WARNING: THIS IS GONG TO BE AN UNUSUALLY LONG AND POSSIBLY BORING POST. FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT I WILL BE PROVIDING SOME IN FLIGHT NUTS AND SOME MUZAK. PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT (ONCE AGAIN) I’M OVER-SHARING BECAUSE I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO BELIEVE THAT MY DOING SO MIGHT AFFECT THAT ONE PERSON OUT THERE WHO’S BEEN FEELING THE SAME WAY BUT DOESN’T KNOW WHY OR HOW TO GET HELP. K? NOW SIT BACK AND SHUT UP. OH, AND DON’T FORGET TO NOTE THE LOCATION OF THE EMERGENCY EXITS IN CASE YOU DECIDE TO BAIL.
Somewhere around ten years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Celiac disease. For another several years before that he suffered a host of symptoms that led to his steadily declining health. He saw doctor after doctor and left their offices each time with a different prescription and a different explanation for his symptoms. IBS. Restless Leg Syndrome. Old man-itis. Eat more bananas, they’d say. Take these pills, they’d say. But nothing ever seemed to make it better, and instead he just began to waste away, despite everyone’s best efforts to figure out what the heck was gong on with his body.
Finally, one day as he was talking to a friend about what had been going on with his health for the past several years, he explained some of his symptoms (the likes of which I shall spare you. Believe me, you want me to), the friend mentioned that he had a friend who had just been diagnosed with Celiac disease and WHADDYA KNOW! it sure did sound like the same thing. So, as a last ditch effort to save himself (because by this point he had already convinced himself that he was dying of an undiagnosed cancer) he went to the doctor. One. Last. Time. And the rest, as they say, is history.
And then there’s me. His daughter. We have the same feet. I mean it’s weird how similar they are. And we have the same nose. We also share a slight propensity towards fits of rage that lean more to the side of screaming and object throwing. Trust me. Those of us in the inner circle, they will vouch for it. We see the world in colors and phrases, like scenes from a movie our memories play out before our minds, polished and refined, despite the truth of the events. We make people laugh and shock them with our honesty all in the same sentence. I am pretty confident that there is no one else in the world who understands me like he does and no one who understands his mind quite like I do. Because, well, I am him. He is me. And unfortunately, I also apparently possess his GI tract.
Wow, that’s really a shame, I had to go there and ruin that beautiful sentiment with more talk about poop and food. It really was getting touching, perhaps I’ll come back to that one day. My father and I. But today, not so.
For years I have had stomach problems. Nothing like my father. Nothing debilitating. Annoying and unpleasant, yes, but something that I had just resigned to live with. There were tales of my genetic predecessors suffering from the same problems, but no one ever really knew why. It just was the way it was. Many of you (if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile) will remember this post that I wrote a short while after I had Ari. I had been suffering from intense bouts of (what I thought was) post-partum depression, joint pain, headaches and a load of other yuck. I mean, everyone said: Jill, after everything you’ve been through in the past couple of years, anyone would feel a little depressed. It’s normal. It’s ok. But it just didn’t feel ok. I didn’t feel right.
SO I started taking oodles of supplements and at the same time I went on the South Beach Diet to lose the last of the baby weight. During that period I also stopped eating dairy because I was nursing and Ari was exceptionally fussy. So as a precaution, FOR THE KIDS! I gave up all cheese, milk, and pretty much my heart because I frackin love that stuff. Well, very quickly, Ari stopped being fussy and I began to feel better than I had in years. YEARS. You just don’t know how crappy you’ve been feeling until you start to feel really good and then you’re like: DAMNIT! So that’s what everyone keeps talking about! HAPPY FACE!
At that time I chalked the change up to all the supplements I had been taking, because well, I had tested negative for Celiac and so why would food have anything to do with it? I gradually went back to my previous (moderately) healthy way of eating and even though I was still taking all the supplements, many of my symptoms returned, but this time they were often worse. A Friday night binge of pizza and beer would leave me feeling six months pregnant for several days. It seemed like it took me the entire work week of eating just salads, vegetables,and eggs to undo the hurt I had caused my gut over the weekends.
When you live in a constant state of moderate pain and discomfort, yes, you learn to cope with it, but (at least for me) it irritates the heck out of you because, well, it hurts. It’s annoying, and no one else seems to understand. I turned into this easily irritated person. I snapped at my kids for silly things. No one could sit on my lap for very long because it hurt my legs so badly. And heaven forbid someone hit me in the stomach (playfully). Like my dad, I decided t go back to the doctor. One. More. Time.
This time I had to get a colonoscopy. YAY! WHAT FUN! But seriously, I dreaded that day and that procedure more than I dreaded going in for an amnio at 36 weeks pregnant. (Yeah, I could write a whole other post about THAT one) I dreaded it more than my dress blowing up over my head on a day I wore granny panties. I mean, it’s your BUTT. And they’re going to shove something UP it! A very long something. I don’t care what the cool kids are doing, as far as my body and I are concerned that is a ONE WAY STREET! But (round of applause) I did it. I took one for the team. What team, you ask? TEAM: MY BODY! And you wanna know what I learned (outside of all the medical jargon)? If my team were a man, it is definitely NOT gay!
All jokes aside (and believe me there are plenty...I could keep going. But because I know my Mom is probably reading this, I’ll stop.) it was worth it. I was told I have IBS. Which, I think they tell anyone with chronic upset stomach. But, more importantly, I got the words that I guess I had been waiting to hear for a long time. I’m gluten-intolerant. Gluten-sensitive. They call it a lot of things. What it really means is that even though my blood work says I don’t have Celiac disease, my stomach is screaming: STOP FEEDING ME BREAD, DAMNIT! I’m kind of used to that type of diagnosis though. How many vials of my blood were tested for Toxoplasmosis, and every time they came back negative. And yet, every doctor that looks at my eye calls it Toxoplasmosis. I guess if it walks like a duck...
Here’s the hard part though. I FREAKING LOVE bread. And when I get sick, it’s a gradual, almost Frog In The Frying Pan scenario. So gradual that I don’t notice it until I’m in the fetal position in bed, mentally lambasting myself for being so stupid. Again. My dad has it much worse. Within minutes of eating gluten, he begins to experience flu-like symptoms and well, I’ll spare you the rest. Again, you’re welcome. I almost wish I had it as bad as him, because then it would be easier to give up completely. But instead, I’ve been rationalizing with myself. This pizza is worth the pain. And it’s hard too because when we’re visiting people, I don’t wait to be a party pooper, or a Debbie Downer. So for awhile I was just eating what was there. And when we would go out on the weekends, not wanting to cause a commotion (side note: can you even believe that I, MEEEEEEE, would not want to cause a commotion?!?! I KNOW! CRAZY!) I would just go along with whatever was easiest. Which usually ended up being a bread-laden, carb-fest of a greasy spoon.
And that’s where I’m pretty much at. I’m in a new country, errrrr territory, and I feel worse than I have in a very long time. But, Dear Readers, do not lose hope! Because I know how to read! Yes, this IS going somewhere, I promise. Serendipitously, or Providentially I just so happened to wander into a bookstore on this here little island. And guess what I found? No, not the Twilight Saga. Elizabeth Hasslebeck’s book about living gluten free! And there was this other one about the Paleo diet, which I had heard of several people that I know doing (and which is also a gluten free diet), so I decided to give them a try. Right after I ate a huge pretzel and then cursed myself for the better part of the way home.
I read both books in just a couple of days (which, if you have small children, you’ll know is no small feat) and I decided to try Elizabeth’s method first. She recommends stocking your pantry with G-free snacks so that when you are tempted (BY THE DEVIL!!!) you’ll at least have some junk food options that won’t make you sick. So, that’s what I did. I went out and spent way too much money on every gluten free snack I could find. Some very healthy and some not. Let me just say, these foods are almost twice as expensive as their gluten-laden counterparts and often don’t taste as good. They’re usually made with different types of grains that most often don’t bother Celiac’s, like rice flour or quinoa. Supposedly healthy things.
So a few days into my G-free diet, having eaten some of the g-free snacks and adding non gluten containing grains into our meals, I still felt sick. WHAT THE EFF!!!! Wasn’t this supposed to be making me better? That’s when I had a Come to Jesus with myself and told myself what the Paleo Solution had said, and what I think I’ve unconsciously known for a while now. You’re a freak. No, seriously, I just can’t handle grains of any name. Or starchy foods. I don’t function well on them. They make me sick. Even the ones that don’t contain gluten. That was a tough talk with myself that day as I ate the last of the gluten free cookies as a kind of going away present to myself.
There were tears, because let’s face it. If someone told you you’d have to give up pasta and bread and rice and beer and cake and cookies for pretty much the rest of your life in order to feel well and happy, wouldn’t you cry? No? Well, I don’t think I even know who you are anymore! Right there in my (temporary) kitchen, I made a decision to change my life. For good and for real this time. Except there was a catch. This whole dang family was going to do it with me. Why? Because I’m a wimp, that’s why. Maybe that skinny little Hasslebeck girl can have a pantry full of gluten and not touch it, and if that’s the case, then well, she’s just a bigger person than me. Because I can’t. Nope, no way. I work under the mantra of: If It’s In This House, I Will Eat It. So it all had to go. Now I just had to convince my husband.
Well, that proved to be much harder than I had anticipated, even with my tears and subterfuge. Eventually, he agreed to thirty days, and in turn, I agreed to feed him sweet potatoes like it was nobody’s business. Because, undoubtedly, the rest of this family could use some starch in their lives. We had a small going away party (at least I did) for a lot of the food that was outta here. Where did it go? To Jeremy’s office where I’m sure he is stuffing his face with Snyder’s Pretzels and granola bars in between patients so he can come home and not die from the lack of bread.
We are three days in and I think it’s been hardest on Elsbeth. She nearly cried begging for ice cream last night. And that was like the tenth time that day she had a near breakdown asking for sugar. I held my ground and offered Paleo friendly snacks every time (which she ate). But the crowning moment came last night at dinner, when she Cleaned. Her. Plate. And then had seconds. Those of you that know her know that I call her the Anorexic Four Year Old because she hardly eats unless it’s junk food or a sugar substance. Last night she ate broiled tilapia, roast broccolini with lemon and garlic and mashed sweet potato with some butter and cinnamon. Two plates people. Seeing that was all I needed to know I am not only doing the right thing for myself, but for this whole family.
So, there that is. Getting through the weekend will be the toughest part for all of us, but now that I know we’re all in this together, I think I can make it. I’m feeling a little better already. Today I only look four months pregnant! I know that as the days and weeks go by, I will feel better and better. Stay tuned.