Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why is it so hard?

I frequent several online communities or bulletin boards specializing in dietary restrictions of some sort. Recently, there have been a few friendly polls asking what we miss the most, what we wish we'd known, how things would have been easier. It left me thinking about the different attitudes portrayed.

Some people are given a diagnosis of food allergies, and they embrace the new lifestyle. They actively seek out alternatives and find themselves determined to meet and beat the challenge. Others fight the change with everything they have, determined to go out kicking. They settle for a few symptoms, and appear angry that doctors can't "cure" this named malady. And others curl up in a closet, limiting their diet to the few foods they'd previously enjoyed that remain free of their allergens. Most fall between the extremes, and many bandy about, depending on their level of grief, acceptance and research.

I couldn't help but wonder what makes the transition so hard, so frightening for some. I look back on my journey and see that I've hit various levels of extreme. I've also thrown caution to the wind, and suffered the cosequences. I've fought, and cried, and been accused of eating disorders until the mere mention of one makes my hackles raise. I've embraced, and experimented, and tried whole heartedly to overcome the obstacles growing in front of me.

But somewhere along the way, I stopped trusting food. It became quite an enemy, something that I fear rather than relish. I can remember walking the aisles of a grocery store and being tempted by new treats and delicacies. I can remember enjoying taste tests and can even empathize with those who claim to "eat their way through Costco" on a sunday afternoon. But no longer. Now, I find a new brand of chocolate chips, and instead of trying them out for a special treat, I save them until there's nothing going on for a few days and nothing urgent for at least a week, just in case they bite back.

I yearn for broccoli, or mayo or salad dressing. I long for a simple quick fix meal that is new, unique. Forget the candy and the baked goods, I want a casserole!

But I don't trust it.

I think that's the hardest thing, the thing I miss the most. I don't trust food anymore. It's supposed to nourish, to sustain us. No one ever said it could bite back, destroy the lining of our small intestines, sprinkle our body with itchy red spots and wreak havoc with our digestive track. Not if you treat it with respect, anyways. Food is supposed to enhance the social experience, drawing people together in a shared caloric pleasure. What you see is supposed to be what you eat, not a variety of re-designed, corn derived pseudo-foods that are supposed to enhance the experience. Fun colors and flavors are supposed to be innocuous, but all those rainbow fish and brilliant gummies I used to treat the kids with put my child in bed, pale, sweating and miserable. And me? I think I'm broken. While I desire the quick, the fast, the easy...while I mourn for the past, I wouldn't trust it if it were offered.

Mother nature, or the FDA, broke that trust a long time ago. And it's a hard road back, filled with the painful reminder of indigestion and more questions than answers. With intolerances, there are no firm lines. And there is no FAAN or other organized group at your back, offering knowledge, studies and expertise. Just the knowledge that you aren't alone, and the grass root support of those who are muddling through alongside of you, just as lost but determined as you are.

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