Thursday, 26 September 2013

Gluten Free Support Group

I stumbled across an ad for a gluten-free support group meeting the other day, and I thought, How on Earth did I not know about this? Well, it turns out it was the very first meeting. So I guess that was lucky. I toyed with the idea of going, decided not to, decided to, and eventually M said I would regret not going, but chances are that I wouldn't regret going. So I went.

It was last night, and the meeting only lasted an hour.

I expected the meeting to be full of pretensious, obnoxious, quinoa-eating, GF-fad people and people who didn't know what they were talking about. As it turned out, there was only one woman who didn't know what she was talking about, and nobody was there as a fad-eater.

I was, however, the youngest person. By about 20 or 30 years. I also was the newest celiac, with everyone else's diagnosis dates ranging from three years to twenty-two, and one woman whose husband was diagnosed in the 1960's. I didn't really learn anything, as this was more of a "gather, chat, share, and support each other" kind of meeting. Which was really nice.

I talked about my diagnosis, how sick I was, how sick I've been, how hard it is not to cheat, and how I really shouldn't eat dairy but I do. And I got nods, sympathetic smiles and "I've been there" looks. The other women talked about their struggles, their peripheral symptoms, their children, and husbands, and just plain struggles.

One woman was IBS, so she was free from gluten, soy, corn, potatoes, dairy, and a growing list of smaller things. A few women weren't diagnosed, and hadn't seen doctors (they got a few disapproving looks), they just found they felt better eating gluten-free. One of these women said her mother and grandmother struggled with chronic constipation, so she went GF to avoid that, and has never actually been all that sick.

One woman was, well, kind of ignorant. She talked about seeing a naturopath, having digestive issues, and being told not to eat gluten, dairy or soy. She talked about a few of her favourite recipes, one of which used oat bran. There was a definite look shared amongst the group. Oats are one of those iffy things that people disagree on. She caught that, and said she sometimes substitutes with wheat bran. That's when one of the older woman said that wouldn't be gluten-free then.

Another woman talked about how wheat causes cancer, and how nobody should eat gluten, because you'll get cancer. She knows because her dad died of cancer, her brother has cancer, her uncle died of cancer, she knows all these people who have cancer or died of cancer. Thing is, none of them had stomach cancer, or intestinal cancer. There was brain cancer, lung, skin, and breast.

I mean, you're free to believe what you want, and eat what you feel safe eating. But I don't think you should go around spouting crazy and make uninformed people afraid. Also, every single person in the room had a problem with wheat. She was kind of preaching to the choir.

For the most part, though, I really enjoyed it. It was nice to chat with women who understand what I went through, and what I go through every day. One of them was actually friends with my mom, and although I hadn't met her before, when I was first diagnosed, my mom passed along a form letter from her. It was a "Hi, welcome to gluten-free. It sucks. These products rock, you can buy them here, and here are a few basic recipes I rely on. This is how I make my flour. Feel free to email me." It took a week before I even read it, because I didn't want help. I didn't want to talk to people. I was angry, I felt alone, and I pushed away everyone who wanted to help me. I admitted to this woman that I had gotten her email, but had never made anything, and didn't even want to read it at the time. She smiled, nodded, and said, "I know. It's hard, you don't want anybody's help, and you're so angry." It was such a weight off my shoulders (one I didn't know was there) for someone to verify the way that I used to feel.

It really was nice to just sit in the company of half a dozen people who understood. I've had a few conversations with other celiacs (slash other gluten free people for various reasons) and sometimes I walk away shaking my head, and sometimes I feel a bit better about things. I won't be calling up these women and regularly hanging out with them, but I will definitely try to make it to the next meeting.

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