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I can really identify with the lyrics in Twenty One Pilots’ song “Stressed Out”. It seems to deal with how life changes from one phase to the next, and the changes aren’t exactly what you want or expect. While the singer is talking about the realities of growing up and how difficult it is living as an adult, I think about how much more difficult life is now with all I have to deal with and face in the gluten-free life. While the singer reminisces over his childhood years and wishes he could go back to those times, when his mother sang him to sleep and when he would play games with his friends and siblings, I wish for the times when my life was simpler. Eating was just something I did. I ate whatever was prepared or available, or I’d fix it and not give it any thought. Of course, I would plan as far as making sure I was getting plenty of vegetables, fiber, and protein, but I never had to scrutinize food labels or worry about potential cross-contamination. I never was afraid to prepare or eat food. I get that way quite often now because I have to be so careful not to slip up.

I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink,
But now I’m insecure and I care what people think.

As one progresses further into the gluten-free life and gets things figured out, they’re supposed to get easier, and one is supposed to feel better and more confident in handling the gluten-free diet. That’s what many people seem to say, anyway. As I’ve gotten more and more sensitive over time and have even begun to question what’s really causing my reactions, things have gotten more difficult for me. My insecurities have definitely increased rather than decreased. It’s really easy to get paranoid when my food just barely grazes a object or surface that hasn’t been wiped down. As much as I want to say that I don’t care what other people think when I don’t eat food at an event or bring my own, in the back of my mind I do care to an extent or at least wonder what they think. It’s awkward being “that person” or the only one in the crowd with serious food issues.

Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol’ days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.
Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol’ days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.

More and more often, I wish I could go back to the “good ol’ days” of eating whatever I wanted and not having to worry about what’s in the food, how it was handled, and how it was prepared. Parties and potlucks can be really hard because people bring in a lot of delicious-looking food, food you might not prepare and eat normally on your own. I never stressed out about food in the past, but it seems I stress out about it on a regular basis now because I have to worry about these things now or risk having a potentially serious reaction. I have to go to these things prepared with my own food, or I have to eat before or after. When preparing my own to take with me, I have to make sure nothing gets contaminated at any step of the way, and that’s also very mentally stressful. It’s one reason I’ve resorted to carrying microwaveable meals when I can. That lessens the stress significantly.

We used to play pretend, give each other different names,
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away,
Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face,
Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money.”

My family and I used to eat out together after I’d leave work a couple of times a week. We would pick a restaurant, and I would meet them there after work. We used to meet before going to church on Wednesday, and we would also meet on Friday evenings. It was something I enjoyed doing to spend time with my family. We would go to places like Captain D’s and local BBQ places. Also, a close friend and I get together to do things a few times a week, and some of those times we would eat together. Most of the time, we’d just go to a place together and get takeout, but sometimes we would eat at the restaurant. We loved going to Ryan’s, and I would get a plate with plenty of vegetables. Sonny’s BBQ was also a good place to go eat. Now, I normally just fix something myself at home, or I’ll pick up something at the grocery store to heat up. My friend goes out on his own to pick up some takeout. He doesn’t go to the buffets and sit-down restaurants pretty much at all anymore. I’ve told him before if he’s ever invited to go out to places like that that he should just go and not worry about me, but he’s told me that he doesn’t want to go if I can’t go. Of course, that’s very sweet of him, but I don’t want to be the one who holds him back from having a good time out. I hate that I can’t enjoy any of these activities myself anymore, at least not in the same way. On Fridays, I eat at home before meeting up with my family, and on Wednesdays, our schedules have changed so much anyway that we really don’t have time to meet up for dinner like we used to be able to do, but when we did, I would just eat on my own at home and then go to church from there. That was really the only way I could handle things. I was already preparing two meals for the following day the night before and really didn’t want to add on a third. If I had waited to eat later, I’d probably be starving. Eating at home on my own seemed the best option. Yes, I used to enjoy all these things, but with my food issues and reactions, however minor, to the smallest gluten traces, I’m being told loudly and clearly that these are things I just can’t do anymore or at least can’t do the way I used to be able to do.

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