When I first heard from my doctor that I was allergic to timothy and orchard hay, it weighed pretty heavily on my mind. 

I was a rambunctious kid growing up, running and tumbling around big, open fields and playing with the animals on my friend’s farm. I never suffered from pollen or the outside in general, except for the sun freckling my skin at the slightest touch. There were no limits placed on me as a child.

After I learned about my allergy, I felt that a kind of curse had been placed on me. I could never get a rabbit or a guinea pig, since hay is the main component of their diets. I remember that sinking feeling in my stomach when I realized I was so seriously allergic to something that I’d always need to keep an EpiPen within reach. 

Disappointment at this burden was the first feeling that sunk in, the sudden distancing from my younger, allergen-free self. But with time, I began to see my allergies as a gift instead. 

I was the kid that tried never to complain. I was okay with enduring a six hour drive in a cramped car with my knees to my chest. I was okay with eating burnt or undercooked food. I was okay with having to wear a jacket that was more dog hair than jacket. But this allergy finally let me feel comfortable saying “no.” I finally felt free to refuse to go places or do things where my allergies would act up. I didn’t have to apologize for or explain my nausea at the smell of grass clippings. I didn’t have to be down on myself or justify not wanting to sit on the grass with my friends on summer days while I got bitten. 

Yes, my hay allergy limits some activities, but it’s also given me a broader appreciation for experiences I actually like and want more of. I’m happy and grateful to be getting a dog instead of a bunny (let’s be honest — rabbits poop too much, anyway).

This allergy that was supposed to be “so dangerous” was actually letting me breathe, and break out of my bubble of what I thought was “normal.” I now have a renewed sense of gratitude, and I rarely worry that I’m asking for too much.

I ought to thank this allergy for giving me the space to be free.

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