Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Progress After Diagnosis

It only took me a few days to notice a difference in how I felt. This was incredibly exciting because I had thought for sure I was dying. After a few weeks, I felt like a whole new person. I look back at pictures of myself, and I'm shocked at how I looked. No wonder people thought I definitely had to be anorexic or bulimic. I definitely looked the part. 

Like I said before, I went the route of eliminating all food until I was 100% sure it was gluten-free. This didn't do a lot for variety in my diet, but it did help to ensure I didn't eat something I shouldn't by mistake. It also helped me to start gaining weight. 

My birthday was about a week after I changed my diet, and I immediately wished I had waited. I knew there were gluten-free cake mixes out there, but the last thing I wanted to do was take the time to bake a cake and have it taste disgusting. It wasn't unusual to skip cake on my birthday, but there was something about not having the option that depressed me. I hadn't researched eating out yet, so I was shocked when my boyfriends parents took us out for breakfast for my birthday and I had to come to the realization that eating out would not be easy. I don't know if my meal had been safe or not as it was too early for me to truly have a reaction, but I wouldn't be surprised if my food had been contaminated.

I immediately began doing some research when we got home from breakfast because my boyfriend wanted to take me out for dinner, and I wanted to make sure it was easier to order. I discovered higher end restaurants tend to be safer, so we went to a higher end restaurant that was still within his budget. I wound up getting a steak with no seasoning and a plain baked potato. It was good, but it was also something I could have easily made myself at home. 

He hadn't gotten me a gift yet, so he said we could go shopping after dinner and I could pick something out. After two disappointing experiences in dining out, I knew exactly what I wanted. We went to Kohls, and I picked out a new electric mixer and a food processor. It was time I learned to cook and bake, and these two items would help me to do that.

It would be another number of months before I really started to explore cooking, and years before I discovered how enjoyable I find my time in the kitchen to be. It was also months later before I attempted to eat out again. My boyfriend had no interest in going out to eat with me because he found my questions to be embarrassing. My next attempt after my birthday was with his mother, and it was excellent. I had found that most Outback Steakhouse locations did a very good job with accommodating those on a gluten-free diet. I later discovered that I had gotten lucky with an excellent waiter on my first trip to Outback, but that good experience gave me the courage to attempt eating out occasionally. I also learned the importance of rewarding good waitstaff and requesting them by name whenever I dine there. 

About a year after changing my diet, I went to a gluten-free vendor fair in Chicago. I met up with some people who frequented an online gluten-free forum, and for the first time I didn't feel quite as alone as I had before. For two days, I stuffed myself with excellent gluten-free food, learned a lot of great information from the speakers, and I got a bunch of great samples to bring home. 

About six months after changing my diet, it seemed like I was having symptoms again, but there was something different about it. At an appointment with my OB/GYN, I suddenly burst out crying for no reason when I was explaining some of my newer symptoms. He suggested I see a psychologist. I was somewhat shocked by the suggestion, but he explained that individuals can go through a grieving process after adopting a gluten-free diet because they've lost something important to them. He also said that my behavior was starting to border on agoraphobia, and the thought of being too afraid to ever leave my house was enough to get me to make an appointment that same day. 

In therapy, I discovered that my "relapse" wasn't actually caused by gluten. I had spent over 10 years of my life afraid to go places, especially if I didn't know where the restrooms were. Stress and anxiety were causing my diarrhea and stomachaches. I was so afraid of getting sick, that I was making myself sick. My psychologist was able to help me work through the grief and my fear of leaving my house.

So that was my first year. What was your first gluten-free year like?

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