I love trying new foods and exploring different cultures so it was no shock that when I studied abroad in Rome, Italy that I was going to taste everything. During the second week of my trip, while visiting the Coliseum with my class, I had a reaction. I remember my stomach being in knots, wanting to lie down, and then being hurried into an ambulance. I spent a long five hours at the hospital where I was told I just had food poisoning. Another reaction at my cousin's house in Italy, left me with the thought that maybe something else was happening with my body.

Blood tests, a couple more severe reactions later, and an official scratch test finally gave me closure. I'm allergic to shellfish, fish, and seafood. My doctor told me my test showed that the next time I have an allergic reaction it could be life-threatening. I had lived 20 years of my life, allergy-free, and not at all worried about the ingredients in the meals I ate or which factories the chips I snacked came from. I had the pleasure of eating without even thought, but now, eating has become more of a task than an enjoyment.

Every restaurant, every meal, every snack I want to eat, I first have to go through a checklist. I have to see if they serve any kind of seafood. I have to ask if they cook everything on the same grill or if their fries are fried in the same oil as their seafood. The long menu that I was originally handed becomes shorter and shorter as the waiter explains to me how everything in the kitchen pretty much touches. I have to cut out restaurants that I use to always go to and avoid events that serve anything seafood related. I feel bad because I have to remind my friends, my family, and everyone around about my allergies.

Restaurants when I ask a bunch of questions while ordering or hand you my "chef card" that states my allergies, I'm not trying to be annoying. I'm scared about eating and having a reaction. I'm uncomfortable that I have to ask so much from your establishment. I'm nervous you won't take me seriously. So just remember when someone comes in and ask more questions than you want to answer, and expects what you to give what you might call "special treatment", that they aren't trying to be annoying. You may think they're on some special diet, or just being picky (and I'm not saying that they couldn't be) but maybe they're allergic. So allergic that they have to carry their EpiPen wherever they go and constantly have to be on alert with everything that they touch.

I have bad allergies. I really wish I didn't because my life would be so much easier. I would rather not have plan my life around the food I eat but if I didn't, I couldn't eat at all. So I'm sorry if I'm annoying, I really don't wanna be and I hope that you can understand where I'm coming from.