2013 was a hard year for me. My husband was sick and I was working almost around the clock while trying to figure out how to deal with it. It was scary. On top of all of that, I got injured and am still recovering, but that was just the icing on the cupcake. The people who I had worked with called me a liar and a cheat, and my so-called “professional” relationships turned into a reality check for me – people are just mean. It was a low point in my life, for sure, but dealing with people hiding behind internet identities made me realize that letting it all go was my best option and I am so glad that I had the strength to do so.
My world fell apart. Literally. I didn’t know if I would make it out alive, to be honest, and my own health issues were making it harder to keep everything together. I almost gave up, until I finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel. After years of being sick myself, and 3 years watching my poor husband waste away in front of me, we finally got an answer: Celiac Disease. Such a simple answer, yet such a complicated disease.
When I was 15 years old, I weighed 96 pounds, was 5’8″ tall and was majorly depressed, I became suicidal. I could eat and eat and eat, yet not gain a pound. Although some would see this as awesome, I went through multiple doctors, dieticians and psychologists. I was thin, my hair was falling out and they tried to convince my parents that I was borderline anorexic. Nothing could have been further from the truth: I came home from school every day and ate about a half a loaf of bread in the form of toast and butter, drank Carnation Instant Breakfast 3 times a day (per dietician’s orders) and literally lunched on Little Debbie snack cakes at school. Although unhealthy, my diet consisted of thousands of empty calories that should have resulted in a significant weight gain, yet it seemed that nothing would stick to my tiny frame. It was a hopeless situation, and I spent years trying to just pass triple digits on the scale.
In 1988, I gave birth to my first daughter. What should have been the happiest time in my life was a nightmare. I was depressed and it was blamed on postpartum hormone imbalances or postpartum depression. For the first 8 months of my daughter’s life, I would not leave the house or get dressed. I stayed in, away from everyone and refused to open the curtains in my house. I lost interest in everything, including my husband and just wanted to stay in bed forever. Not an easy option with a new baby.
In 1996 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – an auto-immune disease and was clinically depressed. Surprised? Hardly, I was still wading through the dark waters of postpartum depression at this time, as I had given birth to another daughter in 1995, while suffering from gestational diabetes. That’s when the anti-depressants started, but I had no relief. I was “stuck” and felt myself falling back into another rabbit hole.
Since 1996, the suicide attempts and hospitalizations for my mental illness became the norm. I had so much to live for, yet couldn’t get out of the fog that surrounded my whole being – my heart, mind and soul were just dying and there wasn’t a pill out there that fixed me and things got worse. That’s when my alcohol addiction got started, drinking to numb the pain. Little did I know, the alcohol was just making things worse for me and, in time, led to me developing Type II diabetes. I now am an insulin dependent diabetic. Oh joy. I was also diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus.
In 2011, my heart stopped beating while riding in an ambulance after a coronary stress test. I was ready to just let go. Diagnosis? Low potassium, so low, in fact, my heart struggled to keep beating. The fix? Eat at least 1 banana a day. A few months later, I was diagnosed with diabetic nerve damage after I literally couldn’t walk because the pain was so severe. I spent months with my feet bound up, trying to limp to the bathroom. The fix? Pain pills that made me crazy and then on to Gabapentin.
Severe migraines, kidney stones (big ones), acid reflux, chronic pain and inflammation all over my body, blurred vision, crying spells, severe rage and the early onset of menopause turned me into a monster. Acne, thin eyebrows, brittle hair and nails, patches of itchy skin that refused to heal; the list was endless. I was falling apart and didn’t know if I could go on, I couldn’t face the sunlight or my family, and just wanted to die. I wanted it so badly that a small disagreement turned into a life and death situation for me and I nearly lost my life. I needed help, fast.
My husband was sick, really sick. Daily cramps and severe diarrhea took over his life. It was so bad it affected his work, home, and general quality of life itself. Was it IBS like the doctor’s said or something worse? Actually, a giant container of pretzels from Sam’s Club was the final insult. He ate, he got sick. He didn’t eat, he got sick. It was a never ending cycle for him and he just got sicker and sicker.
Crohns? IBS? Something worse? What was going on? He became lethargic, sick, grumpy and just miserable. It was awful: food had turned against him. The only thing he could stomach was pretzels, but we found out that they were actually making him worse. I felt like I was watching him just waste away in front of me.
Finally, he was diagnosed with Celiac. Wow. What was it? How would he eat? Live? I needed answers. My search uncovered a few things so I started working to understand this disease and what I could do for my husband. Bread, cookies, anything with wheat, barley or rye was off limits, naturally, but so was ketchup, A1 Sauce and about everything else in our pantry and fridge. Did you know that gluten is in about everything we eat, as well as in our medicines and makeup? I sure didn’t. I was on a mission.
My mission led me to discovering that I, too, had Celiac and had probably had it for years. A light bulb went off! Was all of the years I spent crazy the result of my diet? Short answer: YES.
Within 2 weeks, my skin had healed. The fog was lifting and I not only felt like getting out of bed, I felt like exercising. I felt like meditating. I felt like living. I finally felt like getting back on the horse and now I am free. It’s a wonderful feeling. I am truly blessed. I know that now, after struggling with my faith and almost becoming a non-believer. I will never feel that way again.
Now I am on a new mission – to educate and share. We now live completely gluten-free and couldn’t be happier and I want to show others how easy it is! I am the voice of Celiac here, and this is the journey I choose to share. It’s not hard, but at the beginning can be a huge challenge, and my goal is to help make that challenge easier for others.
Welcome to my story, my hope and my voice. You are not alone. It will get better – I promise.