I read somewhere that being diagnosed with celiac disease is like going through the grieving process – in that first little while afterwards, you hit all five stages, bam bam bam. You deny that this is the answer to your problems (even though, if you’re like me, this explains e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.); you’re angry that this is “happening” to you – it’s not fair. You consider how maybe if you just cut down on gluten, just for awhile, or maybe if you ate healthier (even if you already had the healthiest diet in the world)… maybe then you’d feel better? For me, stage four, depression, was already there, but I can’t say being diagnosed with celiac disease really helped me to handle my depression. I got sadder, and more frustrated, and feeling more vulnerable and helpless than before.
Then, stage five: acceptance. It took me awhile, but I’m here now, mostly. Celiac disease shapes my life from now on (wow this feels so overdramatic to write – I need to add “talking about chronic illness without sounding like the protagonist of a victorian drama” to my to-do list). It will become second nature, I look forward to that, but in the meantime, it’s certainly easier. And I’m starting to feel better, and that helps a lot. It helps me to accept that this is me, and you know what – it’s not so bad.
I don’t feel so sad about everything I can’t eat, I know this is just my thing and I have to roll with it. I’m working out of town for four days this weekend, my first time away since I officially cut out gluten. We’re at a summer fair in a little town on the water, and you better believe there are food trucks galore. Burgers, Indian food, ice cream trucks, right next to me is a place selling the most delicious smelling burritos… and while I may have been really feeling the unfairness of never getting to try any of this stuff again in my first few weeks of this – now? Now I don’t really care. I don’t wish I was eating that burrito, I’m not sulking I can’t try that garlic naan, and I’m not even craving ice cream (which is shocking to me).
My body seems to be sorting itself out, and my mind is realizing what’s good for it, and gluten just ain’t it. So I don’t want it so much. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I was really anxious before this weekend about what I would eat, and how I would cook in the AirBnB, but one thing worrying does is make you prepared, so I came with lots of packed food and research on what restaurants are “celiac-safe”. Eating out in a non-100% GF restaurant for the first time was a bit nerve-wracking, I must admit. But it went OK, I fed myself, I’m doing my job, and I feel pretty good.
I think I’m on my way to unofficial stage six – embracing it. I’m seeing what great willpower I have. I finally see that it was never my fault I felt bad – I wasn’t eating poorly or too much or too fast, it wasn’t because I was unhealthy – I feel much more empowered in my choices and feel as healthy as I think I should! I know I’m taking care of myself, and feel so grateful that my body is finally reflecting that.
My grieving for what life was and mourning what is lost, however overdramatic it feels to write that out, has been beneficial. I do feel like I’m moving forward, even if only baby steps. Every step forward is a good one.
And you know what’s really getting me through this weekend, and it’s nothing to do with wanting to be back in my own gluten-free kitchen? The most exciting, non-food related news? On Tuesday I start my new job! I’ll be working in a place dedicated to mental health and empowering youth and building strong communities that can support and care for those with mental illness. This is the job I have been waiting for. After months of everything feeling like it was falling apart… it finally feels like little by little, things are coming together again.