17 May 2005
These past few days, I’ve had sudden spasms of energy so enormous that I feel as though I’m going to burst out of my skin. I stand in the living room and think, “What am I going to do? I feel like I could fly to the mountains on the power of my own body right now.” And so I dance around the living room instead, or cook another pot of soup, or walk around the neighborhood so fast that I actually, finally break a sweat. It feels good.
There’s no end to my joy in discovering that I have celiac disease. I know most people would be frightened or frustrated, berating their fate. One of my best friends actually annoyed me the other day, because a) he clearly didn’t quite believe me, because eating gluten free just feels weird to him, and b) he wanted me to be more angry. For some reason, it really bothered him that I wasn’t filled with rage. I guess he would react that way, and he doesn’t understand why I’m not him. But I’m not him. I’m not filled with rage. I understand that I’ll never have a Top Pot doughnut or a spontaneous treat from Macrina Bakery or an H + H bagel when I’m in New York, not ever again. I’m always going to have to be one of those picky ordering women in restaurants, and I don’t like to make a fuss. Summer afternoons will always have to be bereft of beer for me. It stinks. But really, not that much.
It’s not that I’m a saint. I’m not. It’s just that I feel so much better now. My head hasn’t been crushed by a headache in sixteen days, after a year and a half of knowing that pain would creep upon me by the late afternoon, every day. That alone makes me sing in the car when I’m driving. But I’m filled with an energy I haven’t experienced in years. Six months from now, when my intestines are completely recovered, I’ll be bouncing off the walls. All my life, I blamed the crunchy pain in my knees on old softball injuries, but now that it has disappeared, I know that it’s the gluten instead. My back doesn’t hurt. My neck feels fairly free. I’m gloriously, ravenously hungry. And I sleep like a small toddler who has run around the room all day, giggling, then falls into bed into gratitude. I feel good, and I’m still not even recovered.
No beer or bagel is worth this feeling.
And of course, I’m finding that there are unexpected gifts in this. My life is opening in ways I could never have predicted. For example, I’ve been devouring information on celiac, the intestines, the vitamins our body needs to function, the hidden ingredients in processed foods, and the effect of pesticides on our bodies. I’ve always loved all things medical (I dissected cadavers in high school, after all—in the context of a class, of course), and this has fed into this fascination. And deeper than that, I’ve always cherished the chance to learn something new. It feeds me, makes me feel radiant, leaves my petty mind behind. And now, I have nothing but learning before me.
I’ve already learned than most people have expected me to learn. I went to a nutritionist appointment today, prepared to receive more information than I could soak in. But it turns out that I already knew almost more than these two lovely women knew. It was good to have the knowledge I’ve gathered on the internet and through anecdotes confirmed by scientists, but it was also good to realize that I can trust my own research. And mostly, I can trust my own body. It knows more than I do.
One of my colleagues said to me today, “Can I tell you how good it is to see you perky again?” I just laughed. Normally, I wouldn’t like that word, but today, it felt right. One of my dear friends said to me on the phone just now, “I haven’t heard you sound this good in three years.” I feel that. And in one year, I’m going to feel better than I have in my entire life.
I’m going to have one hell of a 40th birthday party.
And on top of it all, people’s kindness has been calling in droves. One of my colleagues left a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie mix on my desk, along with an ad for rice crackers at Trader Joe’s. One of my students, a sweet, shy boy who rarely says a word, came up to me after lecture yesterday with a paper bag. Turns out that he had been having medical problems this winter as well, and the doctors thought he might have celiac. Luckily for him, he didn’t. But he still had all the information: restaurants in Seattle that are celiac friendly; forums online with intelligent people commenting on their experience; good brown rice pasta. And out of the bag he pulled a package of gluten-free flour and gluten-free soup. I could barely speak with the gratitude. And today, one of my seniors came up to me with gluten-free zucchini bread he had bought at the PCC for me. “It’s really good,” he said. “I thought it might make me happy.” It was, and it did.
One of my friends teased me a couple of months ago, when I still found reason to be cheerful, even though I couldn’t eat and I was spasming in pain. “You’re just one of those silver lining kind of people,” he said.
“Yes I am,” I said emphatically. “And you know what? I’m always proved right.”
And here it is.