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Food is medicine. At least, that's the saying that my mom would pour into my head everyday. She told me that it would heal me, make me feel better, and I believed that, every time she said it. Until I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
Celiac Disease is just the scientific way of saying that anything made or processed with wheat in it is trying to kill me. I was fortunate enough to be diagnosed within a year of my symptoms appearing. Not everyone is so lucky, or has the ability to access the resources to be diagnosed. Up until they gave me a name for the thing that was causing all my troubles, it was all that I wanted. I pleaded and begged for an answer as to why I felt so terrible. Then the moment I got it, I realized I was terrified. Not having an answer had allowed me to live my life normally without knowing it. The minute I heard the word Celiac, I quickly realized everything was about to get a lot harder.
You don't realize how many things have gluten in them until you can't eat it anymore. Candies, malts, chips, and all of your other favorite foods—things that seemed so unnecessary to have gluten in them in the first place. It still infuriates me to think that I can't eat a potato chip because it's processed on the same line as a whole grain alternative. This diagnosis doesn't just affect your food choices, it also affects your social life and your mental state.
It gives you a title. You are now that person. The one who can't eat the gluten at the party, or go out to that restaurant. You can't spontaneously try new foods, and you'll even have to decline cupcakes when someone passes them around for their birthday. You don't mean to be rude or abrasive, but because you now have this condition you have to be much more concerned about yourself then you ever were before. You have to become kind of selfish. You have to create this vocal aspect of yourself who isn't afraid to ask to see the ingredients list, or say that you'd rather eat somewhere else because you no longer have a choice. It is your job to protect yourself from any and all invaders trying to attack you and some people just don't understand that.
This does something to your head. For me, it made me angry. I was angry that I couldn't eat my favorite foods anymore. I was angry that I'd have to start calling ahead to make sure that places had food I could eat, that I would always have to check labels from now on, that I would have to constantly remind people "sorry I can't eat that," that I would have to bring my own foods or survive off of the gluten free options, which usually consisted of a dressing free salad, that people would assume I was doing it by choice, that people would say I was just over reacting, that I would be terrified of being glutenized every time I tried something new, that my dreams of traveling the world now would require a lot more effort, and that I was angry that I was even mad about any of this in the first place.
Yes having Celiac Disease kind of sucks a lot of the time, and really sucks some of the time, but it doesn't suck all of the time. Having this diagnosis has made me more observant. It has made me stand up for myself more. It has shown me who my true friends are. It has made me a better baker and chef. It has made me more sensitive and aware of others and their problems that they cannot control. It is not always ideal, but it's making me grow. It is making me a better person.
I have good days and bad days. I have days where I'm angry at the world and others where I know that my disease is part of me so that I can be better. It has changed me. It has made me realize that even though not all food is medicine, it can still heal you if you let it.