Guest Blog Post: Learning to Practice Self Care by Alison Blair, Later Mom and Health Coach
When talking about children and food allergies, the focus is usually on the child and all that the mom has to do to help them navigate school, daycare and playdates. I’m here to tell the story about what can happen to a mom when her child is diagnosed with food allergies. The constant worry and search for answers and help literally ran me into the ground.
My daughter has 8 food allergies, and a few of them were diagnosed at a very early age: 5 months. Trying to work a full time job and take care of a child with health issues is virtually impossible. If her eczema got uncomfortable, I had to keep her home. If she had a doctor appointment, I had to work from home and take her to the doctor. From January through April of 2013, I don’t think I worked a full 5 day week.
I spent so much time taking Eliza to the pediatrician, allergist, dermatologist, Chinese medicine doctor, nutritionist, not to mention the countless hours I spent online trying to find solutions to make her feel better. I felt like managing her health was a full time job. I had that in addition to the full time job that actually paid me money.
At 11 months, we found out she had the trio of eczema, food allergies and asthma when she was admitted to the hospital with a severe asthma attack, and it took them 30 hours to get her to stop wheezing. There were times we feared she might not make it.
Fast forward to April 2013 when her allergies were all figured out and life was finally calm. I had been dreaming about this time for over a year. But once everything calmed down, I realized there was something wrong with me. I should have been elated that Eliza’s allergies were all figured out and under control. I was able to go to work every day and work and not have to run to endless doctor appointments.
But I wasn’t happy at all. I felt hollow and empty. I was stressed irritable, tired, sad and not sleeping well. Aside from working and taking care of Eliza, all I could do in the evenings after she went to bed was lay on the couch. I couldn’t cook dinner or clean the house or anything. I just physically & mentally wasn’t able.
I felt like I had been through this major life change of having a baby and finally figuring out her issues, and now I needed time to rest and reflect on everything I had been through. However, the world needed me to get back to regular life and act as if nothing had happened. But everything I had been through had changed me.
It took me a long time to admit I needed help, but in September 2013 when I started having problems remembering things and focusing at work, I knew that it was time to take care of myself. I got on anti-depressants and started seeing a psychologist on a weekly basis. I stopped working and went on disability, which was so scary for me. Would I ruin my career? Would I ever be able to work again?
I was shocked at my sheer inability to function in everyday life. I couldn’t sleep at night. I couldn’t remember anything and could barely get out of bed in the morning. I struggled with guilt about not working or contributing to society. And I felt badly that my daughter was in daycare all day while my husband worked and I laid on the couch, but I could not take care of her all day by myself.
My psychologist slowly hammered into my brain that at that moment, my job was to take care of ME and get myself better so I could get back to the life I wanted and so that I could be there for my daughter and husband.
I started taking yoga twice a week at a local yoga studio that catered to moms. That got me out of the house a couple of times a week. Before my depression, I saw no point to yoga, but now it was something I craved to give me peace and stability. I had anxiety about leaving my house for months and would try to have lunch with a friend occasionally if I could motivate myself. It also took 4 months to get my medication right. In addition to seeing a psychologist, I was also seeing a psychiatrist. Paxil made me tired and even more sad and Prozac finally helped me get back to normal.
I was on disability for seven months. All because I got tied up in helping my child with food allergies and did not take care of myself. However, I can honestly say now that I am grateful for this experience. I have more empathy toward others than I ever thought possible. I never went back to my 9-5 corporate job and am following my dreams and setting up my life the way I want it! I don’t think I would have ever done this if I hadn’t taken time out to take care of myself and really think about what I want.
I am currently working a part-time, flexible, work from home mom job to bring in some income while I work on building my food allergy health coaching business. I want to help moms whose kids have food allergies and give them resources that I didn’t have so they don’t fall into the same situation that I did. I work 3 days a week and have my daughter home with me the other 2 days. I feel like I have the best of both worlds and I couldn’t be happier!
Alison Blair is a Health Coach who supports moms whose children are newly diagnosed with food allergies. She lives in Concord, CA with her husband and 2 ½ year old daughter. She loves reading, writing, travel, wine and trying new restaurants. She can be found at www.healthybellyhealthylife.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.