Monday, November 14, 2011

Two Journeys 1

I fly into Haiti this morning! If you think of it, send up a prayer for me and our team. While I'm traveling, I wanted to share another, slightly less exciting, journey with you. I found out I was gluten-intolerant a few years ago and, while this may not seem like a particularly compelling journey. I've learned some interesting (read: neurotic) things about myself along the way. So pull up a toadstool and pop a squat.


“I love finding another one; it makes me feel like less of a freak.”

I was joking with a coworker about making him cookies as a bribe. He quickly pulled up a recipe for Gluten-Free Peanut Butter, ChocolateChip, Rainbow cookies.

Weird, I thought, I didn’t realize he knew I was gluten-free.

But it wasn’t me, it was for him!! It was like finding a little oasis, little piece of evidence that I’m not a complete freak, that it is okay to have a weird diet.

See, I’m not really “out” at work yet. I don’t like telling people about my “special” dietary needs because, well I feel like a whiney hypochondriac, a granola-eating freak.

(I blame my brothers.)

Okay not really, but I did grow up in a world where "food" issues didn't really exist, peanut allergies notwithstanding. Food intolerances were not common and, to many people, a bit of a myth. So, when I realized in the 9th grade that putting milk on my cereal in the morning meant I spent first period in the bathroom doing Lamaze-breaths through my stomach cramps, I didn’t really say anything. I just stopped drinking it.

Not too long after that, I realized that fresh fruit, fruit juice, donuts or any other sugary food for breakfast did the same thing. And toast. And bagels.

In fact, I felt nasty all the time. The trouble was that I didn't feel "sick." I couldn’t legitimize my symptoms because they were weird, inconsistent, and not really “bad enough” to go to a doctor though they were bad enough to constantly bother me. I not only was embarrassed by my grossness, but I was embarrassed that I was complaining about it. 

It took me about 10 years to decide that how I was feeling really wasn’t normal. Or, if it was normal, it didn’t have to be, that there were people in the world who didn’t feel tired and stomach-gross all the time. I didn’t want to walk into a doctor’s office when I wasn’t “sick,” so I went to a naturopath. I went in secret, because, to be honest, it felt like voodoo medicine, even to me.

The visit was a little embarrassing, I’ll admit, but I absolutely loved my naturopath. I loved her because she didn't question how I was feeling, she didn't argue with my symptoms because there was no "reason" for them. She didn't talk about my body like it was a petri dish but like it was a complex ecosystem that just needed some extra care. Best of all she told me that I didn't have to always feel this way.

For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like I was crazy for feeling sick.

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