UPDATE: I have now been following the autoimmune version of Paleo for three years. I have healed enough that I can enjoy a (as in one) glass of wine or a hard-cider semi-regularly with no issues. I still do not drink any of the "hard" liquors (like the Gin I lamented in this post), but I am okay with it and actually have adjusted very happily. For those that will point it out, I also know that I can get gluten-free versions of communion bread, but I still have not crossed the bridge. There is something a little awkward about handing the pastor your g-free loaf with a little wink & a serious, "Don't cross-contaminate me, Preach!" LOL! If your journey is new, don't let the isolation get ahead of you. This process is SO, SO worth it and speaking from the other side . . . it will all work out.
I love cheesecake. One of my favorite fall foods used to be pumpkin cheesecake. I'd even eat it for breakfast with a cup of coffee filled with cream & sugar. My step-mother makes phenomenal cheesecakes. Even right now while I am typing this post up, I can't really imagine never eating a piece of her cheesecake again. Even more difficult for me to imagine . . . having to be as sick ever again as I was before I started eating AIPaleo.
My goal here is to tell you true stories about the emotional side of battling autoimmune diseases, particularly Celiac Disease. I've spent a month telling you how I have been sick, why I have been sick, & what I am doing to be un-sick. All of that was the build up to my true purpose, the background detail important to the understanding of the real story. I want to share about disease like mine & how to heal, but none of that matters if you don't tell the human story. It is the happiness in the triumphant moments & the grief in the moments of defeat that hold the actual story. Finding strength in one's weakness or admitting to the typical downfalls of the human condition, those are the stories I really want to tell.
So, what is the true story about eating the way I do for my health? The true story is that it's hard. Eating outside of the accepted food system can feel very restrictive. I realized how awkward it was to eat gluten-free immediately. I remember once trying desperately not to offend my Chinese neighbors who had invited us over to their son's birthday party & wanted me to fill my plate with dumplings. Not only did we have a bit of language barrier, but they did not understand Celiac disease. Or feeling like a tired, busy waitress's worst nightmare, when I sent my salad back a second time, explaining that the croutons made the salad completely off-limits for me . . . and then being terrified that they had just picked them off in the kitchen & brought me back the same salad.
Then as I grew sicker on a gf-only diet & realized I needed to get more restricted, the feelings of isolation grew. For the most part, I was so deeply grateful to have found a diet that was obviously helping me heal, that I took a very positive attitude. I happily went out shopping (more on how much a grocery trip changes later) for the foods I could eat & busily cooked up meals (more on how much cooking changes later) that were safe for me. I tried to boldly explain to friends or family when I turned down invitations to go out to eat. I sought out people who ate like me & made a little on-line support network of them. It wasn't all rainbows and unicorns though.
In all honesty, in the first few months I had a few breakdowns. I would suddenly be so frustrated I would burst into tears & scream to my husband about the difficulty of the transition. The food cravings were actually not as bad as I would have expected. They passed relatively quickly, but the social implications were huge.
I am among about 5% of Celiacs that are super sensitive. The risk of cross-contamination is so high eating out, that going to a restaurant is almost totally out of the question for me. As I adopted AIPaleo, it got even more out of the question. I have now mostly moved passed that too, but it was a painful change initially. At times I have had to just admit to myself that I could not even be in a restaurant without it doing some serious damage to my inner self. On Father's Day this year, I had to tell my husband in a shaky voice with lots of tears, that I just could not sit in a pub & watch people drink beers & eat battered fish & chips, even though it was his only request. It seemed like torture at the time. Other times it is about the reaction of others that I avoid going out. Recently, I ventured into a restaurant with family we had not seen in a long time. I was perfectly okay drinking a glass of water while everyone else ate. I'd had a small meal & smoothie before hand & I knew I was guarding my health by not ordering. The waitress gave me the obvious look though, the one that says, "That chick must be anorexic." Even my aunt noticed & got angry for me.
There are times that looking at a decadent chocolate cake or seeing a big plate of pasta with a rich tomato sauce & a mound of cheese is physically painful. Not so much because I am still craving those foods (actually along with the longing comes an acute disgust), but because they are a symbol of what I do not share with others anymore. They represent a social act I no longer take part in. I have not taken communion in a long time & now I wonder how I will handle it. This important act in the practice of my faith, is now off-limits. I know this approach to eating is healing me, but sometimes the isolation can sneak up on me.
Currently, one of my toughest adjustments is alcohol. I have given it up for long periods & tried to reintroduce it a few times over the last 6 months. It is clear that I can't have a glass like I used to anymore, my system is too sensitive to handle it. I'm not a rager or anything, but having drinks used to be a big part of my social life. My husband & I used to enjoy coming home on a Friday & relaxing while sharing a bottle of wine. I loved spending hours in the humid West African nights drinking gin & tonics & laughing with our friends. Now I wonder how things will be when I see those friends again someday? I come from a state that makes some incredible microbrews. Not being able to go home & have some beers with my family will be a huge adjustment. The mental battles & social changes of eating AIPaleo have been intense. I don't think this was part of the picture for our nutrition-loving ancestors.
This is not a "feel sorry for myself" post. This is a part of the true story. I would be a liar if I acted like all of this was no problem at all. I'm not throwing in the towel though. I never, ever want to be as sick as I was again. Ever. I am more than willing to accept the facts . . . cheesecake is not medicine.