About two months ago, I wrote about how changing our perception of stress can change the impact it has on our bodies. If we don’t think stress is such a bad thing, it won’t be so harmful to us. It will just be another emotion.
At that time, I thought all I was dealing with was stress. I was processing a lot, and was sure that looking for a job, and transitioning to live in a new place, were causing elevated stress levels. And I was sure that that was causing all the health issues I was having, and the blues that kept coming back, more and more frequently.
I’ve been itching to write for awhile, but not been quite sure if I wanted to write about this in particular, despite already blogging on and off for several years, and sharing lots of personal stories… this felt different, talking about health, and struggles. During my time in Jerusalem, I often felt my posts were becoming quite negative, less about exciting travel! food! life is great! and more realistic to what my experience was at the time. And because I didn’t want to share so much negative, I stopped.
I read something recently, though, that changed my mind.
“Negative is covering over your very real emotions with fake positivity. Negativity is NOT speaking about your authentic reality.” I realized I was scared to write about this because I felt like talking about health issues was negative. I want to be clear – no one was calling me negative, just myself. We’re our own worst critics, after all. But I felt that writing about my reality (which is really just cathartic, although I do sometimes feel things about putting it out there on the internet – like, how much do we “need” to share?? I dunno, but I guess whatever feels right, and however much that is is OK?) was too negative, and it’s private and I should keep it to myself.
Not anymore. I’m learning that creativity and inspiration presents itself to you in many forms, and my constant need to write and share and get this experience off my chest is my current muse. So here we are.
Shortly after my 29th birthday, a lot of things came to a head for me. I was diagnosed with depression and celiac disease. While the celiac disease (and endless, and until now thankless, job search (aka searching for meaning and my place in a world that values productivity) probably explains for the most part, the depression, both together pretty much explain everything that I’ve dealt with my whole life. Chronic pain. Issues with food. Low iron. Regular and near constant stomach issues. Recurring blues that won’t shake. Fatigue. Headaches. Things that, listing them like this, I wish I’d paid better attention to and realized I didn’t have to live with all that, that wasn’t “normal”.
The diagnosis of celiac disease was a revelation and a relief and an overwhelming burden all at once. Being depressed doesn’t surprise me, in fact I probably should have dealt with this earlier. But I never thought I had celiac disease. How, I’m not sure, because it’s pretty common (about 1% of North Americans) and explains literally all of my symptoms. What up doctors? I’m a bit let down by the doctors I’ve had in my life, but hopefully that’s changing now. I’m learning to be a better self-advocate, and while I still don’t recommend googling symptoms, it’s never a bad thing to be aware of your body and keep note of what’s going on with it – and then fight for yourself until you find a way to get better.
I’m still grappling with both diagnoses. I am already feeling better mentally, thanks to finally getting help, and I know depression is very, very common – apparently 1 in 10 Canadians will experience a major depressive episode in their lives. I am a very strong believer that mental illness should not be shameful, and if you want to talk about it, you should feel as free to casually mention you’re depressed as you might casually mention you’re on antibiotics, or broke your wrist, or whatever. It’s just a thing, it speaks nothing to who you are, your value, your ability, your worth. Me writing this here is affirming to myself that I can live out my beliefs, walk the walk. Because what’s helped me come to terms with this is hearing about other people’s experiences, and feeling no shame or embarrassment or judgement for them. Now it’s my turn to feel kindness for myself.
The celiac disease will be a bigger hurdle, because it means changing SO MUCH of my life. I have to be always on when it comes to eating, which if you know me, or you’ve read my blog til now, you know is something I LOVE to do and do a lot. But I won’t be able to eat so casually anymore. With celiac disease, you have to be careful of everything you put in your mouth. And that’s a lot to deal with. It also means educating people, because turns out despite how common it is, so few people actually know what it means to have celiac disease (myself included). “Gluten-free” is so trendy, whereas this is a serious auto-immune disease, and the way you approach them is quite different.
Acceptance is the start though. And looking at the way this can change my life for the better is helping. Especially since in the week since I’ve started eating GF, I’ve felt so much better than I have… ever?! My new favourite resource, GlutenDude, had this to say, and it’s exciting to think that when I’m ready, I can see this as a positive challenge, not a burden:
You have to rise to the mental challenge or you will never succeed in going gluten free. A friend of mine recently stated over dinner that my disease must be great for my will-power. It is indeed. Once you get it through your head that you CAN do this, it really gives a jolt to your self-confidence that you can carry over to all aspects of your life.
Getting this all out there on the internet feels like a big step in acceptance and moving forward. I’m not a victim. I’m not embarrassed to talk about “negative” things like mental health or chronic illness. There’s nothing shameful about it, I’m not looking for sympathy – this just happens to be what’s up in my life at the moment. I’ve gotta admit, if anything it does feel a bit like I’m complaining! But that’s bullshit! Because when people talk about negative things in their life, we say they’re complaining, and when they share accomplishments they’re bragging. So I guess our only options are to go back to the good old days of incredibly specific and boring Facebook statuses (hello Facebook statuses of the early 2010s)? Noooo thank you.
So cheers (but not with beer!) to oversharing in order to free us from judgement and get on with our lives! You do you! One step to freedom from SHOULD and just DOING IT.
Thanks for reading 🙂 xo