1946 – 1950
I was born in 1946. Every year on my birthday my father reminded me that I had been born the seventh child of the seventh child. He was seventh in a family of 12 and I also was the seventh in a family of 12. It gave me a feeling of containing some old Irish magic but I never quite felt I knew how to use it. The more important memory he told everyone was that I was born in the year of the potato blight, a disease that affected the quality of the potatoes on our farm. What was more important to me was that I had a ‘blight’ on my skin: eczema. It was quite severe in infancy and my mother sought ongoing medical treatment. She was advised to restrict some foods. I can remember that for years I needed application of a Pink Ointment made from coal tar. I remember the smooth pink cream covering the eczema. But it did not stop droplets of fluid seeping through and itching any skin it touched. I was a busy, but not hyperactive child, very curious about everything and happy to be involved with whatever was happening around me. My mother fondly reported that people would comment on what a lively little tot I was with my wispy blond hair and delight in responding to them. Fortunately my eczema was not a problem on my face.
I did talk quite a lot; in fact I was happy to talk to everyone! I did get teased. I remember my father, and sometimes older brothers, would come inside for morning tea at the time Kindergarten-of-the-air was about to begin. They would inform me seriously that the program would be postponed or cancelled, or on at another time that day, and I somehow got caught up and reacted every time. I was to remember this to my benefit when teased as an 18 year-old.
I had a great childhood on a farm with little and bigger brothers and sisters to play with, a quietly competent mother and older sisters to enjoy “keeping house” with, and outdoor life with my father and brothers. The family rules were clear and consistent so I knew that if I kept to them I would not get into any trouble.
As I helped families who wanted to see if diet affected their children and later themselves I collected a huge amount of information but carefully separated my own story from the thousands I saw.
Every story of a food sensitive person is different. This is my story. I am telling it for my own family first and then others. I want it to be made real for those who wonder about what it is like to live with food sensitivity or want others to understand what it can be like for them to live with it.
There are many symptoms food sensitive people may have. I did not have them all but had quite a few. It is interesting that all of these symptoms decreased to varying degrees when I implemented the Low Chemical Diet. It seems strange that one diet can change so many symptoms, but that is what is strange about food sensitivity. The likelihood of diet helping is not because of the symptoms. It is because of something in the genetics of the person. I like to say “food sensitivity is in the person not in the symptom”. Dealing with food sensitivity symptoms was a significant part of my life. I had ADHD non-hyperactive-girl-type. This means that impulsivity and hyper-reactivity were more shown as reacting through words, mostly over-reacting, and wanting to be involved in all conversations, often called “pressure to speak”. I had these more than not being able to sit still or being on the go all the time as ADHD boys often were. I didn’t have much of a problem with spelling and writing but did have difficulty with maths. I had difficulty concentrating though I was very motivated and always interested in what was being said. I had eczema to an annoying degree until my late teens, and a runny nose [rhinitis] for as long. I slept well but did have nightmares. Mood-wise I was “touchy” but very keen to get on with people. I had a very bad sense of direction, and was car sick. These two are also part of the important cluster of not-well-known food sensitivity symptoms that decrease in those who respond to diet.
and nightmares….still in fact
Janet martin says
Lovely story Joan. Wish I had been there ! Jan
Joan Breakey says
Dear Jan, You are one of the few who knows my story from around the time you were as interested food sensitivity as I had become. Thank you for being there when much of the dietetic profession was still a bit wary of food reactions in ADHD. It is wonderful how much has changed since then with many dietitians now expert in the area.
Joan Breakey says
Nightmares matter! If I eat something with too high a level of flavour the annoying part is that the nightmares always last two nights, so we must take a while to metabolise [or ‘detoxify’ if you prefer that word] the salicylates. Joan
Wow Joan – I too was touchy and was prone to car sickness as a child and had (and still have actually) rhinitis. Also impulsive!
Joan Breakey says
Dear Fiona, Good on you for bringing it out there! Being touchy is a symptom across food-sensitivity that is little mentioned. We each have to develop different strategies for managing it.