|Photography by Shelby Kaho|
When I was diagnosed with Celiac disease and had to go gluten free at age 13, I finally started feeling better after a sickly childhood. I was so strong and healthy for a few years that I took more risks than I should have with my health and paid the consequences. It took years to get healthy, but only two months to take me back to square one. And let me tell you, it's a lot harder to deal with when you're in college and then starting a full time job than it is when you're a kid being homeschooled. I went from a college athlete working out and lifting several hours a day, to someone who could barely get out of bed in the morning or walk less than a quarter mile to class. I didn't realize how much it affected me growing up because I didn't know any better and I also didn't have many responsibilities.
My whole world was flipped upside down because I trusted a "chef" with my health instead of being overly anal about it like I used to be. For me, celiac doesn't just mean a stomach ache like some believe. My personality changes, I lose my passion for the things I love and my drive to do my best, I get irritable and no fun to be around, and I honestly don't care much about anything. Not to mention the debilitating fatigue, decreased cognitive function/memory, and widespread pain. I close off to those around me and take things for granted. Anyone who knows me on a good day would hopefully say I'm the complete opposite from that description.
Fast forward 7 months, after an ER visit followed by seven doctors with no answers thinking I was a hypochondriac, and I am just now starting to feel normal again. I may have been robbed of my senior year of college, but I graduated, I got a job, and I am getting better every day. This experience opened my eyes in many ways, and made me want to help share my insight and experiences with those who are going through similar situation. As my Alma Mater Wittenberg University's motto goes, "Having light we pass it on to others."
This is my long overdue PSA for Celiac because I think it's important to know, especially since gluten free isn't always taken as seriously as it should be with all of the fad dieting that surrounds it these days. Please feel free to share your experiences with Celiac and what effects it has had on your life in the comments. Raising awareness and understanding for this disease is vital and who better to do it than those who have experienced it personally! Keep pushing and stay strong!