And for those of you who are not incredibly familiar with the medical terms let me break this down for you:
No gluten for the rest of my life (think traditional bread, pasta, beer, almost all baked goods, chips, sauces, marinades and everything else that tastes good)
Allergic to the protein in dairy (nope…not lactose intolerant. This is the kind of allergy that even when items are toted as “lactose free” I still can’t have them)
My immune system is attacking my thyroid (just a regular day in my body hating itself apparently…)
Let’s not also forget the endless diagnostic testing, doctors visits, hormone imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, ultrasounds, blood work, supplements, endless label reading and menu-scouting amidst the shock. The first three sentences of this post and all the “fun” that has come with it has really been the reason I’ve been MIA lately. The last two months have SUCKED. Really, truly. They have been hard and sad and beyond frustrating…
I had my first indication that the word “celiac” may enter my universe in early November after a routine doctor’s visit turned into several more doctors visits and an initial diagnosis. The lab results I received kick-started my own little cycle of grief and in perfect Devin fashion it was filled with all the emotions and hatred of not being in control. Honestly I think I skipped right over denial and went straight to being PISSED (might also have been attributed to the fact that I got in a car accident 30 minutes before I got the test results…it’s fine). I said a lot of things that night while I was crying my eyes out that I’m pretty sure God’s going to replay on judgment day and then roll His eyes and say, “You better count your lucky stars I love the crap out of you” and then laugh with me as I go skipping through the gates.
I was heartbroken about the whole thing, about everything it meant for my life and the chaos it would bring into the daily and once mundane task of eating. A task I had to perform daily…and not even daily MULTIPLE times daily just became a obstacle course. All of these thoughts and feelings led me down the path of literal denial, complete and utter denial. I had my mini-meltdown and then I lived in glutened-bliss for the next two months. I read article after article about celiac and its symptoms and informed everyone (mostly myself) in my path that I had NONE of these issues and proceeded to eat pumpkin pie to my heart’s delight. I wasn’t about about to let some pseudo-diagnosis ruin my holiday fare! Post-pie coma I decided in January to go off gluten – figured I’d give it a whirl, prove to myself and my stupid test results that I was perfectly fine with a little wheat in my life. I justified it around giving my body a fresh start in 2015 and trying to eat healthier not really expecting much to change.
Want to guess what happened?
I FELT FREAKIN’ AMAZING!
I hadn’t the slightest clue how awful and exhausted I felt all the time until I didn’t anymore. My “normal” was not normal at all…it was terribly screwed up. Poor Peter became the sounding board for all of life’s most pressing gluten-free questions, “Wait, so you’re telling me you don’t feel like your stomach is going to explode and that your gravestone might read ‘Death by Internal Combustion’ every time you have a beer? You’re not still SO tired when you wake up in the morning no matter how much sleep you get? [Insert other questions about bathroom-related topics here].” My sweet man played along and the more we talked the more I realized my gut was super jacked. With bargaining being the natural next step – I went ahead and scheduled an appointment with a holistic doctor secretly thinking, “I’m young and have always been relatively healthy so maybe if I can get ahead of this I can dabble in some gluten-y treats every now and again and it won’t be so bad?”
And as this story will continue to go I instead got lectured by my doctor, “This is EXTREMELY serious. Do know every time you even look at a restaurant there’s a possibility of cross-contamination? Celiac is a gateway autoimmune disease, so it’s possible you may have more. Check your makeup, lotions and hair products for all things gluten.” Ruiner. But I was still bargaining and thought that God certainly wouldn’t give me more issues since I was already in a pretty crappy place with all this celiac business. So naturally two weeks later I got the food panel that showed a massive dairy allergy and three weeks after that the Hashimoto’s diagnosis. Another food group gone and now I find out my immune system attacks my thyroid for kicks-and-giggles.
I was prescribed more supplements than I can count and it takes an extra 20 minutes to get ready in the morning to ensure I’ve swallowed every last vitamin and gut-healing beverage. I have spent my very minimal and precious spare time getting blood drawn and ultrasounds on my neck and peeing on litmus paper and taking my temperature before I get out of bed. I went from perfectly healthy to diseased in a matter of weeks.
So then came the next step in the grief cycle the dreaded depression… I have grieved a lot since November. I’ve cried over my brokenness, the frustration with the constant monitoring, the extra time in the grocery store reading labels, the throwing away of Phish Food ice cream, of it being such a freakin’ hassle to meet up with friends for dinner or for coffee where there isn’t almond milk. I’m functioning fine, still go to work every day and show my smiling face around to the universe but there have been moments almost every day where the gluten-cloud sets in. Its has begun happening less often as I’ve settled in the my new normal but the comments from those hearing the news weeks ago were an interesting part of the healing process. The “But you look perfectly healthy!”s, the “Oh, you’ll be fine!”s, the “Don’t worry God loves you!”s, and the “It’s all going to be okay”s became a normal part of announcing I’m diseased.
These responses stirred up an odd insecurity in me because I KNEW I’m going to live, it’s not like my life is over because of these things. But as a believer and follower of a perfect, holy, loving God shouldn’t I be able to be sad for a sec and then bounce right back into living joyously in the midst of all of life’s BS? My heart wrestled over these things for weeks on end and those voices started to creep in that told me to “get over it” and to “stop being stupid and sad.” And this is where I am reminded that in the midst of sadness, frustration, hurt that God is faithful to be a Father and teach and guide and comfort us. The last two months have been HARD but I have learned so much through this process that while I will never say I’m thankful for all the health issues, I am thankful to further know and understand who God is and that He is a great comforter and healer of our bodies and souls.
Here’s the deal – my body is not as it was intended to be. God intended, in His original design, for both the world and its inhabitants to be perfect. He didn’t and doesn’t want for my body to be bloated upon eating certain foods or for it to literally be attacking itself. My body is broken and my flesh (both literally and figuratively) is in need of a Savior. So I’m allowed to grieve what was never supposed to be and I’m allowed to grieve that my issues make it harder to gather with those I love around food that was designed to be eaten and enjoyed. My purpose in life, however, is not to focus on the gaping holes sin leaves in our lives, so I won’t sit here forever in a perpetual state of thinking life is unfair because the reality is that it is – life is unfair in a fallen world. But in the midst of sin God is to be known and loved and shared with others. So I will gather with those I love and meet around plates of rabbit food and breads made with sweet potato flour. He weeps with me and gives me the strength to continue forward until one day He restores all the broken things. So I’m here living in acceptance of what this world is and look forward to a Heavenly bowl of mac’n cheese someday again.
Found in a gluten-free aisle at a grocery store near you,
P.S. – Celiac really doesn’t feel that bad when your friends come over on a Monday night and you cook paleo crab cakes and filet mignon. Keepin’ it classy up in here!