My story in full
Although my mom admits to struggling with the initial transition to gluten-free living, for me it has always been – (pardon the pun) – a piece of cake.
Diagnosed at 4 years old, I have only ever eaten gluten-free. It is my ‘normal’. And while many are baffled at the idea of a life devoid of cereal and bread…. I can honestly say that I don’t feel that these things are missing in my life. (Even though I now know how to make great gluten-free versions of these foods, for example, I still don’t. They are simply not part of my “food repertoire”.)
Throughout most of my life, having Celiac Disease was no big deal. I lived well and was active, I was strong and had lots of energy, and as long as I ate these foods instead of those foods… I was healthy.
Fast forward 20 years out of high school. I was ten years into my career as an elementary / secondary music teacher and loving it. I had started to really travel and see the world, working in places like Kuwait, Egypt, Lebanon, and Pakistan, and I was happily adjusting to life in a long-term partnership.
But in Lebanon, there was an instance of food poisoning. …and then in Pakistan, there were suspicions of parasites… or was it the water? …or was it pregnancy? It was likely all three. So I ailed through pregnancy and had my first child.
And then of course there were sleepless nights …and breastfeeding. … and an all-too-short maternity leave which meant a return to work when my son was just 3 months old. …and still the nights were too short, and now the days were far too long. But there was coffee… and gluten-free sweets (read: chocolate mousse)… and also wine (because there’s nothing like a cold, crisp glass of rosé on a hot summer’s day in Pakistan).
Back in Canada, my dad got very sick, and our family’s world was turned upside down. There were long-haul flights (with baby in tow) to help my mom take care of my dad.
And then there was pregnancy number two, another international move, baby number two while still I tried to occupy toddler number one in a city that was new and unfamiliar. My husband was required to work long hours, so life at home fell to me. The fatigue was crushing, but with family so far away, I was on my own.
I had a bad bout of pneumonia, and antibiotics ensued. Life felt completely out of control, and while I tried to imagine the changes that might make a difference – (…separation? …a return to Canada? …a new career? …a return to my old career?) – none of the choices seemed either good nor easy, and I was so low that the prospect of life possibly getting harder still froze me into a state of inertia.
And then my dad died. …which meant more long-haul flights, and sadness, and solitude. …and still the nights were too short, and still the days were too long …and still the kids needed to be fed, and bathed, and clothed, and changed, and entertained.
By now, I was beginning to feel viscerally that something needed to change. Life held almost no joy for me. And while I adored my children, I was drained of any and all energy to enjoy them. Tensions between my husband and I were high, and though I knew that I loved him, I was no longer sure that our partnership was of benefit to me.
Ultimately, we decided on one final international posting – this time to Beirut (Lebanon), which was a place that was familiar and attractive to us both. But by now I was really sick. With little warning – (ie while standing in a shopping centre with a 4-yr old on one hand and a 2-yr old strapped to my back) – a migraine would crawl up my neck, requiring me to lie down immediately and for 12 hours. There was clearly something wrong. Everything I ate – gluten-containing or not – went straight through me. I wanted to sleep all the time… and yet no amount of sleep seemed to alleviate my fatigue. There really was no respite.
So fast forward again through another six months of chronic illness, a bunch of medical testing, a lot of reading, a lot of digging around on the internet, a lot of self-experimentation – (the GAPS diet, a candida cleanse, the paleo diet and, ultimately, the AIP), a lot of relationship tensions, and a lot of decision-making – [peppered with some very well-explained advice from a handful of carefully selected practitioners (and the wisdom to ignore that of a host of others)] – today I am well.
My digestion, mood, and energy levels are good, and I have strategies at my fingertips for the times when problems arise. My relationships are healing, and my family’s prospects – though there remains a lot of uncertainty – are exciting for us all.
My husband has retired, and we are both building new, second careers. I have completely re-trained, graduating as a consultant for the Nutritional Therapy Association in June of 2017, and an AIP Certified Coach as of September of 2017. Finally, in June 2018 I completed an intensive Culinary Arts Programme at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts.
Today, my family and I live in the beautiful Cévenne mountains in the South of France. Together, we are setting up new routines for ourselves so as to ensure a balanced and healthy life for each and for all. I am determined to set straight for myself and for my family the many missteps that modern North America continues to embrace (and, sadly, to export)…
- confusion between quantity and quality
- an obsession with convenience in areas of life where it simply should not apply (read: food and medicine)
- pendulum swings between sedentarism and repetitive movement stress
- a life of stress and frenzy, aimed only at “success” (most typically defined in financial terms)
I now look forward to the next years of my life, as I continue to explore all of the many different facets of well-being!