I read up on the five stages of grief today, out of curiosity and boredom at work. I found it really interesting, because the model was originally based on people faced with impending death, but was later found to apply to any traumatic event (divorce of parents, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, drug addiction, onset of disease or chronic illness, etc etc etc...). Isn't it funny how we deal with different things in the same way?
I read through it all, and then reread it, and applied it to the last couple months of my life.
Stage 1 - Denial. If you remember, I was standing in the bathroom at work when my doctor called me and diagnosed me. After I hung up, I stood there for a few more minutes, thinking that'd she'd got it wrong, or there was a better explanation. I remember leaning over the sink thinking, "This can't be." The rest of the day, I looked into the likelihood of false positives and secondary tests. I didn't tell anyone besides immediate family for a few days. I claimed I wanted it to settle in, but really I didn't believe it was true.
Stage 2 - Anger. There was a lot of anger for the first few weeks. I'd snap at my husband when he ate normal food, I'd slam dishes around because I couldn't find anything to eat. The classic phrase is "Why me? It's not fair!" I know I said that a lot. It wasn't fair. I was mad at my body, mad at my genetics, mad at manufacturers who put gluten in ridiculous food. I was mad a lot.
Stage 3 - Bargaining. They say this is the stage that lots of people don't go through, and is often the shortest. Early on, I remember thinking sometimes that I'd rather have any other disease than this. I remember wishing it had been cancer, with the screwy logic that at least you can get over cancer. I would've done anything for a healthy immune system, but there was nothing to be done. I also sometimes told myself that I could eat a little gluten and I'd be fine, but I don't know if that was bargaining or wishful thinking.
Stage 4 - Depression. This stage flip-flopped with anger, but it sat heavier and lasted longer. During the days that I couldn't write about much, and then the days that I didn't write at all, I didn't want to eat, I didn't want to think about eating. I didn't clean my house, I didn't do dishes, I just sat on the couch and tried not to think about eating. Whenever a meal was brought up, I either got mad or really upset. I didn't want to see friends, go anywhere, or do anything. I cried a lot, too, when no one was around. I felt like this diagnosis was the worst thing that ever happened to me, I was convinced that it would never get better or easier.
Stage 5 - Acceptance. This one slowly phased in. First, I had an easier time explaining it somebody, and then started to get excited about cooking new food. I don't know if baking a lot brought it on, or it helped me to bake a lot again, but making new food every day for a few days was super helpful. I also found a recent renewed energy, and managed to clean, if with the help of my husband. Going places is a lot less depressing. Going to a restaurant where I can't eat anything with friends is a "Oh, shrug, I'll get a soda" kind of thing, instead of an emotional tailspin. Finding places I can eat is exciting, instead of desperate. Bumping into strangers who understand or are willing to help is fantastic and exciting, instead of frustrating. I don't want to push everyone away anymore. I don't feel like my friends will stop hanging out with me (because I'm needy, whiney, difficult, hard to talk to, can't eat out, etc), I know that they don't care what I do or don't eat. It doesn't change their lives, it doesn't need to.
I feel so fantastic, looking back. The acceptance really sneaked up on me, but considering the last month or so makes now look hopeful and full of promise. Life seems simple again. I used to say nothing would ever be simple or easy again, but now I know that someday eating gluten-free will be simple and easy. Life is good.