Friday, August 7, 2009
Hello my name is...
Hello my name is Heather, and I am a gluten-free freak.
A couple of things you should know about me upfront:
1. I recently found out I have celiac disease.
2. I am SO not a writer and usually seize up in sheer panic at the thought of having to write something (especially about myself) - but nonetheless... here I am doing a blog!
3. I'm a bit of a hypocrite... I eat only organic produce, but I will down a handful of Hot Tamales Candy without a batting an eye.
4. I refuse to live in a bubble and am determined to strike a balance in this new gluten-free world of mine.
Now the back story:
A few years ago, my best friend was diagnosed with celiac. We both had never heard of such a thing and we had gone through every health phase/fad imaginable. Once she started to do her homework, she realized I fit the profile to a "T". I had a history of tummy troubles that of course doctors just dubbed "IBS" - I'm ridiculously short (and as an actor, I once got sent on an audition for a Hallmark Elf... yes, really) - started having some skin issues - (rosacea and eczema) - and just something always didn't feel good... (and yes, I know what you're thinking, my husband is a lucky man!)
I was in complete denial and I thought my friend might just be on a "misery loves company" crusade ... yet she had planted a seed. I flirted with the idea that gluten was the root of all of my many issues and I tried to cut it out from time to time - but I am from Milwaukee and really, truly LOVE beer! Not to mention, I love to bake... this felt like a cruel joke I wanted no part of. So, I was a big old waffler for a year or two.
Then things got really ugly.
Let's just say my body had finally had enough and made sure that I knew it. Pardon me for getting all philosophical for a moment -- but it's pretty funny that if you don't take the hints life is sending you, pretty soon it just throws a brick at your head.
So, long story short (sort of)... I underwent some really lovely procedures and damage was found. Luckily, I had googled every thing under the sun and tried to educate myself as much as possible. Because of that, I knew to INSIST that my doctor order a celiac panel. Sure enough, I found out I have not one, but TWO of the main celiac genes (DQ2/DQ8).
There was no more denying it. By that time I was so sick, I was grateful that all I had to do was go gluten-free. Naturally, there was a massive mourning period. To have to give up so many things that held emotional attachments to me (birthday cakes, christmas cookies, and for the love of god -- BEER!) was really hard (aside from the fact that they were just plain delicious) and truth be told, the whole thing pissed me off.
Thank goodness for the author/blogger known as "Gluten-Free Girl". Her book of the same name inspired a major paradigm shift for me. Instead of focusing on what I couldn't have, I started to explore all the new and exciting things that I COULD have.
I became obsessed with all things gluten-free, but there was something missing in all the reading/research I was doing. It was all about food - but what about healing the damage done? What about ways to help speed recovery from accidental "glutening"? (cuz no matter how hard we try, it's bound to happen). What were some of the other ways to support a healthy gluten-free lifestyle other than food? And most importantly... how do I still go out and enjoy happy hours with friends, instead of sitting home in a little gluten-free bubble?
So the gist of my blog will be about the trials and tribulations of achieving a BALANCED gluten-free life. I understand this is a very serious disease, and I do not take it lightly... but in some regards I refuse to sit home and play it safe - to me, that is just giving up. I'm not saying that my way is what's right for everyone to do. Celiac disease is a slippery slope and everyone has different degrees of sensitivity. The goal is for you and me to find the balance that is right for us individually.
And I have to give props to the beautiful and talented photographer Olivia Bee, whose incredible photo perfectly encapsulates how I feel these days. It's only been a few months, and I'm starting to heal and feel better physically, but sometimes you feel like the "big gorilla" in the room the second you tell someone you can't eat gluten. To me, this photo represents embracing all that you are -- gorilla included! I chose to call it "Gluten-Free Freak" because I like the play on the word "freak" - it's true, you feel like a freak at times, but I like the duality of the word -- "freak" also means "an ardent enthusiast"!
One last thing, in case you didn't notice -- I really have no idea what I'm doing... I'm just trying to find my gluten-free way...