A bully forces you into playing a game of Uncle. The bully grabs your arm and begins to twist. You resist and hold on for as long as you can, but you finally have enough and shout “Uncle!” However, the bully, instead of letting go, continues to twist. Panicked, you try to think of a way to fight him off. You finally come up with a way to handle him, enough for him to release his grip momentarily and give you a reprieve. However, he comes back on strong and begins twisting again. He’s ready for what you did previously to fend him off, so you know it won’t work this time. You hurriedly try to come up with another way to

I would love to be able to fight back like this!

I would love to be able to fight back like this!

fend him off. You’re able to get him to release his grip again, momentarily so that you can have relief from the pain, but yet again, he finds a way to hold on and continue twisting. You begin to grow weary of the constant back-and-forth. You wish you could just give up, but you know that if you do, the pain will continue to worsen until your arm is in seriously bad shape. What else can you do to fight off this bully? You’re starting to run out of ideas. You become discouraged, angry, and frustrated, beginning to feel as if you have no choice but to live with the pain and with the fact that the bully isn’t going to give up and will always be there twisting.

This is basically how dealing with gluten exposures feels. I begin to experience symptoms that I want to stop. However, they can’t and won’t stop until I figure out the source of the symptoms and deal with it. Almost as soon as I deal with that source and start feeling better, symptoms come on again, and I have to uncover something else. It starts to turn into a never-ending cycle. The first time it happened, I wasn’t even dealing with all sources of cross-contamination because I didn’t feel it was necessary. I wasn’t diagnosed with celiac disease. I figured I had a gluten intolerance and that it wasn’t that big of a deal to continue eating out and just order food items with no gluten ingredients, that I didn’t need to clean the dishes in my kitchen thoroughly and replace those that could not be completely cleaned. Even after stopping eating out and going through my kitchen, symptoms still persisted until I was able to deal with the other sources of exposure. For a while, I thought things were fine. I had isolated exposures here and there, but I thought all the ongoing, almost-daily sources of exposure had been dealt with. Later, I realized my computer mouse and keyboard at work, as well as my lunchbox, were problems. I had to stop using my computer and keyboard with my eating hand, and I had to start washing my lunchbox with dish soap and a paper towel to keep it clean. Wipes could not remove all the gluten from my computer equipment and lunchbox. I also had to start storing my food items for my meals in a separate mini-fridge to keep them away from the gluten-contaminated shelves and items in my main fridge. I thought once I had gotten these taken care of that things would be great and that I would not continue to have all these symptoms from trace gluten exposure. That was the case for a while, but the exposure symptoms started up again. I’ve really struggled since Christmas to stay symptom-free for more than a few days at a time. While something else could be causing the symptoms, right now they appear to be due to inadvertent gluten exposure from very minute trace amounts. This cycle is very tiring and mentally exhausting. It’s so hard not to get discouraged and stay positive. As much as I want to cry “uncle” and give up, I know that I can’t or things will just continue to get worse. There are times I just want to let them. Hopefully I can find a way to deal with the continuous exposures, to put a stop to the “twisting”, so that I can live as normal a life as possible.

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