Today I have the pleasure of bringing you my new friend, Debi Smith, who has a great blog Hunter’s Lyonesse. The more I talk to her, the more I find out all we have in common, like our love for the band Lovehammers (you may remember their lead singer, Marty Casey, from the show Rockstar INXS). We also have in common that we are both “cheerleaders”, as Debi put it, for the Gluten-Free community. Besides being a great blogger, if there is a cause or product or recipe she believes in, Debi is quick to let everyone know just how awesome it is and the person who is behind it. It has been great getting to know her better since we first met at the Gluten-Free and Allergen-Free Expo last month and I look forward to seeing her more in the future. It is now with pleasure, that I bring you Debi Smith….
I had the pleasure of meeting Andrea at the Gluten & Allergy-Free Expo in April. The funny thing is we were at all the same places with all the same people all weekend long, but we never really got to talk to each other until it was all said and done.
We have a similar story. All of us in this little blogosphere share it. A common thread. We all hit rock bottom and struggled (or continue to struggle) back on our feet to regain the total health we were deprived of for so long thanks to that pesky gluten protein. Rock bottom is where you find your true self. You can either stay there and never try to get better or you can put on your climbing gear and take charge of your health…and take back your life. When we come out on the winning end we realize we are stronger than we knew. We didn’t give up. Or if we did give up, we realized it wasn’t worth continuing to do nothing. Continue reading
As I fought my way back to health, I used all the advocacy skills I developed in the years working in mental health. What I got was excellent service from all the doctors I saw. I was a fairly good advocate for myself before that and a damn good one for others. When you find yourself on Death’s doorstep, you’ll do whatever it takes to cheat Death. That is when you discover you can do so much more than you thought you could do. I asked questions. I pressed for answers. I would not accept anything less than quality care. All while I felt like my life was slowly being sucked out of me. I somehow had the tenacity to keep pushing.
Long story short (longer story – My Journey Back to Healthy Living Longer story starts with Catching Up With The Joneses), I continued to get worse (if I wasn’t at work, I was in bed) after being diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. Medical test after medical test showed nothing. My doctor and the specialists he sent me to were stumped. It was my Naturopath that discovered my Synthroid was making me sick. I started to get better off the Synthroid, but something was still missing. My friend made the gluten connection for me. I went off gluten for a few weeks after doing some research and then had a reaction when I added it back in. If you are reading this and are not gluten-free, but suspect you might need to go gluten-free, get tested first! Don’t do it backwards like I did.
Advocacy is something that never stops once you’ve found yourself in this gluten-free life. You have to keep blazing a trail every day. You have to advocate for yourself still with doctors, dentists, friends, family, restaurants, food manufacturers, legislators. People are still unaware of what it truly means to be gluten-free, even some who are gluten-free. And face it, doctor’s that we trusted with our health and our lives do not always have the answers. It’s okay to admit this to yourself. It’s the truth. Doctor’s don’t always have the answer. The doctor who diagnosed me with Hypothyroidism was at a loss for what was making me sicker even if my labs were returning normal. He would say to me, “I don’t know.” Somehow, even if it was frustrating, it was refreshing that he could acknowledge his limits.
Even before I knew I needed to be gluten-free, I was changing the trail I was blazing. Whole foods. Natural foods that we were meant to eat, that really communicate effectively with our bodies. Processed foods just confuse our bodies and gets us in the mess we find ourselves in at the doctor’s office. I was telling everyone and anyone about getting rid of processed foods. Much to the dismay of some of my friends. Yes, I turned into the Food Nazi. In my defense, I was so passionate about advocating for my own health that it spilled over and I wanted my friends to feel the same improved health I was experiencing.
I repeatedly told clients (and sometimes parents) that if they need something for themselves, they need to speak up and say it or do it because no one can read their minds. Sometimes I would have to repeat this for them many times day after day before it finally clicked. It might be the same for you especially if you are at that rocky bottom. You’re stuck there until you decide to move and the only way to go is up.
Once you are moving up, you are in what we call in mental health, recovery. You no longer define yourself as your diagnosis. Your diagnosis just happens to be part of your life. I am not Hypothyroid. I have Hypothyroidism. I am not gluten intolerant. I have gluten intolerance. My body cannot tolerate gluten. It may define what I can and can’t eat, but it doesn’t define me rule my life. It certainly seemed so 15 months ago, but it was short lived.
I was already eating a lot less gluten when I did the gluten-free trial and it was not as difficult for me to cut it out when the time came as it is for so many others who enter into this change of diet without a clue. I did research. Something I tend to do when making changes in my life. It’s just one of my self-advocacy strategies. One that my doctors always appreciated. I already knew about gluten and Celiac through 3 of my friends who are diagnosed with it. I just needed more information than I already had.
Empower yourself if you haven’t done so already. Get more information. Don’t take no for an answer. Speak up. Do. You have the power over your health and your life. You know yourself and your body better than anyone else. You are the one living your life. You are your own best advocate right now and for the rest of your life. No one else is going to pick up the torch and blaze your trail for you, but YOU.