Last night I was rushed to the hospital as I was going into anaphylactic shock. I ate ice cream that, although I had eaten before, had a “made in a facility warning.” I made it safely to the hospital and was administered an EpiPen by the doctor helping me. I began to recover very quickly after receiving the epinephrine and was able to leave the hospital after four hours of being monitored.
Everybody knows how scary anaphylaxis is, however the part nobody talks about is what happens during recovery. I now know first hand that once the attack is over, life doesn’t just go back to normal. I really struggled mentally after my attack, and I felt as if I was alone in feeling this way. The truth of the matter is that it is completely normal to feel different emotions after an allergic reaction, but this is not frequently highlighted. I hope that hearing my story helps somebody in the allergy community know that they are not alone and that it is ok to not be ok after an attack.
The first emotion that I felt was guilt; I felt as if it was my fault that I was in this situation. Mentally, I was tearing myself apart and kept replaying in my head how maybe if I just read the label a little bit closer, or if I didn’t have a second dessert that night, that this would not have happened.
The second emotion that I felt was fear; I felt scared to eat today. I was so terrified of the idea of my throat closing again, that I knew this wouldn’t even be a possibility if I simply didn’t eat. I expressed to my parents that I had this fear and they kept reassuring me that I can eat and will be safe, but I couldn’t bring myself to believe them.
The third emotion that I felt was agony; I was so close to death that I couldn’t clear the incident from my mind. The terrifying moment when I noticed that I was going into anaphylactic shock was taking over all of my thoughts, and I simply could not think about anything else.
Recovering from anaphylaxis is not an easy thing to do. Sure, physically you recover very quickly. My appearance as I left the hospital last night was completely normal. My lips, cheeks, and tongue were no longer swollen, and my hives had dissipated. However, mental recovery takes time. It is an internal battle that I have faced and since it is not something that is apparent to people just by looking at you, it can be very isolating.
Please know that you are not alone if you mentally aren’t feeling like yourself after a reaction. Anaphylaxis is a very traumatic experience, and it takes time to fully get back to how you were before the attack. Although it is scary, you are so much bigger than your allergy– never forget that.