Like others who live with periodically debilitating health conditions, many allergy ‘sufferers’ object to being labelled as ‘sufferers’. Yes, on occasion they do ‘suffer’ as a result of their allergies, sometimes quite acutely, but being labelled as a ‘sufferer’ suggests a degree of victim-hood that they are not prepared to accept.
I have heard this many times from allergic friends and colleagues – check out Ruth at What Allergy? for example. But now Lindiwe, who has allergies to more foods than many of the rest of us have had hot breakfasts, and who posts a great blog called The Allergy Table, is doing something about it – like creating a new term to describe people like herself and Ruth who live full and exciting lives, even though they have life threatening allergies.
Lindi calls herself an allergy reactor.
And here are some of her – and Ruth’s – thoughts about what that means.
‘Allergy reactor’ means a person who has an immune response to allergens; which implies faultlessness.
‘Allergy sufferer’ means a person who has a negative experience because of allergens; which implies victimhood, pain, misery, enduring.
Allergies can be tough, painful, severe, and having a reaction is not a great experience. However, many people who have allergies do not suffer in the day-to-day.
An allergic reaction is just a response, not a state of living. Let’s change the narrative from pain and misery to understanding and patience. Let the reactors decide when they’re suffering!
‘You are not your allergy.’
‘You are not anaphylactic. You do not have anaphylaxis all the time, nor do you have allergic reactions all the time.’
Ruth often quotes this admonition from Frans Timmerman, at the time he said it to her, President of the Dutch European Anaphylaxis Task Force. He believed that it was really important that those who were at risk of allergy and anaphylaxis should use the correct language to help them feel more in control.
And and then a few more, just to make the point and, maybe, help you to make the point to others.
People with allergies, like people with coeliac disease, or diabetes or arthritis – live with their allergies – they do not suffer from them.
Allergy reactors manage their allergies – they don’t suffer from them.
Allergy reactors control their allergies – they are not controlled by them.
In support of her ‘allergy reactor’ concept Lindi has launched an ‘I am a person behind the allergy’ campaign. The idea is ‘to provide allergy reactors with confidence surrounding their allergies and to reduce any embarrassment they may have. The campaign is centred around remembering that they are first and foremost people and that having allergies is only one part of their lives.’
Between now and the end of the month the campaign is asking people with allergies to upload photos to their social media platforms portraying who they are behind the allergy. They have already created a cool video – ‘you don’t look like you have allergies….’ – no – I am a person behind the allergy. Check in now and, if you do have allergies, upload your image.