male cat, whose name honors Loki, thinks I’m talking to him. Who know, maybe I am. I also thank you for your blogs, I don’t don’t know why but they help me too.
Yes, I’m allergic to dairy too–to the milk proteins. One small sip sets me off with respiratory issues and breathing problems. It’s hard–I love cheese too. But even if I wasn’t allergic to dairy, histamine intolerance wouldn’t allow me to have it. Mourning what we have lost is important, as long as we don’t get mired in it. Embracing the present and finding ways to love it are vital. I’m so glad you’re able to recognize the positive that can come out of this!