I was in Barnes and Noble the other day with my husband, and I found myself wanting a cup of coffee and getting really upset that I “couldn’t have one.” Now, there’s no law against me having coffee…I could have a cup if I wanted to. It’s just when I have coffee without eating (I hadn’t had lunch yet), I tend to not feel very well…I get sweaty and shaky, and it just isn’t worth having the cup of coffee in the end.
And that’s where I get resentful. I don’t have a “normal” digestive system. And I’ve been trying to come to grips with the fact that I need to pay attention to what I’m eating. It’s just not something I’ve ever had to do before, and I’ve been looking at it as a pain in the ass.
I had a nasty spell of getting super weak, dizzy and passing out last May. The effects lasted a few days after. To this date, no doctors can really tell me what the hell was going on. In the quest to figure out what was going on with my health, I saw several doctors – one of which was an alternative medicine type that specialized in allergies and sensitivities. She diagnosed me with three things: a gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance and said that my body did not react well to caffeine. Through talking things over with her, we formed a hunch that the day I passed out I was really dehydrated, had a cup of coffee on an empty stomach, and since I wasn’t absorbing nutrients properly anyway, that combination of factors may have overloaded my system. So it was probably a good idea to stay away from the breads, Gloria Jeans and Gruyere.
I heard these things as a total crapfest. I had a sense about the lactose intolerance, and I had always known that I reacted kind of badly to caffeine, but now we’re going to add gluten into the mix? Is there anything I COULD eat?? Why don’t you just feed me through a tube for Christ’s sake.
But the truth is, I had been feeling sick to my stomach at least once a day for probably about a year. It had become a central focus in my life, and I hated it. I used to enjoy eating…and now it was something that may or may not cause me to feel ill. So as much as I thought it sucked, as much as I saw it as some kind of punishment, I went gluten, dairy and caffeine free for about a month.
And I felt great! My stomach calmed down. I finally experienced days of feeling good, and I noticed myself feeling empowered by how good I felt. It seemed like I had finally found something that worked.
And then, a few months later, I started looking at everything through a frame of deficiency. I saw all the things I couldn’t have…bagels. Cheesecake. I would smell bread and pout. One of my bosses from work lovingly made me delicious Armenian pastries for my bridal shower, and I couldn’t have one. No cheese – no PIZZA – and certainly no Pumpkin Spice latte or Oatmeal Stout. I could go on and on…life sucked. Even recently, my parents were wondering how I was going to eat anything at Thanksgiving. They suspected it might be all in my head (Italian cuisine rules proper in my house, and life without bread and pasta seems incomprehensible).
I noticed that I was really down. I felt like a sick person. I felt like even at the slightest hint of feeling sick to my stomach, that horrible May day would come back and I’ll get dizzy and pass out all over again. I realized that I was doing something that I have an extreme propensity for doing – waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something horrible to happen, and I was looking at my sensitive stomach as some kind of proof that The Bad Stuff had arrived.
Well, then, enough of that.
So yesterday, sitting in Barnes and Noble, I decided to switch frames. I ordered a delicious hot chocolate and felt fine afterward. I picked up two really good gluten-free cookbooks and made a resolution to try each recipe out – abundance rather than scarcity. I found out that some of the options I had restricted for myself — like soy sauce — didn’t ALL contain gluten. And if they did, there are other alternatives. I know I can have a certain amount of cheese as long as I’m gluten-free and have no problems. I’m refusing to come from a frame of Something Awful Is Going To Happen.
Tonight, I’m going to sign up for yoga. I’m planning on taking as many classes as my schedule allows. Thursday, I’m going to a friend’s dance class. It’s time to start being a healthy person again. And I’m going to do my best each day to manage the anxious feelings, the ones that tell me I’m at a disadvantage.