• Jacob West

My Celiac Story

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

I woke up feeling amazing. Taking a deep breath, I let the fresh Alaskan air fill my lungs. Hearing the crackle of a nearby fire, I knew breakfast would be ready soon. Unzipping my family’s four-person tent with a smile, I stepped out into the sixty-degree wilderness. The sun was bright, the clouds had left the sky, and the river continued its hectic, yet organized pursuit downhill.

I was on my family’s Alaskan white-water rafting trip. Finally basking in the sunlight, my year of nervous anticipation seemed well worth it. Preparing to start another amazing day, a sense of peace fell over my body. I believed at the time it was from the fresh air or the feeling of the wild. But no matter the reason, all I cared to know was that I simply felt better and stronger with every day that passed. And when it finally ended, the trip left me with a feeling of true happiness, a feeling I lost touch with a few months prior.

Integrating back into normal upstate New York society, I steadily began to lose my high spirits and drive. I felt myself returning to a passive, empty state. The feeling that my naive mind had thought I had overcome.

Returning to my normal schedule, I went to visit my psychologist. I visited her every week to discover the source of this feeling of emptiness that slowly ate at me. She was alright. Mostly focusing on childhood issues and daily inconveniences, you know, the therapy things, we would get nowhere fast as the minutes rolled by.

That day we spoke about my emotions throughout the trip. I explained how I felt like my old self. For those five days, I returned to my cheerful self and badly wanted the feeling to return. We shared thoughts and possible reasons and explanations, nothing really stuck.

After the session, that same night, I found myself up late pondering the simple question, "What changed? What had changed since the trip and where I was now?" And that's when an idea struck me. Only a guess, yet enough to give me hope. Other than the obvious lack of excitement in my daily life, I realized a difference in my diet.

My mother was diagnosed as a celiac ten years prior to the trip. Since space on the raft was limited, we only packed gluten free food. Therefore, for the first time in my life, I was not eating gluten. On top of that, I remembered how my mother felt prior to her diagnosis. She described a feeling as if she were slowly dying, and eventually went to the doctors assuming she must have a form of cancer. They quickly ran tests and determined she had Celiac Disease. This meant that any ingestion of gluten acted as a poison in her body. I believed this could be my solution, so within days my blood was being tested to possibly cure my growing feeling of emptiness.

The results came in a week later and my problem was cured. I instantly stopped eating gluten without a single complaint. Everyone was surprised with how well I was dealing with the situation, but what they didn’t realize was how thankful I was for it. Within days I felt my body regain strength and drive. I felt amazing again, like I had on the Alaskan river. I felt in control. By the next week I stopped going to the psychologist and started living my life with my head up again.

There are still times I feel empty like before. I feel as if whatever eats at me isn’t completely gone and never will be, yet now I have the strength to control it. Whatever sadness I thought was beyond my control could now be tamed.

From this experience I learned to never give up. I learned that there is always a solution and that I just need to continue looking for it.

I also learned the value in things. Little problems don’t affect me like many of my peers. I’ve learned that life will have its challenges and to just laugh through them because happiness is the most important trait to have. If I can maintain my joy in life I can solve any problem and overcome any challenge I face. So, what about you?

Everyone has their own demons and challenges. We can either run from them or we can conquer them. We can own them. I learned how to fight mine and fight I did. This fight will never end, but the more weapons I can bring to this fight, the better off I will be.

So, what weapons do you have? What weapons do you plan on getting? Only you can fight for your happiness. Others can show you the way to happiness, but it is you who will take those steps. Therefore, get your weapons, find your path and start exploring. Life is a constant war, but the more you fight and the more you win, the closer you will be to nirvana when that war finally ends. Nirvana is not in the clouds, it is all around us.

Image Credit: https://www.alaska.org/

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