You aren't alone. In 2012, Gluten Dude posted 39 examples of celiac ignorance...and almost 100 people commented saying that they too have been victims to statements like: "This celiac disease is becoming like an epidemic now...just like lactose intolerance...LOL."
And, honestly, these statements can hurt. One of the offhand remarks that hurts me the most? "Well, at least you're not obese." Especially if I'm sitting in a restaurant watching everyone else raid the bread basket. Especially if I have to worry about getting sick every time I trust someone else with my food. Especially when I'm trying to gain weight.
Did I cry out frustration after that experience? I'm not ashamed to say that I did. But it also served as an important reminder:
My reality is not defined by others perceptions.
My disease is not made any less challenging by others misconceptions.
My struggles are not any less valid from others' inability to see them.
My disease is so much more than just not being able to eat gluten - and life and my value as a person is determined by so much more than my weight.
As hard as it can feel sometimes, my reaction to ignorant celiac comments shouldn't be hurt - though I have the right to feel those feelings and cry those tears if I need to. Instead, I should react with tolerance. With education. With a kind but resolved voice that says, "Yes, I am not obese. But my celiac disease impacts so much more than my weight and I would appreciate if you'd respect that."
Most likely, these comments aren't emerging from hatred - though, depending on the person's circumstance, they could be driven by jealousy over your weight or your "motivation" to eat "healthy" (because not wanting to feel like a PMS-ing zombie is a great reason to say no to the bread bowl). Most likely, though, these people are speaking out of ignorance.
They may not know that their words are wrong or hurtful. In fact, I'm perpetually grateful to have my gluten-intolerant mom to vent to since she, at least on some level, understands why these words would upset me. Even though I fail at this role all the time, I think part of being a celiac is acting as an educator to others to help prevent their words from hurting someone else.
Because, as someone who's been diagnosed and gluten free for three years, my skin is beginning to grow some calluses. But if a newly diagnosed celiac feels like their months of pain, doctor's appointments and dietary confusion should be no big deal cause at least they're skinny...well, I don't want that to be their first experience sharing their diagnosis with the world.
I'll be honest: ignorant celiac comments hurt more some days than others. But, while the hurt remains, your ability to react in constructive ways becomes easier.
And when you can't? You always have plenty of fellow celiacs in arms - including me! - to vent to!
*Also found at RunningwithSpoons!*
What's the most ignorant celiac comment you've heard? How do you handle them? Comment below!