WRITER'S NOTE: The following was written outside of a cafe in Mexico as it was happening. These were thoughts as they were racing through my head....the thoughts of a celiac wondering if they just got glutened.
I sit and I wait. Will it hurt? How bad is it gonna be?
I stare down at those delicious bastards with such contempt. “I hate you” I mumble out loud yet to nothing in particular. Really I hate myself, my body hates itself.
My brain is going everywhere: “Why didn’t I take my pills before? Why didn’t I go back to the other restaurant? Why didn’t I ask if the oats were certified gluten free? Why?"
My anxiety, which had been at a zero or below is now a steady 7.5 ready to jump to a 303 at any moment….. And all I can do is wait.
This is going one of two ways. There is no in between. The good way is that I’m fine...this is a delicious moment with no noticeable results except feeling satisfied. OR my entire day and then some is completely ruined. I’ll be stuck in my tiny surf hotel room pacing between bouts of nausea, cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, etc for the next 7-9 hours followed by complete and total full body/mind exhaustion for the next 24-72 hours. Which is it gonna be...I don’t know...all I can do is wait.
But what the hell??? Why do I keep reaching for more of this potential poison??? God dammit...it’s delicious. On the off chance there is no reaction, I want to enjoy this amazing thing.
UUGGHHHH DAMMIT….why didn’t I think to take my “gluten enzyme” pill before I took a bite??? I didn’t see the oats, and with oats you never know. I didn’t know. I’ve never been there in the last 4.5 years, I've never taken a bite of something and immediately know I might have glutened myself. Those pills give me the “at least it won’t be as bad” knowledge…..which eases the emergency factor and anxiety a bit.
So here I sit...outside of a cafe in Mexico…..waiting.
Man...fuck you gluten, you’re an asshole, I’m pissed at all the horror you’ve put me through and continue to put me through out of pure fucking fear. Why must you insist on ruining my body from the inside out? Why must you hate my insides? But worst of all...why have you taken my sanity?
Oh god….I feel a rumble below….it could be the coffee working it’s magic or…..
The immediate symptoms of being glutened are so similar to what extreme level anxiety feels like it’s hard to distinguish the difference right away…..
I had planned to wander, find some sun, write, meditate, etc.
Ok, get yourself together Jesse…..breathe….calm the down…..maybe we can discern these symptoms in my body…..what is anxiety and what is a whole body freak the fuck out from gluten….my hotel is minutes away, I know I could make it if needed.
I’m breathing in for the count of 4 out for the count of 4….in for 4 out for 4……in...and out....
Now when I get glutened I know it within minutes, but again, the early symptoms of a glutening and major anxiety are strikingly similar: chest tightening, paleness, cold sweats, body heat wave beginning in my abdomen, a cringing or wringing in my low belly - like my intestines are playing a game of Indian burn on each other and then, of course, the extreme nausea.
The real difference between the two happens a few to 10 minutes later when it all gets approximately 8000x worse if it's a glutening. At this point I’m taking deep breaths in hopes not to lose whatever I just ate wherever I am (which is generally always a very public place). I get very lightheaded as all of my energy is now in my stomach dealing with my body’s physical assault on itself. Then I feel the first urge of releasing something, now, which end of my body will be doing the releasing is usually a coin flip. This all continues for the next 7-9 hours followed by extreme exhaustion for the next 2-3 days, a very sore stomach from the trauma that was inflicted and zero appetite.
Anxiety alone, if I can get to a space where I feel comfortable, I can slow down my breathing and begin to feel those initial symptoms reside. Oh, there is still damage done. The stress hormones have wrecked my belly and I’ll likely have diarrhea for the day.
PRO TIP HERE: when in situations you don’t want to be in, this is always a guaranteed out…..you wanna go to dinner? I’m sorry, I have diarrhea. Hey, we’re all going to watch some movie about people killing other people, or about dinosaurs or something scary or uninteresting, want to come? I’m sorry, I can’t, I have diarrhea. Hey, want to watch this Trump interview and discuss his policies? I'm sorry, I have explosive diarrhea. People don't question diarrhea. They question celiac disease. They question anxiety. But no one ever questions diarrhea, especially explosive diarrhea.
So I made it back to my hotel room where I breathed, I laid down, napped and it all passed. I was fine. I went to the beach within the next hour and felt great. All that work up for nothing.
You would think I would learn my lesson and stop hurting myself by freaking out as it clearly doesn’t HELP anything but, it’s somewhat out of my control. Believe it or not this is way better than I used to be. I used to lock myself in my apartment and never go out - so ya, I’m basically winning at life these days by taking chances and trying.
I realized the anxiety will pass, as will the sickness if I do get glutened but worse than that - life will keep passing whether I’m out living it or not.
So in Mexico I risked and I lived. The next day a water parasite got me - touche' life - but hey….guess that’s the risk in traveling abroad….at least it wasn’t the glutening.