The way that Celiac Disease affects confidence is similar to the way a scar on your face might affect your confidence. If it has been there your whole life, it might not have the same effect as if it were to happen a month ago, or a few years ago. When you live for thirty-some years in seemingly good health, with no indication that something underlying is terribly wrong, the Celiac diagnosis cuts you like a knife and your confidence with it.
When Julie was diagnosed, she was experiencing a full plate of Celiac symptoms and we thought it might be diet related. The trial and error of testing different foods, including going vegetarian and cutting out different fruits, vegetables, dairy and nuts was making us crazy. People in the family never knew what to expect when it came to her diet trends, but nothing was working. Going vegetarian only made her physically tired. Cutting out specific fruits and vegetables didn’t change the way she felt. Finally she cut dairy, eggs, and nuts from her diet, but her physical, mental and emotional condition continued to suffer. The once vibrant, glowing young woman was becoming lethargic and uninterested in what used to drive her spirit.
A few years would pass before we would find out it was Celiac Disease, and all the while her confidence continued to suffer. She began having panic attacks, something she never before experienced. The joint pain prevented her from exercising regularly, and the broken bones stopped her altogether. Her nights were spent tossing and turning with severe stomach cramping and bloating, which led to her losing more and more sleep. When the symptoms that kept her up at night were with her all day long, the embarrassment was too much to bear. With all of this happening, it was easy to trip up her once unbridled confidence.
Even after knowing Celiac Disease was the culprit, it wasn’t the end of her troubles by a long shot. Learning how the disease works, what it does to the mind, body and spirit, and what it takes to overcome the disease is enough to frustrate the strongest-willed people. Celiac Disease affected every facet of her life. The foods she enjoyed were now off limits. Her first trip to the grocery store was met with the dismay of finding 90% of what they sold was no longer edible. Friends and family would downplay the seriousness of it, saying things like, “Oh I couldn’t give up cake,” or “Just cheat a little, it won’t matter.” Of course, these are not something a Celiac sufferer should hear.
Today, her confidence is slowly returning. We know a lot about gluten free foods now, what tastes good and what to avoid. We are much more direct to the wait-staff at restaurants when it comes to ordering. We play it safe at all times, and have no problem returning a meal that suggests it may have been contaminated. Julie also has more confidence when dealing with medical professionals now, addressing her disease with a striking self-awareness. Friends and family were slow to understand the seriousness of it, but the more we talk about it and the greater awareness we raise in general, the less a Celiac Disease sufferers confidence has to endure.