I've felt bad for as long as I can remember. I had daily, often debilitating, headaches, was always tired and my body hurt for no apparent reason. I had resigned myself to being one of those people who naturally didn’t feel as well as others.
That all changed about a year ago. Since graduating college, I had gone to a series of doctors, trying to figure out what was causing my headaches. I had seen general practitioners, neurologists, psychiatrists, and all I was told was that I had chronic migraines and should take daily medication. At times, the medication worked, but never for long. In March 2013, I went to a new doctor. I mistakenly thought she was an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist who could help me rule out sinus-related headaches but she was actually a general practitioner. I decided to keep my appointment anyways to get another medical opinion. After telling the doctor my-oft recited medical history and symptoms, she suggested a celiac disease blood panel test. My good friend, Ashley, has celiac disease and I told the doctor I didn't have it because I knew what the symptoms were but she could test for it regardless. My blood panel results showed incredibly high antibodies and I scheduled an endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis.
Around this time, I began to have feelings for my friend, Matt. We had been friends for years but I was realizing I liked him much more than that. He was the person who picked me up from the hospital after my endoscopy and was one of the first people I told, a week later, when I was officially diagnosed with celiac disease. We started dating, neither of us knowing where it was going.
As anybody recently diagnosed with celiac disease could tell you, the first couple of months are difficult. I had to learn how to eat from scratch and deal with the emotional realization that my life would never be the same. Matt was by my side through all of it. He visited gluten-free websites and blogs more than I did. Our date nights often consisted of choosing recipes, shopping for ingredients and cooking dinner. We both loved ordering takeout, but now we ordered from places where we knew I could find food too. We relished going out to eat and Matt would e-mail restaurants ahead of time to make sure they had gluten free options for me. He was also there to give me a hug as I sobbed when I was starving and couldn't find anything safe to eat at a local food truck festival.
Living with celiac disease is inconvenient and difficult at times but no one really talks about how it affects the people in your life too. Making the necessary adjustments is a hard enough tough transition for family members and Matt and I had just started dating! He could've stopped things in the very beginning, saying he hadn't signed up for a celiac-centered relationship and nobody would've blamed him, least of all me, after dating so brief a time. He's also friends with Ashley and had seen, firsthand, how her boyfriend, Paul, has had to change his life and daily patterns to keep her healthy. Even knowing all this, Matt has stuck around and we've been dating 9 months now. He's been right by my side, learning what tastes good, what almond flour is and what avoiding cross-contamination really means with nothing but good-natured complaining. I once even overheard him and Paul discussing gluten free restaurants in the area, without me or Ashley even present! Having him to go through this with has made it easier to adjust and made relearning how to eat more of an adventure than a punishment. It feels like I'm not going through this alone and that mindset helps keep me motivated to stick to a gluten-free diet and to not cheat myself by slipping every now and then. Even if I'm tempted, Matt's found a way to keep me on the straight and narrow. Through trial and error, we've discovered that I generally get a headache and joint pain the day after I eat gluten. Matt has decreed that, if I knowingly eat gluten, he doesn't have to hang out with me the next day while I'm grumpy and no fun. It may sound harsh but knowing that I'll have to deal with feeling awful the next day on my own makes errant temptations much easier to ignore. Matt's support has been immeasurable and I can't thank him enough.