I've been feeling poorly lately. Itchy skin, bloating, feelings of despair and self-loathing.
Not to hard to pick up that these are symptoms of gluten exposure for me. Work is stressful, but that doesn’t explain why I’m so exhausted. Why I gained 5 pounds in three days. Why my skin is breaking out in a rash.
It’s time to take stock of my surroundings again. I moved into my current apartment in August, living with my boyfriend and his parents and two brothers (gotta love New York life!). Everyday when I get home from work his mom has food on the stove waiting for all of us. After a long day at work and the gym I usually stuff whatever is on the stove right into my mouth.
Now, everybody here except me is ‘normal’. They eat bread all the time and there is often soup with pasta for dinner. My boyfriend’s mother doesn’t speak English, and I’m not sure she understands that I can’t digest gluten, but she knows I don’t eat bread or pasta or anything with beer in it. I know that she is as conscientious as she can be.
I never put my food on the table, which must be coated in gluten from all the bread they eat here, but somehow I ate something contaminated.
I was in the kitchen playing with my gerbils and I saw my boyfriend’s brother serve himself soup with noodles, and then use the same spoon to serve himself chicken. I had an ‘aha’ moment. His family doesn’t, or won’t, understand how serious this is for me. Even my boyfriend double dips knives between bread and peanut butter or cottage cheese. Every time I remind him he looks at the knife, looks at me, holds it up and says “look, no crumbs” and I have to remind him that you can’t see gluten, even if it’s there.
I’m always telling myself that I shouldn’t be eating the food that’s on the stove. Even though it tastes SO good, I know how it’s made. It’s chuck full of oil and fat. I am reminded again that I shouldn’t be eating anything that I don’t prepare myself. I simply can’t live like this.
My boyfriend is very thoughtful about it when I’m around. He knows what I can and can’t eat. He hides his impatience very well when I read the label on every single thing in the grocery store. He hates to see me when I’m suffering from an episode. He calls my upset stomach 'The Alien'. As I read other gluten free bloggers I see that others, like Gluten Free Girl, have such wonderful support networks. It’s something for me to aspire to, to educate my friends, family and as many total strangers as I can.
For now, I have to crank down and get well, and work on another way to navigate this minefield I live in.