I thought the diagnosis would be THE END. The end of symptoms and suffering. The end of a 15 year journey to figure out why my stomach was upset all of the time, why my skin broke out in rashes and acne, why I felt so anxious. A journey filled with endless questions, lab tests and trips to the doctor’s office. I was so relieved when my functional nutritionist determined that I had Celiac. Great! I thought. I’ll just eliminate gluten and the vibrant health of my youth will return. On my way home from her office I bought a red velvet cupcake from Sweet Things Bakery at the Cal-Mart in Laurel Village. This had been a weekly ritual for some time, a secret pleasure I didn’t even tell my husband about. I knew that the ritual would have to end; this would be the last hurrah before going gluten free. I have always loved red velvet cupcakes, but Sweet Things’ versions are sinfully delicious. Light, moist, dark red cake with a hint of cocoa, and a perfectly dense cream cheese frosting. I ate my last cupcake slowly, after dinner that evening, and enjoyed every bite. I licked the cream frosting off of each finger and scraped the crumbs from the liner. I went to bed hopeful. The following day I went shopping and stocked the pantry with gluten free breads, crackers and pastas. I knew it would take a little while for my body to detox from all those years of gluten consumption, but I figured within several months I would be as good as new.
I was wrong.
Instead of becoming simpler my life became more complicated after my diagnosis. Thirty-eight years of undiagnosed Celiac led to intestinal damage and chronic inflammation, allowing numerous toxins and infections to get into my bloodstream. Gluten and thyroid tissue have a similar protein structure, so my body confused the two and created antibodies to my thyroid which impacted my energy while upping my anxiety. At one point I was either stuck in bed with extreme fatigue or having panic attacks. My gut was so damaged that I develop intolerances to many other foods in addition to gluten. Since 2012 my health has declined fairly steadily. My diagnosis did not lead to the recovery I had hoped for.
I am not giving up. I will keep trying to find and treat the root causes of my illness. But I don’t want to live in the future, in the belief that “when I am healed my life will begin.” My life is happening now, and I want to enjoy it to the best of my abilities. So I accept (most of the time) my illness and the limitations is has imposed upon me. And I focus my energies on finding freedom in my constraints and beauty in a simpler life.