Adjusting. That’s what we are doing: adjusting. Allison has gotten comfortable with her problem. Her issue. Her whatever-it-is. We have gotten past the stage where it was causing her major emotional distress every time she realizes that she has just pulled some of her hair out. Now, she takes it in stride, letting me know if it is feeling like she is pulling out more hair than usual. Allison has trichotillomania (trich). Trich is a compulsive desire to pull out one’s hair. To see my previous post about Allison and trich, go here.
As I sit here watching her roller skate on the church playground, I’m a little sad for her. And full of regrets. I know that it isn’t specifically my fault that she has trich. But, I also know that this last year of ignoring food allergies likely played a part in this latest flareup. Two years ago, we learned that three of my nine children tested positive for food allergies on blood tests. The biggest downer was that they were each allergic to different foods! One child was allergic to milk, wheat, corn, and sesame, one was allergic to eggs, and Allison tested positive for wheat, soy, and peanuts. Our gluten free diet pretty quickly revealed that another child got a stomach ache if I fed her anything with tapioca flour in it, a common ingredient in gluten free processed foods. I tried desperately to keep my chin up and maintain the preciousness of family mealtimes.
Allison and her little brother. Notice the allergy rash on his face. He has had it for three months, almost half of his life.
Pretty quickly I felt like a disgruntled short-order cook. This kid could only have the meat and potatoes, the next kid could have the meat and the veggie, and another kid could have all three, but hold the sauce. I made so many mistakes. Once, I cooked a birthday meal for the birthday child and accidentally used one of his allergens. After a particularly tough, busy week I cooked a special breakfast for my family on Saturday morning, forgetting that one of the kids couldn’t have eggs and that the gluten free toast had tapioca. My tapioca free kiddo had stomach cramps for the next 6 hours. It took about a year before I finally bottomed out, sick of the ever-present allergies and missing our comfort foods. Christmas 2014, I gave up.
Looking back, I don’t really blame myself for making the wrong decision. What we were facing was real. And it was tough. Sadly, this last 14 months of eating regular foods with a superficial nod towards avoiding known allergens was most likely the trigger for Allison’s trich flareup.
Perhaps that’s actually a good thing. I have spent the last two months researching, researching, researching food allergies and nutrition. As of today, Allison and I have been refined sugar and all of her allergens free for a week. I am so proud of her willingness to tackle her food allergies head on!
Really, all things considered, Allison is doing great. I suggested she start a video diary as a way to work out her feelings about trichotillomania. Most importantly, I feel that she needs a voice. We don’t get to choose our challenges in life or when we have them, but we can choose how we walk through them. And my girl is walking through this challenge with grace. Check out her first entry here: https://youtu.be/a9Ue5zdbets.