Attending a conference helped Marisa find community in the food allergy world.

Community. What does that word mean to you? For me, it did not necessarily click as to how important having and continuing to build community was until I started experiencing health issues and food allergies as an adult. Having to navigate a life with this new found fear of certain foods became increasingly more challenging. And the realization that it was also extremely isolating and emotionally frustrating eventually prompted me to organically start seeking community with others who could understand my frustrations, and in many cases even offer tips. And at minimum I could find a sense of solidarity.

I have been so fortunate to have found community in a variety of places, with the virtual online world being one of the best places thus far to truly connect with people from all over. The best thing ever is that I have been extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to meet some of these folks in person by attending events such as FABlogCon, The Food Allergy Blogger Conference in Denver. I attended in 2015 and 2017.

Whether you are struggling with food allergies yourself, or close to someone else who is; perhaps a child or spouse, realize that you aren’t in this alone, and you can gain so much from reaching out to others, and from accepting help and support. This was a new concept for me, and it took some time to recognize that the support really was there. But I am happy to say now over a decade into the worst of my food allergy related challenges, I have found nothing but a growing support. It really is quite amazing.

Depending on where you reside, and what your own travel limitations might be will dictate if you end up seeking most or all of your support from an online community, or getting out there and banding together with others in person. Either way, the feeling is equally as rewarding and inspiring. I have been lucky enough to do some of both. And I hope to continue to build those relationships going forward because they are essential to my mental well being and survival. If you are more of a proactive, extroverted type you can even start your own support group, and lead the mission yourself. Find ways to connect your existing community groups to help with charitable organizations and advocacy groups that support those with food allergies like Food Equality Initiative.

There are too many links to share that might help get the ideas flowing for others. But here are a few:

Food Allergy Research & Education, Asthma & Allergy Foundation Of America , Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (including a searchable function to find support groups near you – FAACT Search)

In addition, there are many facebook groups. And if you have the means to attend a conference, fundraiser, or food allergy related event, I highly recommend doing so.

I can honestly say that the connections I have made online have saved my sanity, money, and sometimes energy I would have spent trying to figure something out that another kind person who had already gone through the situation could save me that trouble. I try to offer the same in return. Now that I am further along in my journey, I have a longer list of tips and experience that in turn equate to wisdom I can offer to others. We all have something to learn. And we also all have something to offer. That is the beauty of this type of community.

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