I am regularly asked, these days, “where do you get so much energy?” I tend to make a lighthearted quip, or provide a short, conversation-deflecting answer to this question, in general. I don’t want to be that boring lady that made you listen to my life story because you asked a simple question.
Nevertheless, I feel that an answer is appropriate. I want to give a real answer, one that responds to the longing within the people who ask. We all want more energy. (No, this is not the part where I sell you the latest energy product. They are generally counter-productive.) This is my answer to all of you who wonder how I “do it,” day in and day out.
I have a chronic illness. All of my life, I have suffered with mild to severe decreased energy, depression, nausea, headaches, confusion, abdominal pain, and more. I have lacked coordination, and been physically weak. My illness grew in strength throughout my life, rendering me helpless, at times, to do anything but sit in a chair and hate myself, thinking that I simply had an overly-developed case of laziness.
Finally, a few months after the birth of my sixth child, I had a simple, outpatient surgery to repair a small, umbilical hernia (caused by my short-waisted self overworking my body while hugely pregnant.). I didn’t get better. My surgery was the beginning of what I began to see as the end, potentially. I had many days that I couldn’t get out of bed. I had fainting spells, and my already compromised balance abandoned me completely.
I thought I was slowly dying. I was afraid to be left alone with my children.
Finally, Aaron (my husband) picked up a copy of The Maker’s Diet, by Jordan Rubin, at Goodwill for $.70. In it, Mr. Rubin claimed that he could teach me to eat according to God’s design for my body, and that if I followed his diet for 40 days, it would change my life. I had nothing to lose, except a few hundred dollars’ worth of vitamins and supplements.
After 4 days, I no longer felt that I was dying. Suddenly, I had hope, and knew that, somehow, food was the key to whatever was happening to me. After 2 weeks, I felt worse. At the end of the six weeks, I felt terrible, but it was cyclical, and I was trying to pin down the culprit.
I decided that carbs were the problem, but potatoes didn’t bother me. Finally, one Friday afternoon, I had my breakthrough.
You see, I was a whole-foods eating health nut, and I was kneading my homemade, whole wheat (that I ground in my own stone mill) sourdough Challah for Sabbath. It had farm-fresh milk, eggs and butter in it. Beautiful. And deadly.
I wasn’t planning to eat the bread, but even the process of making it seemed to be affecting me adversely. I called my doctor and dear friend, Virginia Frazer (http://blueheron.highlandmidwife.com/) at her office. She answered the phone, herself. “Ginger, if I seem to have some kind of problem with carbs, can just kneading bread make me sick. I’m getting this headache…”
“AmberDawn, you’re Celiac*. Get rid of all gluten from your house and diet.”
I got started immediately, and we confirmed the diagnosis with blood testing. We discovered myriad secondary allergens, the result of living on my own personal poison all of my life. I ruthlessly cut every one out. I hired someone to come and clean out my cupboards, because the gluten-removal process was making me too sick and weak to actually complete it. I practically became a hermit, because neither I, nor others knew how to protect me outside of my house.
I obsessively protected my seemingly INCREASINGLY fragile health. Cutting gluten out of my diet seemed to make me MORE sensitive. The first 9 months were not easy, and to this day, there are people who believe, and gossip to others, saying that I faked it all, as a way to lose weight. (I certainly did lose. At first, when the inflammation in my intestines was going down, I lost up to 4 lbs a WEEK.) Relationships suffered under my refusal to eat food that might knock me down and out for a week. I wouldn’t compromise to be polite. I just couldn’t. My children turned out to have sensitivities, as well, and were fed allergens, anyway. “It was only a little bit…” Ugh. Could you keep them until they recover, please? Or, maybe not…
Most people, most of the time, have been amazing. The acceptance and understanding I’ve received have blown me away. The last 6 months of my life, I have rarely been “glutened.” I have eaten amazing foods, created by friends and businesses who take the time to understand proper safety precautions and prepare gluten free treats.
Best of all, my body and my mind are strong. Finding a whole new way of eating, without most grains, eggs, dairy, garlic, beef, some kinds of beans, nuts, and more, has given me the opportunity to live on life and energy building foods. If I’m cutting out all of my previous favorites, anyway, I might as well learn to love the good stuff, right?
So, no, I can’t join you for pizza. But I can climb a mountain, swim laps, have a dance party with my kids, and start a business on the side. I can’t have ice cream, but wine and chocolate are my friends. I am not deprived. I am ALIVE! I tell people who ask why I’m so happy that I spent the first 32+ years of my life depressed, and I have at least that many years of ecstatic joy coming to me.
*It is estimated that 3% of the American population has Celiac Disease. Only 5% of them have been diagnosed. That’s a whole lot of people who are always sick, and don’t know why.