© 2014 jen

Other People’s Reactions

I met a woman earlier this week who had been diagnosed with celiac disease that day.

She overheard a friend of mine saying something about how I have the disease and she shouted, “I was diagnosed with celiac disease today. I’m going to die young.”

She said,“I’ve been reading about how people with celiac disease die of cancer so much more than the general population. We just wear out faster than most people. This is practically a death sentence.”

I said, “How old do you think I am?”

She said, “I don’t know, 35?”

I said, “I’m 43 and your skin is the largest organ in your body. I can only speak for the parts of my body I know of, but my body is very healthy and strong. I’m not even close to wearing out yet.”


I told her that in the beginning when you’re first diagnosed you go through the stages of grief around your health: denial, anger, acceptance, etc. I told her to give herself some time and focus less on statistical data about the disease and instead look at people with the disease who are thriving, because there are many of us. I, of course, told her about my blog.

I ended up congratulating her and telling her she had identified the bullshit in her life and was about to start feeling a whole lot better. Her husband was there and thanked me afterward, like I’d done something special, but really I just shared the truth. Celiac disease is manageable.

People’s reactions to this disease still surprise me.

It’s pretty common that when I go to a restaurant or bar I’ll mention that I have celiac disease to the server, because I’ve found that they are much more cautious and look out for gluten for me when I say this.  The down side is that pretty regularly when I say I have this disease, it’s common for someone to say, “I’m so sorry! It must be awful not eating gluten.”

I never know how to take this response, because I don’t miss gluten a bit. I don’t feel sorry for myself (most of the time). Generally speaking, for the first time in my life I don’t feel like I’m suffering or sickly,  so it’s ironic that I receive sympathy or hear words like “it’s a death sentence” when I’m so much healthier than I’ve ever been before.

I thought today I’d write a post for anyone like the woman I met earlier this week, who is making peace with a new gluten-free lifestyle.

The reasons I don’t miss gluten


1. Puffiness be gone – Gluten made my face puffy, my belly puffy, my fingers puffy. Actually, all parts of me were puffy, but those were the most irritating to me. When I went gluten-free I watched the pounds fly off of my body. This might sound like vanity, and there is a component of that here, but what I love about not feeling puffy is that my body feels like a different place to be. I can cross my legs easily. I can sit on the floor and get back up again with ease. I can sit in a chair and not feel like my entire body is folding in on itself to the point of feeling really restricted. I can wear so many more articles of clothing that I thought just weren’t meant for my body type. I can easily paint my toenails. If I become injured now, I no longer need to worry about the inflammation around the injury becoming more of a problem than the actual injury itself. I could go on, but you get the idea: being less puffy is great for living a full, active life.

2. Sick of the world days – I used to go through periods where I’d feel so worn down, haggard, angry, depressed, anxious and generally unwell that I’d have to stay in bed for a day or two. I used to call it “being sick of the world”, but I don’t have “sick of the world days” anymore. Actually, my mood is MUCH more stable since I’ve gone gluten-free. I’m not saying I don’t have a bad day from time to time, but it’s minor and temporary, whereas in the past I sometimes felt like I was drowning in my own negative juices. This always confused me, when I felt so negative, because I’m an optimistic person, so it was troubling to have feelings that were the opposite of my character. But, now I know that when you eat food that doesn’t agree with you, it makes you feel toxified.

3. Better mental mastery – I used to feel like my brain was sluggish most of the time. I’d feel spaced out or like I was living underwater. I used to have a hard time moving forward when I was angry or hurt. I’d ruminate. I’d dwell. I’d come up with reasons for WHY I was hurting; at least half of my hurting was the food I was eating, but I had no idea. Today, I feel much lighter and freer in my mind. My thinking is much faster and more positive, and my thoughts feel like my own. I don’t harbor hurts anymore. I don’t put my energies into replaying old frustrating situations, and I believe that food is the biggest reason for this. Before, my body couldn’t digest food well. I was malnourished. All of these things made it impossible for me to move through hard times – both mentally and physically. There was sickness and a brokenness in my body and in my mind. Now I’m a free woman, capable of thinking my own thoughts without crushing emotional baggage.

4. Health and growth – I don’t have to spend as much time in bed or recovering from sickness anymore, because I’m rarely sick these days. There is more time for living, growing and healing. I no longer take any medications, so I don’t have to worry about side effects of drugs, which was a pretty regular issue for me in the past. I get to react to life and healing, not sickness and pills. Since I don’t spend money on medications anymore, there is more money for things I enjoy, like ukulele lessons and woodworking classes.

I get a new life and a different, much healthier mind and body, and all I have to give up is something that makes me sick, puffy, mentally foggy, angry, depressed and sick of the world. It’s actually a pretty sweet deal.

I have finally been separated from my chronic sickness and the real me has been revealed. I am learning new skills every day. I make something every day. I’m grateful and free every day. My life is in no way perfect, but I absolutely love my life every day.

So, there is no need to feel sorry for me. I’m not on my death bed. I’m not suffering. (Finally!)

I’m healthy, I’m happy, and I’ve learned so much about how to take care of myself and listen to my body, which I’m compelled to share with you.

Life is good! (Don’t cry for me, Argentina!)



One Trackback

  1. By Twisted Pelvis - Jen Neitzel on November 15, 2014 at 10:18 am

    […] see, my body was so inflamed from the accident that it disrupted my digestion too, because of the celiac disease. I was really sensitive to all sorts of foods that I wasn’t sensitive to before. My body was […]