Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Trip Down Memory Lane....

You know, I started this blog all wrong but its too late to fix it now. I erroneously started in the middle, instead of at the beginning.Perhaps, because writing my personal experiences and feelings are so much more difficult for me than my thoughts on a restaurant or a product. It was only when I read my brother's blog http://nyglutenguy.blogspot.com/ and through talking to him lately, now that he is enduring many of the things I went through some years ago, I'm realizing the more personal side of this condition that I had long forgotten and buried.It is from reading his blog and talking with him that I realized I didn't quite introduce myself or how I came to write this blog or who I am or how I came to be Gluten Free.

I have been a diagnosed Celiac for over 3 years now. In many ways I feel established and detached from my initial diagnosis, since living this way has become more routine and a way of life and I've accepted it.However, in many ways I'm still as excited about a new product and as new at this as someone first diagnosed, I guess because living Gluten Free is such an evolving experience. I also, have my times of depression mourning the loss of my former life. I still realize at times the challenges ahead of me and that I face everyday and will for life--until the gluten zapping pill is finally perfected. This condition really can change your life, both for the better and worse. It means that never again will you be able to walk into any restaurant anywhere and eat anything you want. This can be very scary. To think that you are trapped to a life of gluten free food that is not readily available is enough to bring a panic attack on to the most sturdy of character.

However, it isn't all negative and depressing and the optimism should be focused upon here instead of elaborating on the depressing aspects. Many people have such severe symptoms, feel so bad eating gluten and have such debilitation from this condition that one has to be mindful of the positive. If one eats gluten free, one won't die of this condition but will live longer, healthier and better--well as long as gluten free chocolate chip cookies don't become a main dietary staple.One won't need to take a toxic chemical or expensive drug for life; one doesn't have to feel awful everyday and feel sick.Successfully treated--eating gluten free--one will eat healthier(wheat is almost completely devoid of nutrition and not the best food for you anyway despite its widespread use in the modern diet), one will get stronger, will feel better, won't suffer the many different symptoms and attacks that brought us to this new and different diet and with the so many improving products and options, one can enjoy many of the same things that our glutenous brethren also enjoy.Perhaps too, we also come to take each sweet treat, each roll and each piece of pizza with a little more appreciation than most people do as a result.

Like many Celiacs today, I took the long way around to come to my diagnosis. Years of doctors, years of diagnoses, years of different highs and lows-10 years from symptom onset to diagnosis is the average time line. To be honest, the diagnosis, like it is to many, was devastating to me. It meant being different and not in a particularly good way from everyone else. It meant people misunderstanding my very real documented medical condition for just being difficult, picky or extreme--afterall my face doesn't blow up like a balloon so I must not be sick right? It meant a lifelong condition and lifelong fears of illness and perhaps most of all, or least of all, a lifelong adherence to a strict diet that no one else will understand and avoiding what everyone else in society lives on and is incorporated into almost every morsel of food one can buy or order, is addicted to and loves dearly--myself included prior to diagnosis.

It is only now that my brother has come to realize he may have Celiac Disease too that so many of the thoughts, feelings, frustrations and experiences of my first diagnosis have resurfaced.Even though I knew on some level it was all logical and understandable when it was happening to me, the reactions of other people around me had a way of making me doubt whether it was normal to be feeling what I felt and feeling like I was a hypochondriac or being unreasonable following the many precautions and necessary steps prescribed by the medical community, and was so annoying to me. Although I wish no one else and especially someone in my family would have to go through this difficult process, through my brother's diagnosis it has in some ways validated not only my own diagnosis but regretfully my frustrations, fears and difficulties I encountered at the time of my diagnosis by seeing from the outside how someone else also is going through what I did too.I am revisiting all I went through again by watching all he is enduring by adapting his lifestyle to this diagnosis.I feel his frustrations and pains and try to help encourage him as best I can having gone through it, although I know the only true solace will come from time.

I wish he didn't have to endure this confusing, frustrating, whirlwind of a diagnosis and condition; however, I can remember just how it felt to walk into Whole Foods and have no idea where to go, what to do, to have an idea of what is needed but feel overwhelmed by the choices and lack thereof and feel like you are in a different dimension as you try to navigate the aisles looking for something you can eat and feeling almost as if you are writing your own modern version of the Rhyme of The Ancient Mariner, "Food, Food Everywhere and Not a morsel to eat!"

Many things have become more routine to me now. To enter a grocery store, when I have time, to stroll leisurely and not feel so task based of getting gluten free food...to see what the shelves have to offer, to be more open to browsing and seeing which products may be gluten free and also realizing which ones it makes no sense to even bother to look at.This is an experience that really takes practice and improves with time; however, in the moment it feels so overwhelming, frustrating, depressing and daunting while you are roaming the store aimlessly.I can feel his frustration and pain, just as I felt it too and know it will get better, yet also know he will become more accustomed to this process in time.

I don't know if I will write many posts on the emotional toils of this condition. If so, it will no doubt be inspired by the journey my brother is going through now and the many things that it reminds me of in my own journey....I hope it will spark uplifting and encouraging posts for him, even if it is a word or two of solace, support or encouragement or just knowing that he isn't alone in all he's going through. I also intend to provide the honest truth good or bad of what I've learned THUS far being a "Celiac Guy".

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