When diagnosis becomes personality…

Food is inseparable from us.  We need it.  We could do without it for some time but our bodies know better; they stop functioning, they slow down processes, they limit their activity so they can survive minimally.  Our bodies do that without us.  It requires no cognition, no forethought, planning.  It just does.

With an over-abundance of accessible food in this country (poverty and homelessness excluded), we have grown to associate living with eating.  What’s thanksgiving without turkey and pie?  What’s a potluck at work without food?  What’s dinner without dessert?  We bond over meals.  We sit down at the dinner table and regroup about each others lives.  My husband and I chat about our days over dinner every night; we connect over food.  We’re having friends over for dinner tonight.

So what happens when someone sits you down and tells you that the thing you eat all day, every day, with your friends and family will slowly kill you?  It disrupts everything; it changes all of the above.

I was working as an agency nurse in a new job yesterday and the meals in this particular facility are provided.  Sandwiches, obviously.  I was offered, said I appreciated it but brought my lunch.  The comment was made at how healthy my lunch looked.  It wasn’t until, each time, I had to cognitively refrain from mentioning my food allergies / celiac disease that it has become such an ingrained part of who I am.

Even two years in, I sometimes get anxiety at social events.  Do I eat before, after, I’m pregnant – I have to eat all the time, do I bring snacks and look like that weird person?  Do I explain it every time someone asks or offers me food?

I don’t want to be known for my celiac disease, my food anxiety, or my food allergies.  I want to be known for doing a good job, great work, accomplishing things.  I want to stand out for something other than the social weirdness that comes with not being able to bond over food normally.

I understand the desire for some gluten free industries to want to stand on their own and in new markets with out emphasizing the gluten free element.  Gluten free has become a joke in our culture, unfortunately, and while it is so wrong to be that way — I hope that we haven’t somehow aided in the way it can dominate our lives.

There’s no cure for celiac disease.  There’s no magic pill, no radiation treatment, no surgery.  There is now this diet — for the rest of my life.  And you know what?  That’s okay — I’m okay with being healthy, choosing myself through my diet… but I don’t want this to become me.  It’s okay to be more.

How do you separate yourself from the disease?  What do you do to stand out?

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