.....except not really.
The attack happened yesterday, from a beloved restaurant I've never had any trouble with before. And wasn't malicious - I don't even bother to mention my celiac-osity to them because I didn't even think there would be a problem with cross contamination. HAH. Won't be making that mistake again. It was vicious, as if they poured flour straight into their guacam - oop, see, I've already said too much. But any future orders from that place will include the words "WHEAT ALLERGY" right in the instructions so no more attacks will happen.
This was the worst gluten-ache I've had since I started the diet. People often ask what happens if I accidentally ingest gluten, and it's hard to answer. When I was eating it all the time, I got so used to the stomachaches that I wasn't really realizing I had them. I can remember constant stomach pain, and I can remember being exhausted after eating. And I used to get sick a lot more often.
I saw an opportunity through the attack to blog about my experience, trying to give people some sort of information about why celiacs INSIST on following this crazy, inconvenient diet. I decided this of sound mind, when I could feel the attack coming on, and decided to start blogging as soon as I got back from the grocery store - a cherry coke is usually the only way I can soothe my poor tummy.
Halfway through the ten-minute drive to the store, I'm sweating and slouching over from the pain. By the time I made my purchase and got back home, I was only able to scrawl out a few notes of what was going through my mind on a pad of paper. Now, 24 hours later, I will try to decipher them for you:
1. "green stomach"
I'll let you just think about this for a second... yeah. I visualize what happens to my stomach, and in my mind, it's clearly turning green. This happens at the beginning, when I'm starting to recognize that my pain is from an accidental gluten ingestion.
2. "dishrag stomach"
Another visualization as the pain increases. It's a very specific pain, and feels as though someone is trying to wring out my stomach, like a dishrag. It's a bizarre, twisty feeling that is very recognizable and much worse than run-of-the-mill indigestion or monthly menstrual cramps.
3. "gagginess - preparing for vomiting"
Although I have yet to throw up from a gluten attack, it's always bad enough that my body keeps this as a good option to take. My stomach goes to work coating my esophagus, just in case. I can feel it at the back of my throat, which sets off my gag reflex pretty consistently.
5."unusual midsection noises"
As if my stomach were trying to actually vocalize something, like, "This is not my normal digestion process, because antibodies are screaming at me and I can't get any work done!!"
6. "achy joints and muscles from trying to stop pain"
The pain starts at my stomach, and constantly feels like it's getting bigger. My entire body kicks in to try and keep it contained to my stomach, and the stress eventually makes everything ache, kind of like I'm having an onset of the flu. It's getting pretty bad at this point - so much so that even my handwriting is getting worse.
7. "tired and cranky"
I've obviously written this after I've put myself on the couch. While sleeping isn't easy in this condition, it's something my body orders me to do. The one thing my brain keeps telling me is to shut down my system for a while so healing can happen before I reboot and try again.
8. "chills and worse pain"
This is the last note. I pulled a fleece blanket out from behind a pillow on the couch and shivered in front of the TV.
So the good news is that this whole process takes anywhere from two to three hours. While it's awful the whole time, it's not enough to derail my entire day. But it does make me pretty nonfunctional, and the most incredible thing I keep thinking of is that for 15 years, I lived with these symptoms EVERY DAY.
I'm not writing this for pity or sympathy - like I said, the fault is really mine for not clearly communicating my dietary needs. But I think it's important to try to spell things like this out to people who can't quite understand, and especially to people who are skeptical that food intolerances even exist. (Yup, they're out there.) There are celiacs currently living with the condition that don't know it, and that have symptoms even worse than this. Living with this disease for years can make you a tired person with little energy for anything. Living with the disease for decades can cause people to suffer neurological symptoms like migraines and even seizures.
I'm fine today - if anything, the relief that goes away after an attack is enough to propel you into a fabulous mood.