I'm still learning, I'm THRIVING with my diagnosis and crafting up deliciousness in my kitchen, but I'm only surviving when it comes to social situations. I want to keep moving forward and not let my digestive diseases hold me back from ANYTHING, and this post, is giving me a head start in that direction! Read on, I promise it has a positive ending :)
The Seclusion of Having Celiac Disease
Food is everywhere. From the minute you wake up in the morning, and as you go about your day, food is involved, whether it be your own meals, options offered to you, or my least favorite, the suggestion of going out to eat or celebrating with a shmorgasboard of eats.
It wasn't until I had a laundry list of foods that I couldn't eat that I realized how much food truly was involved in our every day lives. Food is used as a way for people to unite and come together, celebrating milestones and achievements over meals, socializing and catching up with friends at a local restaraunt, or simply as something to do to get out of the house and enjoy yourself with others. So where does that leave me most of the time, now? Left out.
Celiac Disease for me, has often left me socially isolated. Sometimes, it is by my own choice, but not without good reason. While there are an increasing amount of options available for Gluten Free, the term Gluten Free does NOT equate with Celiac Safe. What I mean is, just because a restaurant has gluten free items, does not mean that they are certified as Celiac Safe! There is a chance of cross contamination. Not all establishments use separate fryers/ovens/pots/cookware for gluten free menu items. SO, it truly is a risk and gamble when going out to eat for me, this is where my anxiety comes into play and often keeps me from going out to eat with others.
I get so anxious about going out to eat I often can't enjoy the meal because the entire time I'm wondering if I'm being poisoned or not. It is easier for me to decline the invitation rather than me worrying about the risk of cross contamination, if the wait staff will remember to tell the kitchen no butter/milk/cream/lactose as well as gluten, and of course, how my IBS (which I refer to as Irate Bowel Syndrome, cause my insides are much more than just irritable) will handle the food in general. Despite my explicit instructions, I've managed to get glutened or lactosed while out to eat, which resulted in me becoming very sick, an IBS flareup, and an increased fear of food not prepared in my own kitchen by my own hands.
So yes, sometimes I chose to isolate myself socially, but not always.
It is not my choice to sit and watch everyone cut into and enjoy each bite of birthday cake, while I stare longingly at their plates, but it is something I often experience.
It is not my choice to have to constantly decline food that is offered to me, but I find myself saying "No Thank You" more times than I would like
It is not my choice to always have to explain "why I'm not eating" but it's a question I'm endlessly having to answer
Often times, because dining out with me can be such a hassle or limiting to the places to eat at, I simply don't get invited to go. And I understand, I may not be able to have a single thing off the menu at the brand new trendy cafe that opened up around the block, but it still hurts my feelings. I feel like I'm missing out on the fun that is shared around the table. To me, it's not about the food, I don't miss that, (well, sometimes I do) but I miss the experience, the laughter, and enjoyment that is shared around a meal. I'm tired of living in social seclusion, I'm breaking free from this bubble I, as well have others, have placed myself in.
SO GUESS WHAT CELIAC AND IBS - I'M DONE LETTING YOU HOLD ME BACK FROM FUN!
Things need to change in my life, I'm going to have these irate intestine forever, (unless they magically come up with a medical replacement, in that case SIGN ME UP FOR A NEW SET) so I need to start showing them whose boss ALL the time, not only in the comfort of my own kitchen. While these words are easier to type, than they will be to put into action, it is at least a start. And this post, and sharing it with all of you, will make me accountable!
Stop Surviving and Start Thriving Socially with Celiac and IBS
Well, how the heck do I plan on doing that? BY TAKING CHANCES AND SAYING YES MORE.
As I have shared in the past, I am an anxious person. I have a very hard time breaking from my routine/schedule, going with the flow or trying something new or different. I will often say "no" to things if it involves me doing any of the above, for fear of it causing a flare up with my IBS or interfering with my already 'set in stone' to do list. Except there's a HUGE problem with that school of thought, it keeps me isolated inside the bubble of seclusion. There's truth to the phrase, "You don't know until you try" and I haven't really been willing to do any sort of trying, I've just been hanging out in my safety bubble, and it's getting kind of lonely. If I truly want to break free from this isolated bubble I need to try more, I need to say yes more, and I need to take more chances because it is through trying, that I may be pleasantly surprised and realize that not every establishment is going to poison me or that switching up my schedule doesn't always mean intestinal distress.
EEK! WE'RE GOING OUT TO EAT? NO THANKS!
Just kidding, that's what OLD Amber would say, but this picture was actually taken while out to eat a few days ago with my girlfriends.
This week has been a REAL eye opener for me, or should I say, intestinal alleviator?
My best friend is visiting from the South this week, and I knew that I wanted to spend as much time with her and the rest of our group of girls as possible. This meant me not pulling my typical, Amber Avoid Eating Situations Routine. I couldn't just meet up with them after meals for the all day adventure she had planned for us but I knew I could literally only have a salad at the restaurant of choice. And I hate salads, I'm not a rabbit and there's no protein, and I think it's ridiculous to pay for something I won't even enjoy. I actually even told myself, as well as one other friend that I wasn't even going on the adventure....
Then I realized how STUPID that was, and I decided the heck with it! A good friend of mine told me I need to start "owning my issues" instead of letting them own me, and she was right! I wasn't going to let my digestive diseases hold me back and I BROUGHT MY OWN LUNCH. Instead of missing out on all of the fun, by declining, like I normally would, I literally packed my own lunchbox. I filled it with icepacks and kept it in the car. I was now a mobile Amber, with a pre-packed gluten free, lactose free meal ready for some fun! I was able to enjoy the day, without letting food or my anxiety over meals get in the way! When it came time to actually going to the restaurant, I was NOT embarrassed or ashamed to be seen carrying in a lunchbox. To be honest, no one even noticed me walk in with it. Granted, we didn't dine at a five star restaurant, but still, I was a bit apprehensive about showing up with my lunch box but soon realized I had nothing to worry about. When it came time to order, I just smiled and politely told the waitress that I had "allergies and intolerances so I actually brought my own, but would love if she could bring me a plate." She didn't give me a weird look or get mad, she just smiled back and moved on. Was it EASY to watch the other girls enjoy burgers, barbecue, cornbread, and sweet potato fries? I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little bit hard, because I love those things, BUT it was much easier bringing my own entire meal than I had anticipated and MOST IMPORTANTLY it enabled me to BE a part of the fun, laughter and love that is shared around a meal. It didn't matter what was or wasn't on my plate, or that none of what I was eating even came from the restaurant, what mattered was that I was there and able to feel like a normal girl out to eat with her best friends, catching up and sharing stories in between bites and clawing at the camera to see all the pictures taken from our fun filled day.
My "trying" didn't end there though. After a delicious meal, what's better than dessert? And on warm days, nothing hits the spot better than icecream. Except, oh wait, I can't eat icecream. My one friend offered for me to meet them at our next adventure spot, so I didn't have to watch everyone eat their icecream. I smiled, thinking how lucky I was to have such thoughtful friends, but told her I didn't mind, I wanted to stay with everyone else. Instead of normally ditching out on the activity, I decided to stay with the girls, and boy am I glad I did.
I will try new things
I will take chances