I guess I’ve always been sick a lot. Growing up, I seemed to get strep throat every single year. When I got mono in the 8th grade, I was sick for nearly 3 months. When I get a cold, or the flu, or even a bruise, it seems to take my body a pretty ridiculous amount of time to heal. But, despite the doctor appointments and the hospital visits and the blood tests, I still don’t have answers.
I was relieved actually, as a teenager, when I decided to try giving up dairy. It seemed to work wonders for me, and I thought, “Wow! All of these years of stomach pain and sickness, and it turns out I was just lactose intolerant!” But, more and more lately, it seems like that isn’t the issue. It isn’t just dairy that bothers me – it’s a lot of things. So many, in fact, that it’s hard to put my finger on it. It never seems very consistent.
I have gotten pretty good at managing my symptoms, despite their sometimes unpredictable nature. I went from missing a lot of school and work to basically teaching my body how to get sick on a schedule, on my schedule. The worst part, I think, about being sick in the way that I so often am is that it seems like people just think I’m a hypochondriac. I can’t even count how many times I have heard, “But, you don’t look sick!”
A few months ago, I woke up in pretty serious pain. I wasn’t sure what the deal was, but when I looked up what I was experiencing and talked to a good friend of mine who is a nurse, it seemed serious, like it might be pancreatitis. So I went to the ER. If you’ve known me for a while, you probably know that I avoid the hospital at all costs because when I was 19, I racked up a hefty $6k in hospital bills for what everyone was convinced was swine flu, but was actually an intense case of strep throat. (Seriously.)
The hospital didn’t know what was wrong with me. They did a urine test and then a blood test. When that all came back normal, they did an ultrasound. Normal. They gave me some medicine for an ulcer, which seems to be helping. But, I don’t feel like I am getting any better in the grand scheme of things. At my last checkup with my doctor, he told me he wants me to get tested for Crohn’s. Just one problem – I no longer have health insurance.
The reason I am bringing all of this up is that I am currently laying on my couch, feeling pretty terrible. I always, without fail, get sick when I travel. So I suppose it’s no surprise that I am feeling this way, since I just got back from a weekend in Atlanta. But, while I was there, I had a conversation about Crohn’s vs. Gluten Intolerance / Celiac, and it got me wondering how or IF, without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars, I can get to the bottom of what’s wrong with me. If it’s Crohn’s, there are lots of foods that could bother it, dairy and gluten included. So, how do I know what the issue stems from? How do you treat something that you can’t figure out? What if it isn’t either of those things, but something else all together?
I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. What I do know is that I am about to try to embark on a healthier journey. I am going to attempt to give up gluten – a sentence that I never thought I would say – to see if it makes me feel better. I will probably also have to quit drinking, which sucks because I really enjoy a nice glass of wine or a beer after a long day, and I love the social aspect of going out for drinks. But, I suppose it’s time to try to get my health under control once and for all.
So if you’re out there reading this and you’ve gone through something similar, please share any tips or experiences you feel comfortable sharing! I would love to hear about your favorite gluten-free meals and snacks, how long it took you to start feeling better, etc. Are there vitamins or probiotics I should be trying? Any advice is greatly appreciated.
Until then, I’ll just be over here dreaming of bagels.