Two Sides of Celiac Freedom

Last week, Americans celebrated the freedom of their country. Cue the Fourth of July fireworks, family gatherings, and, of course, food. Even while the rest of my schedule altered for the festivities, though, my food followed the usual adaptations. As a diagnosed celiac for two years now, I'd like to say living without gluten is as part of my daily routine as it is in my DNA. I have celiac disease. Gluten can literally kill me. And that's that.

Throwback to post hospital swag!
Recently, though, I've noticed what I'd like to call the two sides of celiac freedom. And, honestly, I'll blame any philosophizing on the restaurant dining that has dominated my Houston vacation. Usually, I'm a once-every-two-weeks type of outside eater. It's safer. It's cheaper. And I don't have to be a walking celiac infomercial before my meal.

One of the benefits of two years celiac experience? The information I tell my waitress, the requests I make of the chef, and the scrutiny I place over my meal transforms into a memorized script. Sometimes I forget that I ever walked into a restaurant without researching gluten free options ahead of time. And ordering fries without asking about fryer cross contamination? It feels like a memory filed away with my short-lived McDonald days.

Replace with "celiac disease" and that's my jam!
It wasn't until my mom explained my dining needs to the waitress during our last visit to Outback, however, that I realized how ingrained my celiac safety measures has become. As I heard her talking about cross contamination, gluten and bread crumbs, for a second, I forgot she was talking about me. I forgot that, to the average American, these questions are anything but ordinary. That the life, the diet, and the worries that constantly fly through my head are in fact as unique as my blood test results.

I embrace my celiac disease as part of my identity. But sometimes, like having brown hair or boasting a 4.0 GPA, it fades into the whole that is Casey. For all those newly diagnosed with celiac disease, I can say this: it (living with celiac disease) does get easier. As celiacs learn to feed themselves safely, they also learn freedom from a disease sitting constantly on their minds.

A few parts of Casey
And yet, as I've been eating out and cooking meals in unfamiliar kitchens, my disease has also jumped into the foreground of my identity. Unlike in my kitchen back home where counters are constantly wiped clean of crumbs, little gluten bombs lurk on counter tops. That means always cutting my fruits or vegetables on clean plates of paper towels. That means washing every bowl or utensil with soap and water before adding my food. Basically, my gluten alarm is buzzing twenty four hours a day.

Living in houses that are more gluten than gluten free has its benefits. It's a reminder to be grateful for my family's (gluten) sacrifices and dedication to cleaning. It's a reminder that I'm not invincible or normal or able to eat like everyone else - but that I can handle the challenge. And, in a strange way, it's empowering. Because it's made me realize that taking such strict precautions leads to another side of celiac freedom. Instead of being free from celiac, I am embracing freedom for it.

All gluten free?
The freedom of being able to shop, cook, and feed myself safely. The freedom to, after I've taken the proper precautions with my waiter and chef, indulge in a delicious gluten free meal outside my own kitchen. And the freedom to accept the disease that, while cumbersome at times, is a part of what makes me uniquely, imperfectly, completely me.

As I watched the fireworks explode over my head a few nights ago, I could barely believe the variety. Different colors. Different shapes. Different techniques that made us ooh and awww from the truck bed. But each one celebrated the same holiday: American freedom. In a similar way, celiac disease can be celebrated in life through two different ways. By becoming ingrained in routine to such an extent it becomes nearly invisible or by being embraced as an impactful part of life and identity. Or a mixture of both.

Out with a bam!
What I realized this last weekend? Either one is a sign of celiac freedom - living life with celiac in mind, but not in the driver's seat. And I can't wait to see what adventure I end up traveling through next.



Do you ever "forget" about your celiac disease? How did you celebrate the Fourth of July? Comment below!




Comments

  1. It's just such an ingrained part of me that I really don't think about "being a Celiac". The only reason I think about it now is when I'm on my blog! Haha! It's just my "normal life"!

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  2. I can totally agree! Nothing like writing "celiac" a billion times a week to remind you! ;)

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