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  • Jessica Carrillo

My Birthday In Quarantine

It occurred to me today that this whole pandemic thing is going to be a lot more than I ever expected. It's kind of interesting because from the beginning I was reading about how it might last for as long as 18 months...but now I think I’m realizing that there are many things that may never be the same again and that's a hard pill to swallow. But because of that, I'm going to do more random quarantine update blog posts here as well. I think it'll be cool to keep track of my life like that. It’s scary to consider all the unknowns for the future, and the worry that ending lockdowns around the world will likely cause numbers to go up again.

I worry about my family, my friends, and my future. I realize that maybe not all the changes that come from this pandemic will be bad, but as someone with multiple anxiety disorders, it can be hard to consider what positives that could come out of something so scary. I just want everyone to be okay. I feel safer locked in my house with my family, and sometimes if I avoid my phone and the news, I could almost forget about it all for a while. At the very least I can pretend it doesn’t exist for a while, and this tactic has been key for me to manage my anxiety. I've gotten pretty bad about answering text messages right now just because sometimes I end up going hours without my phone. It's nice to have a break.

Yesterday was my 22nd birthday and I spent it home with my family in quarantine. Starting April 21st at 12 AM I got texts from friends wishing me a happy birthday. Throughout the day I got more text messages and Facebook well wishes that made my day. And in that aspect, it felt like it had the years before. My family is so incredibly important to me and so I would likely have spent my day with my family anyways, regardless of the pandemic. If the pandemic wasn’t around, I probably would have gone to class in the morning, my brother would be in school until 3 PM, and my dad would be at work until 5 PM. My mom and I would have probably spent the early afternoon watching movies, and I’d likely hangout with Kyle until dinner, where we would have come back to the house to enjoy dinner and cake altogether.

Since it was on a weekday, I probably wouldn’t have seen my extended family until the weekend, but that celebration would have likely happened this upcoming Saturday. It’s hard to be away from Kyle, whom I hadn’t seen in person for over a month. I wish so badly that I could go hang out with him as we did so often before, and I never imagined I’d be in a long-distance relationship like this. But yesterday, he actually did come to visit me, and he sat on the driveway at least six feet away from me and we got to talk for a little bit. It was so incredibly nice to see him in person again, though I wanted to hug him so badly. And not talk through a mask! But for all that’s going on, this actually felt like a real treat. 

After Kyle left, my family and I had cake, something which was not our norm, but a special request of mine. I’ve heard from a lot of people in the allergy community that one of the things they are loving about quarantine is that they don’t have to worry about allergy exposure, and I kind of get that. But at the same time, in some ways, I worry about it a little more. I’m itchy all the time, probably because of environmental allergies, but honestly, the thought that I might be developing a new allergy is always in the back of my mind. Since I was 12, my body seems to just be pumping out those antibodies for new food proteins.

I found out recently from my testing results from the Southern California Food Allergy Institute that all of the foods I have recently been nervous about are all on my allergy spectrum. These foods include wheat, soy, peas, beans, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, etc). I will hopefully have a post up soon that explains it all to the full extent, as I want to talk about the second appointment for TIP before I go my next one! But anyway, I have been especially nervous about wheat because even for the past few months before I had the sensitivity confirmed, I had started to notice that my body felt different afterward eating it. But because I had already been consuming wheat, I have been instructed to continue eating wheat for now in baked goods so that the allergy doesn’t get worse from avoiding it too early on.

So when it came to my birthday cake, we continued to make it with wheat flour. Since most of my major reactions have happened after dusk, I tend to be more anxious about eating iffy foods past that time. So when it came to eating my cake, I felt better eating it before dinner when it was still light out. I know the time of day hardly has anything to do with safety or not when it comes to eating something, but it’s just one of those weird allergy anxiety things I do for myself. But surprisingly, I felt okay after eating my cake, barely any change in how I felt, except for my head being a little bit itchy.

The strange thing I have learned from my body is that developing an allergy doesn’t happen overnight. When someone has food allergies, their immune system is already used to creating unnecessary antibodies for food proteins. While it doesn’t always happen for everyone with allergies, sometimes an allergic immune system just gets into the habit of creating these antibodies and will continue to do so with cross reactant foods. I happen to have an immune system that likes to do this.

When I first had it happen, I didn’t know what was happening and I found it hard to detect the early signs until it got really bad. But now, I’m getting a lot more aware of it, and having wheat as a confirmed issue is scary for me. Right now wheat, and many of the other sensitivities I mentioned are not considered anaphylactic, but if I were to stuff my face with them I’m sure it would not be a good thing. I just want to clarify that I’m doing all that I’m doing under specific doctor’s orders, and this is quite contrary to many of the rules for living with food allergies. I’m doing my best to keep it in my diet, and before the pandemic, it was less scary. But since the pandemic hit, I’ve felt quite a lot of anxiety regarding wheat. 

After cake though, my family and I watched Steve Martin in the 2006 film, Pink Panther. I had no idea this movie was that old, I remember watching it for the first time when I was younger, and it really doesn’t feel that long ago! We had dinner, gifts, and the boys went to bed. Then my mom and I stayed up until 2 AM watching Grace and Frankie. Can you tell we are night owls? It wasn’t the usual birthday I had imagined at the beginning of the year, but I still had a really nice day. Plus I got so many wishes from my friends in the allergy community on Instagram that I felt so loved.

I had all of the things that really matter to me in my life: my family, my pets, and my boyfriend present with me. I’m so worried about how this pandemic will impact us in the future, as everyone in my family and my Kyle are all high risk for asthma, age, high blood pressure, or all of the above. We are all doing the best we can to be safe and still celebrate the good moments in life together. It’s scary, but I have to say, for now, having everyone I love be in my life is the greatest birthday gift that I could ever have.


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