Saturday, March 28, 2015

I Missed the Anniversary of My Diagnosis

Apparently after seven years, the anniversary of my diagnosis is less of a big deal, because I was mistaken on the actual date. For some reason, it seemed to have more meaning to me this year. I decided I was going to really take note of March 28th. Unfortunately, when I double checked a calendar, I realized it was March 27th, 2008 when I was diagnosed. I also realized I missed my "blogiversary" (the day I started this blog). That date was March 17th, 2013.

What does all this mean? I'm not really sure, and quite possibly, it means absolutely nothing. Webster's dictionary defines anniversary as:

Yes, the anniversary of my diagnosis was most definitely a special or notable event. I had struggled for over ten years with horrible gastrointestinal issues. I had a million other symptoms that I never realized had anything to do with each other. These included mouth sores, dry flaky & painful skin, achy joints, brain fog, debilitating fatigue, etc, etc, etc. I'm thankful that the doctor I saw that day immediately knew what was wrong, and he happened to be right. My assumption walking into the appointment was that I would have yet another doctor tell me I had IBS and I needed to eat more bread and crackers when my stomach was upset. It was a huge relief that one simple condition could explain everything wrong with me including the major depression I had suffered with for years (I didn't find this out until later).

I was told to remove gluten from my diet, and when I asked how to do that, I was told to go home and look it up on the internet. I must mention that I am amazed at the fact that doctors still give this same advice to patients despite all of the misinformation on the internet and the fact that there is amazingly accurate information from all kinds of reputable celiac disease organizations. I was shocked at the advice, but I went home and did just that. I quickly found a very helpful online forum. I wish that forum were still around so I could go back and see my original post. I'm curious what I said...if I sounded desperate or scared or if I took the stance of overconfidence.

I made a plan to completely remove gluten from my diet that coming Sunday. I have no idea what I ate the rest of that Thursday, or the subsequent Friday or Saturday--I simply remember that I was going grocery shopping the first chance I got which was Sunday. I looked up all of the common ingredients where gluten could hide, and was convinced I was familiar enough to go for it.

I went grocery shopping alone that Sunday. I started in the back aisle as I always do, and I literally went up and down every single aisle until I got about halfway through. In this time, I scanned each item on the shelves, and if I thought it might be gluten free, I picked it up and began reading ingredients. Even those items that didn't seem to have any reason to contain gluten did, such as...



Eventually, it felt like all I was seeing was this on every. single. item.

The picture above does a good job of explaining my experience. I wish I had taken a picture of the contents of my cart (that was long before I had a smartphone, and I doubt if I had a camera in my purse), because although I don't remember what was in there, I know it was very little. By time I got about halfway through the store, I was exhausted and defeated. The one shining note was when I found the "gluten-free section." At the time, this section was about five feet wide (now, it's about 15 feet wide). I skipped the majority of the remaining aisles, and decided I was done.

I had no idea what I was going to eat that week. I was scared that I would never figure it out. As I approached the checkout lanes, my phone rang. It was my boyfriend asking me to grab him milk. I tried to explain in as few words as possible that I simply didn't have it in me to go to the back of the store because I feared if I said too much, I would burst into tears. He was mad, but I went home without milk.

The second I got into my car, I burst into tears. I knew it wasn't the end of the world, but I felt absolutely, completely defeated.

I wound up eating chicken and potatoes for most meals for several months. Eggs made a simple breakfast. I also bought Ensure to supplement my meals to ensure I was getting adequate nutrition. Bananas were also a common snack. I quickly figured out that the Enjoy Life Foods Soft Baked Cookies didn't taste amazing, but they were good, and they were filling enough to eat as a snack.

Seven years later, it's rare that I have anything close to a defeated feeling (although it does happen). It's second nature to find gluten-free products. I've taught myself to cook, and I really enjoy it. I'm glad I did it the way that I did--went 100% immediately--even though it was really hard. Most individuals I've talked to removed the obvious things, and continued doing so until they had removed gluten completely. I see why people do that, but I've seen far too many people continue eating gluten for much longer than necessary because there are one or two items they didn't think to check. When it comes to celiac disease, it's 100% or nothing, so why go through the hassle if you don't have it all removed from your diet anyway?

If I could give any advice to anyone starting out, I would encourage them to figure out things they can eat that should be available prior to leaving for the grocery store. It's also best to stick to the outside of the store where all of the fresh fruits, veggies, meat, and dairy are. Ingredient lists are short or non-existent, which makes things easier.

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