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The Emotional Side Part 6: State of Construction
We are who we are, basically. Part is due to genetics, part is due to other factors: experience, upbringing, health. I could list 100’s of factors that impact our lives. We are each in a constant state of construction.
How Could Yesterday's Health Have Affected Today's You?
Warning: This post may get a little deep in self-reflection.
When I started this series, The Emotional Side of Gluten Free, this title (State of Construction) was not one I had in mind. But my guess is that many who have lived for years with unnecessary challenges due to un-diagnosed celiac will be able to relate to this post.
How different would life have been? How different would life be now? (This is not about regret or self-pity, by the way.)
Why Would I Be Different If Diagnosed When Symptoms Began?
This question would be answered differently for each of us. It all depends on the effects un-diagnosed celiac had on us, of course. I’ve read time and again, for example, of women who struggled with infertility who then became pregnant once gluten free. It can leave a woman with the question, Was gluten behind my struggles with infertility?
How often, however, does the result mean children a family couldn’t imagine living without? Families brought together through adoption or foster care. There is often a whole lot of beauty that shines through.
Before we move on, let me emphasize something. Today is what we have. Today is often more powerful because of the challenges of our yesterdays. It is ALL life experiences that creates this person you are today. There is always something beautiful that can emerge from the rubble.
While yes, I’m reflecting on some personal what ifs in this post, it is just that, reflection. And it is motivation to reach those who are still un-diagnosed. I have a never-ending need to reach others and help them reach their fullest, their healthiest, and their happiest potential.
For me, living with un-diagnosed celiac meant a deficiency in living. Huge lack of energy and motivation. Feeling unwell through a big part of many of those years. Issues and consequences connected to being malnourished.
My health affected not just me; it affected my family, my family as a child growing up, and the family I created as an adult.
I’ll never know how different my life would be had I been diagnosed when symptoms began. It’s not something I spend a lot of time thinking about.
Construction Projects Since September 2000
A diagnosis that followed a lifetime of symptoms was amazing. Wonderfully positive health improvements.
What followed, however, were some big life changes of another kind–and plenty of construction projects!
They say that moving, divorce, and job change are life’s biggest stressors. Well, stress became a side dish to this amazing chance of health I was blessed to be served.
Would This Roller Coaster Have Been Less Hilly?
Gluten impacts me not only in a physical way, but emotionally as well. I was a crabby (unhealthy) kid. I was a moody teen. Very moody. Whew, maybe it was normal teen stuff, but I wonder. I wonder how many of those mother-daughter explosions would have been less heated had I been gluten free (because I know how much more reasonable and focused the gluten-free me is).
I don’t like the me when I’m glutened, there is no reason for anyone else to like the glutened me. It makes me sad to know I lived that way for so very many years. It makes me sad for those I could have been better for, including myself.
But this knowledge also drives me to keep doing what I do: sticking to my diet and working to increase awareness.
1) Life's Ups and Downs
There are two recurring dreams I remember having in my younger years. One dream found me on a roller coaster, at the top, with no place to go but down. That fear was greater than any I knew. I remember starting that plummet straight down, and I remember being so relieved to wake up before I hit bottom.
I’ve been blessed to discover that this roller coaster (that is life) does always go back up. I’ve experienced that ride over and over again.
2) So Many More Doors To Discover
The second dream that repeated itself became significant to me as life went on. It began with me in my house (or what was supposed to be my house in my dream). It appeared to be a very small house at first. As I walked through it, however, I discovered more rooms than I ever knew existed. Endless rooms to explore.
This has been my life. This is anyone’s life. Every road block offers an opportunity to discover something new. Too often we don’t discover the existence of other rooms, however, until we are forced to seek them out.
Door One Slammed Shut: The Heavy Construction Begins
I found myself single two years after I was diagnosed with celiac. Soon after finding myself healthier and happier than I could remember being, I found myself in turmoil and depression after the end of a twenty year marriage.
Two separate roller coasters, one going straight up, the other going straight down.
Divorce isn’t easy. Rejection. Picking up the pieces. A family broken. Going through the motions. Sharing the kids on holidays.
The kids. It wasn’t just about me. I had three kids I needed to be present (and my best) for. Unfortunately, my best wasn’t great at first. It took some time to pick myself up, kick myself into gear, and put on my construction belt.
I was in tears, on the phone with my dad. “I should go back to school. I need to go back to school. I don’t know how to go back to school. I’m too old to go back to school.”
My dad: “Stop crying about it and just do it!”
And he was right. I needed to hear that.
So that’s what I did. One foot in front of the other. Let the construction begin.
And I Wonder (Sometimes)
If I had been the me (that I am gluten free) during all those years, would my marriage have even lasted those 20 years? Was it less than for more reasons than just my health? Would I have been strong enough to take that first step to move on? Would I have already had my education degree? Would I have been teaching through all these years?
Or would the marriage have been better because *I* would have been better? Was it all my fault?
Funny how being sick can leave a person with guilt over not being a better person (even though I had no blame in not knowing). But I felt the guilt of not being a better partner. And I feel the guilt of not having been a better mom.
I know I would have been a better mom had I been gluten free back then. I certainly wasn’t a bad parent. I sure would have been happier, though. I would have had more energy. I would have had more patience. I would have had more ambition.
Of course, mom and guilt are just two words that go great together (like chocolate and peanut butter).
Clarification and Moving Forward
I am not remorseful or resentful over that divorce any more. I haven’t been for several years. It was a raw part of my life, however, that’s for sure. It is simply a reality that I’m sharing–this big part of my un-diagnosed celiac life journey.
Divorce certainly contributed to my state of deconstruction. And more, it contributed to my state of re-construction. It forced me to work harder on building my life that led to the person I am today.
Life always presents new doors. Through the following years I returned to school, moved, dated, graduated, got a job as a teacher, and even remarried. (Whew!—now that was an interesting journey.)
Passion For Celiac Awareness Is My Constant
A diagnosis and the changes I experienced just by removing gluten from my life made such an impact on my physical and emotional health. The impact was so great that it automatically led to a natural drive to increase awareness. And this led to creating a local celiac support group.
Celiac advocacy became a BIG part of my life.
That need to provide support and awareness, however, battled it out with another need I had. Security.
Since those early years also included the fact that I needed to create a financial means for myself, I had to make choices. I had only recently started working part-time as a teacher’s aide after being a stay-at-home mom for fifteen years. I now needed to find a better way to support myself.
Graduating with a degree in education at the age of 47 was one of the biggest gifts divorce has given me. Such a journey! Such a joy!
We are in charge of our own direction. It may involve some discomfort for a while, but we can get ourselves back on track eventually.
Something Had To Give
I went from self-pity and depression to Look at me now! Fear transitioned into self-confidence and self-confidence resulted in higher goals. Those very busy years meant that something had to give–and that something was my personal involvement in the support group I co-founded.
This was another very sad separation.
The local support group I created had transitioned into a much larger and very active and amazing group when we teamed up with another group. What a journey!
While no longer physically involved, I never could totally leave my need to support and advocate. I did eventually pick it back up, just in other ways.
And That Roller Coaster Continued
I was so very blessed to acquire an amazing job right after graduation. PreK teacher! I loved it. And a year later I was remarried. Life was good.
Three years into my most wonderful career, however, an Illinois state budget crisis meant many PreK classrooms had to close–and mine was one of them.
Back To The Drawing Board
Damn, this was hard. Had I developed this career in my earlier life, I’d have had tenure. I’d have had years put into a pension I could rely on. I’d be bringing home a bigger paycheck!
Welcome back self-pity mode.
The Transition Back Into Celiac Awareness
Being temporarily unemployed, I used this time to put into self-publishing a book I previously had for an idea for–a book to help teachers, grandparents and other adults to understand gluten free for kids who needed to be gluten free. (For more information, click on the Books tab.)
A Continued Journey Through Construction
I was fortunate to find work again–work in my field. Finding jobs connected to state grants meant more roller coaster rides: lows and highs. It didn’t come together as I planned it, but maybe it wasn’t supposed to.
Yes, I do sometimes wonder what life would be like today had I always been the healthy me that I became at 40, but one thing’s for sure, I would NOT be the me who is sharing with you today. I would NOT be the me who advocates for celiac awareness and testing and for gluten-free safety for our kids in school and for patients in hospitals.