I'm a college student, age 22, working towards a communication degree
I'm allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, mustard, mango, and sensitive to wheat and most seeds
I have generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder
I'm a TIP patient for Southern California Food Allergy Institute
My Story So Far...
Hi! My name is Jessica Carrillo and I am a 22-year-old from California. I have lived with severe food allergies my whole life. I was officially diagnosed with a peanut allergy when I was two years old. The word "peanut" was the very first word I learned how to read. When I was five years old I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. While not all of my anxiety is related to my food allergies, a lot of it is. When I was younger, I was shy, quiet, and TERRIFIED of my allergy.
I carried my epi-pens in a little black bag everywhere I went. If I even so much as discussed my allergies, I felt like I would get itchy. I felt so different than everyone else at school because my allergies always seemed to somehow make me stand out. When people made jokes about allergies I would go somewhere and cry. I can’t even count how many times I just wanted to be “normal.”
When I was in sixth grade, things got more complicated for me. I think I was around 12 or 13 at the time. It was during that time when picking out a Christmas tree with my family that I had to accept something I was afraid to acknowledge beforehand. Somewhere along the line, I had developed even more food allergies. I had noticed a few months before, while at a friend’s house, that sometimes walnuts would make me itchy. At the time I thought that maybe the walnuts could have had been cross-contaminated with peanuts.
At least that’s what I told myself. However, on the fateful day I went and picked out my last live Christmas tree, my family bought walnuts. I told myself that they would be safe for me to eat because the Christmas tree farm only had walnut trees and they were unlikely to be contaminated with peanuts. So I ate the walnuts, and go itchy. I ignored it, and ate more.
That’s when the anaphylaxis hit me. My throat started to close and my lips swelled. At the time, I had never experienced an anaphylactic reaction like that before and I was terrified. I took 4.5 tsp of liquid Benadryl and immediately used the epi-pen. After a long ambulance ride and hospital stay, I was okay. I can’t even explain how lucky I feel to be alive. To this day, seven years later, I am still rather haunted by the incident.
After my big walnut exposure, I was tested again for allergies. From the testing, I found out I am allergic to peanuts, all tree nuts, coconut, mustard, and mango. Having so many new allergies made life rather overwhelming, despite already understanding how to live with food allergies. With tree nuts, I realized I had to worry about shampoos, lotions, makeup, and many more non-food items. I struggled with being underweight due to PTSD over the reaction. The anxiety was real, but somehow along the way, I behave more like normal after some therapy and support from friends and family.
Middle school and high school helped me learn that I needed to be able to handle my food allergies without my mom. My mom had always been the person who bent over backwards to help me feel as normal as possible. She is truly amazing! However, while I learned to manage my food allergies by myself, it wasn’t until near the end of high school that I started to understand that hating myself for food allergies was no way to live. When I was little, I think I imagined that one day my allergies might just go away.
Once I realized that my food allergies were just a part of me, I started to accept them. In that process, I began to realize how little the public seemed to understand about food allergies. It seemed that maybe my embarrassment over my food allergies could be related to the stigma surrounding them. I thought that maybe talking about my food allergies might actually be a way to help end that. Surely I wasn’t the only person who felt this way about allergies. And that’s how my allergy instagram and blog was born.
I have most recently started my journey with TIP at the Southern California Food Allergy Institute. With this program, I am attempting to find my way to food freedom!
Through my instagram I have discovered so many people with allergies just like me. It’s extremely empowering. I think it is important to be open to how we feel and what we go through in life. My goal with this platform is to share my story in hopes to educate others and help them know they are not alone. Most recently, I have been diagnosed with panic disorder. I am still scared of food allergies and I am not perfect. It’s a learning process. I’m trying my best to be an adult, to be responsible, to manage college, to plan for the future, and to enjoy the little moments in between it all. Thanks for joining me as I learn to navigate the grown up world with food allergies!