Friday, March 11, 2016

What Celiac Taught Me About Letting Go

Some phone calls leave a permanent, echoing voicemail in your mind. Like the call from my doctor two years ago, saying: "Your blood panel came back positive for celiac disease." I had no idea what "celiac" meant at the time. Heck, I didn't even know how to spell it. For a couple minutes, I was overjoyed. I wasn't crazy - there was something wrong with me! Something fixable! All I needed to do was avoid gluten. Piece of (gluten free?) cake.

Yeah right.

casey the college celiac
Mini cupcakes, but not mini problems!
Even two years post-diagnosis, I can't say that my gluten free diet is easy. It's easier. But it's time-consuming. It's paranoid. It's full of "Are you sure?" and "Cross contamination free?" and "Damn, I just really want a hamburger with a real bun." Yet, as I type this post tonight after two days of tears, I can't stop myself from feeling grateful.

Because celiac taught me so much about letting go.

Exactly what I had to let go of this past week isn't important. I'll just say that it played a big role in my life. What is important? How my disease has strengthened my ability to cope as much as it has, at times, weakened my body.

Celiac in a nut shell!
Thanks to celiac, I know that grieving is normal. Inevitable, even. Funny enough, I can't remember the last gluten-filled meal that I actually ate. By the point I was diagnosed, eating hurt so much that I didn't plan a last gluten hurrah

But I do remember the moment my eyes nearly popped out of my computer screen after googling, "What is gluten free?" Suddenly, I wasn't just losing some abstract term for wheat.

I was losing Mom's whole-grain spaghetti and cookies handed out in class. I lost the chance to oh-so-coolly order a scoop of ice cream from Baskin Robbins on my first date (without sweating as I scanned my phone for a list of what flavors were actually gluten free - and this was before I even knew and worried about cross-contaminated scoopers or cartons). I lost the teenage diet of a slice of pizza, a can of soda, and a big box of I'm-young-so-I-can-eat-anything

casey the college celiac
Or ALL the Halloween candy!
So, I literally lost it and grieved for gluten. Through tears at the grocery aisle, rants on my blog and afternoons spent scouring cookbooks to recreate that once favorite dish.

These last few days, I've been losing it over something else. I want to tell myself, like I did with gluten, "Get over it! It's just food!" Or *insert your own existential crisis here*. But this time, I don't - celiac taught me better.

Thanks to celiac, I know that letting go hurts for a long time. In my case, letting go of gluten hurt physically for almost a year. My destroyed villi, unlike most people's, didn't recover from a strict gluten-free diet alone. I needed a liquid diet, a hospital stay, an NG tube, and heck load of time. 

casey the college celiac
Not too long ago...
Looking back now, it's crazy to think that only a year ago, gluten free food still stabbed my stomach likes knives when I ate. It's crazy to think that, for a year, I ate and ate and still looked like a walking skeleton.

Healing - physically or emotionally - ain't easy, folks. If it were, chocolate (obviously in the form of GF cookies and cupcakes) and girls' nights and whole lot of time for reflection and self love wouldn't be common prescriptions for a variety of ailments. I see plenty of all of those in my future - and I know that bad days may hit me more often than good, at least at first.

But, celiac has proven to me that letting go ends up being just that: letting go of the past to find something new. I had to leave behind the girl who could eat her family under the table at nearly any restaurant (the face of a Denny's waitress after I ate a whole omelet and breakfast plate still sticks out in my mind!). 

Preach it!
More than that, I had to let go of my favorite foods, my curvier body, my nonchalant behavior towards eating and my inability to cook anything but a baked potato...

...to gain the strong, resilient, foodie I am today. Food is now a passion, not just fuel. People online aren't strangers; they're my fellow bloggers, celiacs, college students and cooks. Part of the magic of transformation, I think, is in the uncertainty. (Or, at least that's what my presently uncertain self would like to believe).
casey the college celiac
She believes in a lot...
Just like I want to believe that what I've learned by letting go of gluten can apply to letting go of other parts of life. A job. A GPA. A plan for the future. A person.

I'll never forget the phone call that revealed my celiac disease diagnosis; nor will I ever forget saying goodbye to a big part of my life this weekend. But while letting go may hurt now, I know that I'm not actually losing.

In the end, I'll gain.
       (Celiac weight pun obviously intended).



*Also found at LoveWithSpoon's link party!*

Do you think celiac has taught you to "let go?" Or what other lessons? Comment below!







2 comments:

  1. I guess I'm glad I KNEW I was going gluten-free and it wasn't a shock. But it's never been hard for me.

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  2. Excellent and classy. You go girl!!

    ReplyDelete