Ignorance is Bliss. But, It Could Mean Life Or Death
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
I have an allergy to gluten, nuts, soy, corn, eggs, and more. I can't have penicillin, I have problems with many medications and also chemicals, such as bleach, perfumes, cleaning products,, etc.
"The phrase ignorance is bliss means that, if one is unaware of an unpleasant fact or situation, one cannot be troubled by it. This phrase was coined by the English poet and literary scholar Thomas Gray (1716-1771) in An Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (London: printed for R. Dodsley and sold by M. Cooper, 1747):"
To each his Suff’rings: all are Men, Condemn’d alike to groan, The Tender for another’s Pain; Th’ Unfeeling for his own. Yet ah! Why should they know their Fate? Since Sorrow never comes too late, And Happiness too swiftly flies. Thought would destroy their Paradise. No more; where Ignorance is Bliss, ’Tis Folly to be wise."
“What you don’t know won’t hurt you. A dubious maxim: sometimes what you don’t know can hurt you very much.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
Before I developed allergies/asthma and immunology issues, I had no reason to give it a thought. I was a busy, tired, single mother of two, working full time, going to school certain weekends and getting four hours of sleep a night for years! Why would I worry about something I had no reason to?
It's so easy for most to just throw together a quick sandwich and eat it on the run. Not for me. I have to make my own bread! Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread
Then... I was given a reason. (See The Day My Life Changed) and (Holiday Traditions And The Second Day My Life Changed)
"Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
The saying is true. Forgive them, they don't know. In the beginning, I wondered, why isn't anyone listening, no one's understanding? How can people worry about their calendar or what's for dinner. Don't they realize what's going on?
Silly, I know. But, you feel alone until you realize, you are not alone. You may be the only person your family or friends know with these issues, but thousand suffer. You have to find your people. I did. And that's why I started this blog. So others can find help, encouragement, understanding and not feel isolated, lost and confused.
My son's recent wedding
It reminds me of when there's a wedding in the family. I'm rushing around, buying cards, getting hair done, getting dressed. This is significant. I look around. Don't these people realize? Don't they know? Why are they acting like it's just Saturday, Why aren't they moving out of my way, being nicer, understanding. These people are uncaring, selfish, heartless. No, they're not. To me it's momentous, to them, it's just... Saturday. A song by one of my favorite entertainers says it all: But the World Goes "Round.
I admit, I did get mad in the beginning. Hey, I'm human. Now, I gently educate. I remember the story of my first wedding. I got married the day after Hurricane Gloria hit Long Island. Yeah, I know, somebody up there was trying to tell me something.
There was no electricity. But... somehow, the mall had electricity. Maybe they had a generator.
One of my bridesmaids ran into a salon in the mall and said, "Please, can someone do my hair, I'm in a wedding party today." The world had no idea. But she informed them, nicely. And a kind lady gave up her appointment because, it was just Saturday, but for my bridesmaid, it was important.
Like the headline says, sometimes, when you are afflicted with something, you feel powerless and alone. But, you aren't. There are many out there just like you. You can learn new tricks and teach new tricks, you can find people like you and today, with the internet, it's easier than before!
I've learned so much from joining Facebook groups, reading blogs and watching YouTube videos. I'm still learning and I'm grateful to those putting out content that helps others.
Sometimes, even those you would think should know better, let ignorance shine through. Things I've heard through the years:
"I would just eat it anyway." Obviously, some don't realize allergies could be deadly.
"It was just a little bit." A little bit can kill. A person who has an allergy can have ZERO.
"How much could be on the serving spoon." Said by a person who took a spoon at a buffet from one dish and served themselves from a different dish because they couldn't wait 2 seconds. They put others in danger. Doing that can cause someone a visit to the Emergency Room and because of these people I NEVER eat at buffets.
"What harm can a little bit mixed in all that food do?" A lot of harm.
"There's no nuts in what I made." They forgot that peanut butter is made with NUTS. (CORRECTION: Someone was kind enough to point out this technical fact: Peanuts aren't actually a true nut; they're a legume (in the same family as peas and lentils). But the proteins in peanuts are similar in structure to those in tree nuts.) To me, I can't have nuts or peanuts and I lump them altogether.
"You can eat it, there's no gluten." Except they coated the food in FLOUR. People forget all the time, I NEVER let others cook for me.
"Just don't tell them it has nuts/corn/soy/eggs, etc." Because, if you don't tell someone, their allergy will disappear. YES, people are THAT IGNORANT.
"Don't you think you are being dramatic, a drama queen, paranoid, a hypochondriac, it's all in your head?" No, I don't.
"Oh, you could have come, we were outside." Do you have a bathroom outside? Shall I pee in the bushes? You spent two days cooking INSIDE and heated all the food up INSIDE on the day of the event.
"Come we will be outside." Will anyone spray bug spray, light candles, a fire, etc.
"It will be outside, no worries." Are you lighting sternos? I spent 8 hours in the ER because of that one night.
"She's probably a drug seeker." An ER nurse to another nurse as they were changing shifts. I was being wheeled by in my bed for yet another test. She said my name and number. Had she checked my chart, she would have realized that I've ALWAYS refused pain meds.
"Oh, just laugh about it." Next time you are gasping, you laugh.
The most absurd are those who imitate someone choking, gasping, etc. I've never seen people make fun of an autistic child, a car accident victim, pneumonia, or a cancer patient. But somehow, life-threatening allergies are hysterical. I don't find an allergy/asthma attack funny. It's scary, painful, and the medications wreck havoc on your body and brain.
Some will understand when I explain, others won't and that's fine. They can believe whatever they want. I won't let it bother me nor should you. Forgive those who simply can't understand or act like an idiot. I pray they never have to endure what I or other sufferers do.
Some tips for the general public.
Never offer a child anything without asking first if they can eat it.
Wait, be patient. Don't take utensils and use them in other dishes. My friend's child wound up in an ambulance because someone at a wedding took a serving spoon from a dish with seafood and used it in another dish.
Someone with allergies MUST be "paranoid" all the time. It could mean the difference between life and death.
Don't label people or get angry with them. So many times I turned down invitations. I did it for several reasons One, I was afraid for my own safety. But... these affairs cost a lot of money.
Do I really want to ruin someone's affair.
Do I want to upset everyone with EMT's bursting into a party.
People don't realize the agony, stress, anxiety and heartache I go through just to attend an event. Most people dress and go. Not I. I had to bring all my own homemade food to my son's wedding. Sounds simple, right. Wrong.
My own immediate family is willing to go the extra mile to accommodate my issues. When my sister planned my niece's Sweet 16, she requested all food be in a separate room.
My son made sure there were no sternos at the cocktail hour at his wedding. When I entered the cocktail hour, I asked again. Thankfully, they got it right.
With all the planning that goes into an event, is it fair to ask people who aren't the closest to me, to go through EXTRA preparation so I can attend? Even if I asked, would they get it right? Mistakes are easy to make.
Should I take a chance and ruin a Sweet 16, milestone birthday, communion, christening, wedding or other event?
The bottom line, when I was young, my mom used to call me the happy wanderer. I was NEVER home. I loved to travel, to be out and about. I never said no to parties and was usually the first one there. So... if people think what they think, that's on them, not me. I have enough to deal with, I can't deal with their issues too!
Due to the new medication I'm on, I can now attend parties a bit more easily but still have to ask many questions. The medication doesn't help my issue with chemicals.
I've learned to stay positive like I have in every other aspect of my life, to control my anxiety this condition has caused by taking the correct medication and to be thankful for the good in my life. My family, friends, pets, the roof over my head, food on the table even if it is different and the love that surrounds me.
I have much to look forward to, especially becoming a grandma, hopefully soon. So, maybe I can't eat what everyone else eats, maybe it's a bit harder for me to get ready for a special affair, but I've learned to look at what I can do and ignore what I can't do.
I danced with my son and my husband at my son's wedding. I talked and laughed with family and friends. I watched my son and daughter-in-law enjoy every minute of their wedding. I witnessed my daughter having a blast on the dance floor. I was lucky to have both my parents with us. So, I couldn't eat the cake or the salmon. Who cares.
I get asked all the time, "How do you sit there and watch as plates of amazing food are put in front of people?" In the beginning it was hard, but as my paternal grandmother always said, "You get used to everything." Now, it doesn't bother me. I'm grateful for everything else.