Ruth Holroyd
(Picture: Ruth Holroyd)

I’ve just started to dip a toe into the murky waters of internet dating again after a long time being single. 

I tried online dating a few years ago, before topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) put my life on hold, but I wasn’t that successful. I think I’m incredibly fussy (which is not a bad thing) but I also managed to snare some total weirdos in my early attempts to find Mr Right. If I’m honest, back then I wasn’t really ready either. 

Many people told me not rush it but I didn’t listen. It’s so important to learn to love yourself first and to learn to live happily alone, otherwise how can you expect anyone else to love you?

The mistake I’ve made in the past is trying to make my partner happy and making that my priority. While you and your partner need to be each other’s number one fans and to be behind their passions and hobbies, you can’t MAKE anyone happy. They have to do that themselves. And the same goes for you; you need to be your own source of happiness and not rely on your partner to take on that burden.

Before I could even begin to date successfully I had to learn self-love. I felt like no one would ever love me because so much about me was broken, difficult, embarrassing, and unlovable. Our inner critic can often be our own worst enemy and I was certainly not being kind to myself.

Biting the bullet

I had counselling and spent a lot of time rebuilding my thought processes and how I viewed myself. It took me a long time to really believe I was beautiful and I’m pretty happy with my life now. I think I’m ready to start sharing some of the adventures and experiences I’m having with someone else. I have loads of friends but I do crave that special person – someone waiting when you get home, someone you check in with and you know they’re thinking of you. I also long for human contact, skin on skin, bear hugs… it’s been a while!

Things have changed a lot since I went on my first date aged 17 in the early 90s. I have had two serious relationships in my life and both of these men I met face-to-face through normal life experiences. I met one at school and my ex-husband while I was on a work placement.

Nowadays it seems that everyone hooks up online! I’ve fought it and ignored it but have lately realised that I just have to try it; kicking and screaming and hating every minute of it… internet dating is awful. Is it really the only way to meet people in the modern age?

When do you drop the E and A bombs?

So, you set up a profile and you start swiping and you start chatting. The first question is: when do you tell them about your allergies and in my case, your weird skin journey to cut out topical steroids? Do you put that on your profile and be upfront? Do you let them discover this information on the first date? Or do you wait a while so they can get to know you – and not your limitations?

I decided not to mention life-threatening allergies or shedding, oozing and topical steroid withdrawal on my profile. I made that all about my passions, interests and my outlook on life. I can get guys interested in me, but it all seems to be so shallow. Most people don’t seem to be interested in really getting to know me once they find out that nuts and dairy could kill me.

Drip-feeding the truth

“Hi, nice to meet you. My name is Ruth. Just so you understand, I have multiple serious life-threatening allergies to all nuts and all dairy and less severe ones to wheat and soya. You can’t eat those things at all for at least five hours before meeting me. If you wouldn’t mind, could you also brush your teeth thoroughly beforehand too just in case? And you can’t eat any nuts or have anything containing dairy while you’re on a date with me if you want to have a kiss at some point… If we do go out for a meal and you anticipate any intimacy afterward, I’d appreciate it if you’d actually avoid eating all my allergens too… Oh and I’m allergic to latex so those condoms you bought are probably unsuitable, I’ll supply the contraceptives. Also, what do you wash your bed linen with? Because if you use biological washing powder, I’ll probably be allergic to that too. And perfumes too…that aftershave, it’s a bit strong and it’s making me wheeze…

Oh and finally, here’s a book that I wrote, The Reluctant Allergy Expert: How to kill the fear that anaphylaxis could kill you. If you could read that please and I’ll be testing you on our next date. 

Have you ever administered an adrenaline auto injector before?”

What a catch eh?

I promise I don’t start dates that full on, but it’s a lot, isn’t it? On a first date, they don’t need to know about my allergies. I usually choose a date where I’m in control and can avoid food risks to be safe. If a second date was on the cards, then I would think about telling them – and certainly if we were to go out for dinner. I usually explain the situation and offer to book the meal so I can talk to the restaurant about my allergies. This usually works well and takes the burden off them until they fully understand the seriousness, checks and precautions I have to take to stay safe.

You can have some fun by making a few jokes about it. I’ve joked about not kissing if the other person’s had nuts, which is a kind of light-hearted banter that has a grounding in truth. The fact is that I have to carry adrenaline and I could die if I eat even a small trace of peanuts. You can make sure you communicate the severity of your allergy at the right moments.

Wearing my Medical Alert bracelet is often also a great conversation starter. Most people are interested to find out why I’m wearing it and I take it from there.

I really believe that if you meet the right person, they will love you for all your amazing qualities, for all the things you can do, and they will be strong enough and to take on the role of helping to keep you safe.

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I have also spent ages packaging up copies of my new book for the lucky people who won a copy over on the @talkhealthonline Talk Health website. It’s a really great resource and they always have brilliant giveaways, competitions and experts on hand for advice. So go follow them now if you’re not! Congratulations to those who won a copy of The Reluctant Allergy Expert: How to kill the fear that anaphylaxis could kill you. You guys actually have a limited edition copy as my book changed its name slightly to include the name anaphylaxis. Take a close look at the cover in this picture and you’ll see what I mean. All new copies have the new title but my author copies are special… they say allergy not anaphylaxis ?. If you’d like a copy, it’s available on Amazon as a paperback or kindle. And if I do say so myself, it’s brilliant. It’s my life’s lessons and the book I wish I’d had when I was 19 and realised that I’d just had an anaphylactic reaction for the first time when even doctors had no advice for me. Back then I’m glad I didn’t really understand how serious my condition was but now I do know. I’ve faced death and that isn’t something I’d wish on anyone. It is pretty soul destroying and terrifying. But you can learn to live with that fear. It’s a healthy emotion in many ways because anaphylaxis is serious. But you CAN live a full, exciting and fulfilling life. I hope I am a good advocate for that.

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Some guys do like me… some don’t

I’ve tried this internet dating malarkey and I’ve been on a few dates now. It’s been OK, I have actually met some lovely guys who have been very keen but sadly I haven’t fancied them. I’ve had some enjoyable meals out and one really great chap who learned what my allergies were and even cooked me some tasty, safe and allergen-free meals – but it just didn’t click for me. When it came to intimacy, it didn’t feel right. 

I’ve also met lovely guys who stop replying and go cold pretty quickly once they find out about my allergies. Men have definitely been put off by my skin and the life-threatening allergies. A lot of guys want adventure, travel, to eat out regularly. I can’t just go out for a meal without planning carefully and that can be a turn off. I totally get it, and it isn’t always a bad thing at helping filtering out men who aren’t really into you..

You have to remember that no one owes you anything and not everyone is going to be into you. It is still a little heartbreaking when someone you really like just disappears.

But it’s not all grim! Next week, I’ll be sharing some of the most ridiculous things that have happened to me recently in the pursuit of love.

Read more about Ruth’s experiences and tips on her blog, What Allergy. You can buy her book The Reluctant Allergy Expert: How to kill the fear that anaphylaxis could kill you on Amazon for £10.50.


Ruth Holroyd

Ruth set up her What Allergy blog in April 2009. Her blog is a collection of information, tips, restaurant and product reviews etc. and is aimed at helping others to learn to live with their food allergies and the risk of anaphylaxis.

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