No Longer Feeling Isolated as Someone with Celiac

Or: Suddenly Being the “Go-To” Person for Gluten-Free Living

I apologize if this seems to be a ramble…because it is.

When I was diagnosed with celiac disease almost three years ago, I felt very alone, confused, and frustrated. It’s bad enough that I oftentimes feel like the odd man out at any social gathering (or in public for that matter), something I have learned to embrace long ago since I have never wanted to be a cardboard cut-out of Jane Normal, and having a severe dietary restriction made me feel even MORE out-of-the-norm.  It was a whole new way of life I had to learn very quickly, and there was no easing into it. You just had to jump in with both feet. Luckily though, I have been extremely fortunate to have so many wonderful friends and family who make sure my needs are met, and for that I am grateful! They sort of helped me parachute down into this new way of life, and trust me, it’s not something that is easy to do by yourself. For the longest time I felt pretty isolated…but I have noticed things are changing.

Lately I am finding myself being approached by friends, acquaintances, and even strangers in the gluten-free section of the grocery store…with questions about gluten-free living, cooking, what you should or shouldn’t do. People constantly say “I thought of you the other day when I saw *insert gluten-free reference here, whether it’s a menu, product, bakery, etc.*”. I have become the go-to for GF living in my social circle. And you know what? It feels GOOD to fill that role.

Erin Smith, a wonderful GF  blogger, had posted a great tweet recently that really struck me: “A Celiac Disease diagnosis isn’t a death sentence, it’s a life sentence. What other disease can you treat with food? #thinkpositive #celiac”  Her words were SO meaningful to me because of the truth they contained. I love the phrase “life sentence”, how awesome to look at it from that perspective! She’s right. It’s wonderful to live without pain, it’s wonderful to have a normal life with just a few tweaks beyond the norm. It may sound strange, but having a disease that can be treated with NUTRITION, and not pharmaceuticals, is really a blessing in disguise!

I know several people who adopted the GF lifestyle because it was a last resort to trying to figure out what was wrong with them. Some have never been tested for celiac due to factors like lack of insurance, but are amazed at how good they feel on a gluten-free diet…and never looked back. Undiagnosed or not, they feel great, and I was so happy to be able to help them along in their journey. It’s nice to not feel alone suddenly…it’s great to share GF tips, recipes, and treats with others.  It’s also nice to talk with others who felt they couldn’t talk to ANYONE about their issues, because they felt no one would understand them, and lately everyone feels the need to throw in their snarky 2 cents about the gluten-free “fad” and how it will fade in time to something else. No one understands the severity of celiac and gluten-intolerance…until it happens to them or someone they know or love (I know it was that way for me years before I knew or understood ANYTHING about gluten). Then suddenly the perspective shifts and they have a newfound respect for the lifestyle. Changes are happening, awareness is being created, and more and more people are adopting the lifestyle and feeling better than they ever have in their lives. It’s really an exciting time!

But I digress…I realize this is a ramble. My main point is that I am glad I can help others. I’m glad people feel they can come to me with questions about gluten-free living. I am glad the GF community is expanding, thriving, and embracing one another. It feel goods to be part of something like this, where I can feel connected to others with a common thread, and in doing so we are all helping one another heal, adjust and grow.

I’m no longer alone, and it feels PRETTY good to say that!