Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Part 2 - What Allergeniacs and Alcoholics Can Do (Fix 3 and Fix 4)

I've split this up into two posts because that first one got to be SO long! But I keep telling myself that this grouping of knowledge into one place will help people along the way, so here goes part 2 of part 2 :-)

Fix 3. Working with denial.
Denial can be healthy. It can help people deal with traumatizing information, such as major life changes. But when it starts to drag on beyond a brief step in the grieving process and coping process, then it becomes a problem. If its you that's in denial (I see you, celiac, with the McDonalds bag!), its a process of figuring out what you are afraid of and then seeing if it is really all that bad. For some folks, trying to live life as an allergeniac 10 years ago was horrible. They had to make all their own flours and cook all their own food, and never go to restaurants because no information was available about what was in the food. That's what they remember, and rather than go back to that life, they continue to make themselves sick. Encouragement for them to try it again, that you'll plan the week with them, can do a lot to help them erase that memory and stick with it.

There's also that "seed of denial" I talked about in the column. The recovering addict in the meeting said he woke up every morning and said to himself "I am an alcoholic" to keep that seed locked up tight. For the allergeniac, it might be waking up every morning and telling yourself "I will make good choices today" or "I will eat healthy today". Waking up every morning and giving yourself that resolve, before you make any choices and your willpower used, will help keep you on the right path.

Fix 4. Telling people how you feel OR Stand up for your rights
So here's the most tricky one, and its not the weapon I prefer to use most often myself. As a person who has been chronically ill my entire life, I'm used to working around other people. I'm used to putting their needs first. I'm used to just denying that certain problems exist and that I can work around them to be in the situations that I want to be in. The truth of the matter is that you can't do this to yourself, as it will burn your health to the ground, get you into unhealthy relationships, and make you make decisions that lead down dark paths.

At every meeting I go to for various events for charities, work, etc, I always remind the organizers to think about people with food allergies. Building an event with food as the only reason to get people there is a sucky way to sell something, in my opinion. I've patiently done this over and over again, and eventually, they started to get the message when I wouldn't eat anything other than what I brought. Constant, gentle education is one path to take.

Another path is to give them a firm warning. What they are doing is hurting you, and you can't meet there/meet them/allow them within 1000 feet of your children/etc. Tell them you're leaving the relationship. This is probably the best option because it gives them firm guidelines and puts the onus on them to make the decision. Is it the bar or you that they want more?

The last path is to break out the big guns, especially if you are having trouble at work - make an ADA claim. A lawyer can work with you on this.

Just in case you need the reminder the ADA law says: "Disability means, with respect to an individual, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.

(1) The phrase physical or mental impairment means --

(i) Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine;

(ii) Any mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities;

(iii) The phrase physical or mental impairment includes, but is not limited to, such contagious and noncontagious diseases and conditions as orthopedic, visual, speech, and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental retardation, emotional illness, specific learning disabilities, HIV disease (whether symptomatic or asymptomatic), tuberculosis, drug addiction, and alcoholism;" 

An ADA claim is specifically helpful in cases where you are working and there is a reasonable accommodation that CAN be made but hasn't yet been made. For example, if you have your work meetings in a bar. Can that be moved to the office or a local restaurant? More than likely, yes! Another one: you are being paid and required to attend a lunch meeting with lunch served. Can they get a gluten free meal for you? More than likely, yes! If not, perhaps they could label and/or segregate gluten free foods vs. non-gluten free foods? Again, more than likely, yes! Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself in order to get people to see that you are serious about your health.
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