Celiac Disease and Identity

Whenever I find myself crying over some aspect of celiac disease (I can't eat that muffin! I'm tired! My blog is messed up!) I always wonder why. What's really causing me to cry? Yes, it sucks to give up some of my favorite food. And I've already ranted about my lack of energy.

Really, though, out of the millions of awful diseases lurking throughout the world, I didn't draw too bad a card. If I follow my diet, celiac disease isn't fatal. And, as the months have passed, I've found decent (and even delicious) gluten free food alternatives to my favorite munchies. 

After another meltdown last night, though, I think I finally have the answer. The problem isn't that celiac disease is forcing me to change my lifestyle. The problem is that it's changing me

I remember walking through the grocery store one day looking for gluten-free soup, which is nearly impossible, and searching for that magical green phrase, "Gluten free." How funny is it, I thought, that something I never noticed or cared about before now runs my entire life? How crazy is it that those two words now form the basis of my being?

After all, what makes up a person's identity

Maybe it's a favorite food? Prior to diagnosis, I munched on an apple with peanut butter for my "last request" each night before bed. My parents used to tease me that I'd never need a doctor considering how many apples I devoured in a week. Because of the acidic nature of apples, I haven't had one since my diagnosis, even when our apple trees started dropping clusters of green fruit. I've moved onto fresh grapes and strawberries as my number one snacks. 

Perhaps appearance plays a bigger role? I've always been small at 5'3" and, at my highest weight, 106 pounds during soccer season. Two months later, I've lost 15 pounds of fat and muscle. When I look in the mirror, I see a near-copy of my scrawny eighth grade self. What happened to the muscles and curves I've learned to call my own for years?

Celiac disease's golden touch even affects hobbies and personality. Though I plan to lace up those running shoes again, for now I swim more than I run. As for personality, like I mentioned earlier, I've become assertive enough to discuss my dietary needs with strangers. Not to mention that my desire to be prepared has magnified ten times over. 

The list of tweaks never end. No matter how hard I may try to hold onto my old self, I must accept that celiac disease has transformed me.

I am still stronger than ever!

This certainly isn't always a bad thing. Because of celiac disease, I have embraced new hobbies like blogging, new favorite foods, and a more independent outlook on life. I am more observant of the food I put in my body and more understanding of those with food allergies than ever before. Beyond that, I have a community to belong to, beyond that of a teenage girl taking on the world. Celiacs are sprinkled around the globe, but together we are a family with the same struggles and the same strengths.

I am not the same person I was, but that's okay. Everyone changes with age and experience. Celiac disease just triggered my transformation a bit early.

So when celiac disease gives me a hard time, I'm going to grin and bear it. What is a few growing pains when I have a whole life to look forward to?

What do you think forms a person's identity? Has an illness affected yours? 


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