Around 10:30pm last night my stomach started cramping, turning, hurting. By midnight I felt like my stomach was on fire and my intestines were turning inside out. Gluten. I was sure of it. As an official celiac of 3 years, I don’t often have this feeling, but when I do, man oh man, I know it. And it hurts. I tossed and turned all night, ran to the bathroom a few times, flip-flopped uncomfortably in bed until I found a few hours of sleep before work in the morning.
I am lucky to have a gluten-intolerant assistant manager at work who sent me home without thought when I told her what had happened. When I got back home I made a cup of tea and plopped down on the couch and haven’t moved since (picture evidence included ;)).
I suppose I’ve struggled for along time with the emotional and mental toll that chronic illnesses have. I’ve been through the spectrum of how to not only cope, but to find happiness with incurable illness. Knowing that, despite how I feel, if I’m not careful, I’ll be for all intent and purposes, down for the count for a few days to a week with this illness.
Beyond acceptance, beyond the facts, that feeling of body betrayal is palpable. And accepting that physical weakness as a part of you, not as a flaw, but as YOU is hard. I’ve always had my mother’s “fixer” personality and have spent many years trying to heal, trying to find health within a body that attacks itself. Within a body that sees things differently.
And I’ve done a lot of healing, inside out. Time in cognitive therapy and finding others like me has helped be immensely. Finding functional medicine and understanding doctors has made me feel a lot better. Overall, I’ve come a long way from the 13-year old with chronic pain that I once was.
Being glutened sucks. A lot. But it also is a nice reminder of how far I’ve come. And yeah, I might get sick every so often, but these are the cards. I’m lucky I don’t feel this way all the time, I’m lucky to have found holistic medicine to keep me balanced, I’m lucky to have people in my life who care.
And I’m happy. I really am. Chronic illness has shaped my life for a long time. It’s knocked me down a few times, and I’ve picked myself back up. Look at that strength. I might not have the perfect body, I might not have perfect health, but looking past those things I’ve found an inner strength and inner happiness that can’t be contained. There was never a point at which I realized this – it was more like a slow-building momentum that propelled me to a state-of-mind where I wasn’t consumed by illness.
My heart, my body, and my mind are MINE. They are not my illness. My illness is just another part of who I am.