Holidays. They can be stressful. Why not throw a misunderstood, food-related, autoimmune disease into the mix?
Let's have a chat... shall we?
I've been thinking about the holiday season already. Mostly because it dawned on me recently that it's going to be quite different for me this year. This will be my first gluten-free holiday season. It seems kind of silly to even put a milestone on that but really, it's not. Combining celiac disease and holiday gatherings can bring up some tricky emotions. Here's why:
So much of our lives revolve around food and food traditions, which is one of the reasons that celiac disease can also be mentally challenging.
I feel like I've pretty well come to terms with the gluten-free diet. Day-to-day it's not really even a thought in my mind. But when it comes to family functions & social gatherings... that's a whole different ball-game.
Let me tell you... it's easy to feel depressed. It's easy to feel left out. I mean think about it:
- You can't have those special foods that conjure up warm and fuzzy feelings.
- You feel like the odd man out at the family gathering watching everyone else eat something you used to love.
- Well meaning family & friends say, "just don't eat the bun," or "I'm sure there'll be something you can eat."
Listen, by no means do I expect the people around me to stop eating or serving gluten, nor do I expect pity about it.
That said, when everyone is sitting and enjoying a meal together that I can't participate in, especially during a holiday or special gathering, it almost makes you feel invisible. It's awkward. It's like you're left out of the tribe you once belonged to. FOMO at its greatest.
It's even harder when it feels like the people closest to you don't quite understand your disease or the emotional double standard that comes with it. Because,
It's not just about the food. It's also about the memories, inclusion, and the need to feel understood.
It's like this... I want you to eat your cake. I'm happy you are eating the cake. But I also want you to understand that watching you eat that cake kinda bums me out a little, even though I don't have any desire to eat the cake.
Or this... I want to go to that restaurant. I want to spend the time with you. But I literally can't eat anything there. What's a girl to do? Send my family and sit home alone? Go with and awkwardly watch everyone eat?
See what I mean? It's complicated.
There's also the trust factor. I'm at a point that I just don't trust many people to cook for me, unless they've made it abundantly clear that they get it. As in being totally transparent with everything on the table, everything in it, and how it was cooked. It sounds like I'm being crazy, but I'm not. If I eat even a crumb of gluten, my body will attack itself. And yes, I'm aware I lived like that for years but that doesn't mean I want to go back to the digestive issues, bloating, gas, general unwell-ness, let alone all the damage I couldn't see being done to my body... all that just for food? Thanks, I'll pass. Which brings us right back to the whole FOMO of it all.
It's so strange to me still, that after how many years I finally know what my problem is. I know I can't eat gluten. It's strange to watch people enjoy a food that's toxic to me. It's bizarre to give my children a food that is basically poison to me. It's weird during these times to be like, really? Why gluten?! It's in everything!
But here's the thing... it's ok. It's all going to be ok.
After all that said, I just want to say a HUGE thank you. THANK YOU to anyone who has gone out of their way to accommodate me. I know. I'm a pain. I know you don't know exactly what to do all the time. But every effort you make, I appreciate it... so. much.
- Every time you tell me what you're making or what's in that dish, I appreciate it.
- Every little thing you do to help me know what I'm eating, thank you.
- Your efforts to avoid cross-contamination, you're awesome!
- When you buy special ingredients for me, all the heart eyes and hug emojis!
I know that it's not easy. I know it may have cost you a few extra dollars. But thank you. Thank you. It means more than you know.
Also, all those little things you do? They help me fight those kinda ugly feelings I have too. I know you tried. I know it's not perfect. And that's ok. In the end, it's just food. I'll live to eat another piece of cake, maybe just not today.
Do you have celiac disease? What are your thoughts?! How do you deal with it all? Holidays, birthdays, and the like? Do you bring your own food? Do you ask the host about the menu? Do you offer to help educate them?
If you love someone who's gluten-free, how do you accommodate their needs? Do you ask them about your menu? Do you try to find an alternative for them?
Let me know down below in the comments! Also, check out this list of gluten-free potluck recipes to get some ideas for your next gathering.