Monday, April 27, 2009

The Rollercoaster

Over the weekend I gave a lot of thought about what to title this post: "When it rains, it pours..." "When life gives you lemons..." Ultimately, I decided on "The Rollercoaster." You see, I've been looking for an adequate metaphor to describe how the gluten-free lifestyle parallels life in general. In the end, I decided that a rollercoaster is a pretty good metaphor, though it's not quite perfect. I'll explain.

In the sense that rollercoasters have highs and lows, then yes, it works as a metaphor for both life and for the gluten-free lifestyle. In the gluten-free world, you start with a pretty deep low - usually the abyss of symptoms preceding a diagnosis (with Celiac, gluten intolerance, whatever). From there on out, there are highs (switching to a gluten-free diet, feeling healthy) and lows (gluten contamination). But that's where the perfect parallel between gluten-free living and life in general end.

That's because, in my opinion, the longer you live a gluten-free lifestyle, the more sustained the highs become, and the fewer lows we experience. Our bodies are healthy, we become adept at eating a gluten-free diet, you know the drill. Conversely, we experience fewer and fewer cases of contamination or other "lows" that punctuate an otherwise great ride. Life in general isn't like that. The longer you walk this Earth, the greater the likelihood is that your personal rollercoaster will experience ever more lows. As we grow older, our bodies may begin to fail us (in ways big or small), we've almost surely faced challenge and adversity, and we've almost surely faced a growing amount of pain and loss and inevitably, death. I'm not trying to be morbid or a "downer." I'm merely trying to illustrate how the gluten-free and life rollercoasters begin on similar tracks but quickly diverge from one another over time.

I draw this distinction because recently, our gluten-free and life rollercoasters diverged in very big ways. On the heels of us announcing our new cookbook (high), Kelli was in a car accident (big low) that totaled her car and shattered her right foot. She went into surgery on Friday, and 2 plates and 13 screws later, her foot is back together. She now faces a long recovery, including up to 14 weeks off her feet entirely, and a likely six months before she'll be able to walk normally again. In that same week, our 4.5 month old daughter, Marin, went on a hunger strike that had her unsettlingly close to being admitted to a hospital so doctors could administer fluids and nutrients via IV (another low). The reasons for her backslide are various: silent reflux, a string of successive ear infections, likely dietary sensitivies she would have inherited from me, and a feeding aversion because of the chronic pain she now associates with eating. Little by little, we're now making positive progress with Marin.

Needless to say, the last seven days have been tiring, stressful, emotional, frustrating, and at times, filled with hope and rays of light. It has also been a time filled with an outpouring of support from family and friends. We consider you, NGNP's readers, to be a part of our circle, and so I'm sharing our recent challenges with you here on the blog.

Admittedly, I sometimes struggle with how personal to get on the much detail is enough personal detail without being too much? Because on the one hand, blogs can be wonderfully personal, making the vast indifference of the Internet a much more intimate place. But blogs can also be narcissistic and self-important, and I'm wary of crossing over that line and succumbing to an inflated view of the value of my personal life to you the reader. To that end, I strive to be personal only insofar as personal details illustrate a greater point about gluten-free living. It's a balance I'll continue to seek (and hopefully, achieve).

In the meantime, when it comes to your personal gluten-free rollercoaster, what have been your highest highs, and your lowest lows?

- Pete


Steph said...

First of all, best wishes for speedy recoveries for both Kelli and Marin. I hope your life "roller coaster" is on its way up again.
Second, my GF roller coaster has been quite a wild one. I don't know if it's from being an emotional female, but it has definitely coincided with my life coaster. My lowest lows have been:
2-Having to learn how to bake again
3-Discovering that gluten wasn't my only intolerance
4-Going on my first big vacation with family, realizing how much harder eating out was
My highs though, have been very high! Here are the "high"lights of my life since this diagnosis:
1-Losing 40 lbs!
2-Mastering the art of gluten free baking
3-Feeling so much healthier (probably because I eat healthier)
4-Getting my husband to eat healthy with me
5-Going to Disney World!!! I felt NORMAL again, as there wasn't anything I couldn't eat safely :)
6-Feeling like I can help other people conquer this challenge in their lives as well.

Here's to a lot more ups on our roller coasters!!

Kate (aka Gluten Free Gobsmacked) said...

Pete -
I just wanted to thank you for always posting such honest, real things. That is what makes your blog a go-to and good-to-read blog anytime for me.
I wanted to wish both of your girls a speedy and quick recovery - but also to wish you time to take care of yourself and heal as well I'm sure that having your family be in pain and ailing is quite stressful for you as well.
Many blessings -
Kate & family

GFE--gluten free easily said...

Pete--Sending healing hugs and best thoughts to you all. A tough turn of events and I am so sorry. The symptoms you are mentioning of Maren's already sound like she may have gluten issues. Reflux, not wanting to eat, ear infections can be common childhood symtoms of gluten issues. I confess I don't understand it completely as Maren is not consuming gluten directly, but via breast feeding perhaps. Certainly, this line of thinking defies much literature and traditional guidance. But, a friend's child was born with a sore in the roof of his mouth. Whe the whole family went gluten free, it finally disappeared. And, I know with my own son, he had issues from day one and I didn't breastfeed. He had to go to a predigested soy formula and had issues throughout. He's now gluten free.

I appreciate your very thoughtful pieces, too. (That's one reason I gave your blog the Premio Dardos award.) Discussion and contemplation is good for us all. As far as my rollercoaster, here goes:

Diagnosis was a baffling, but reassuring thing. At least, I knew I wasn't making up all my symptoms.

I went through a terrible period of detox after going gluten free. I had no energy and had to work part time for a while. Even driving an hour somewhere would exhaust me.

Giving up baking for a while was very tough since I love to bake. Finally, I found my GF flour mix and learned how to do everything easily.

Giving up other foods that I found out I had issues with was tough, too. Dairy and sugar are the hardest ... still fighting that battle.

I've gone on too long already, but the highs and positives are the very best. I never look back and I am constantly trying to educate folks on how going gluten free could resolve so many issues for them.

Thanks so much for this post. I'll be thinking of you guys.


Rebecca said...

My wishes for a speed recovery and see you guys tomorrow with some GF veggie chili! This post was so interesting! XO

peterbronski said...

Hi Steph, Kate, Shirley and Rebecca,

My sincerest thanks to all of you for the well wishes, thoughts, prayers and support. It means a ton!

To Steph and Shirley, thanks for sharing some of the highs and lows of your own GF journeys. It's interesting to see what milestones we place as highs and lows. Steph, you put diagnosis as a low. But for me, the months were preceding the diagnosis were the low, and diagnosis itself was a big high, because I finally had an answer and felt empowered to start doing something about my health. Shirley, as always, I love your positive outlook and "never looking back." It's full speed ahead!

Kelli and Marin are both sleeping at the moment - they both seem to be exhausted from everything that has gone on. (Come to think of it, I think I could use a nap myself!) But day by day, our family is inching back to health.

Cheers, Pete

Kelly said...


Wow, I applaud you for this post. Sending you all lots of love and speedy recovery!

My lows were several misdiagnosis - the "ulcer" that wasn't there, the "parasite" a year later that also wasn't there - Both of which resulted in huge amounts of antibiotics, resulting in candida - chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety. Blaaa!

As for the "highs" - well - definitely figuring out that I was celiac - Amen! hahaha! And then getting better and feeling healthy - finally! But that's just me; my kids were another rollercoaster entirely - behavioral, autism, etc, but worth every minute of it ! :-) And doing awesome now! Phew!

Blessings, Kelly

peterbronski said...

Hi Kelly,

Thanks for your well wishes. They're much appreciated! And very glad to hear that after you and your kids went on your respective roller coasters that everything is looking good now! Kelli, Marin and I got out to the farmer's market for a little while on Saturday - it was great to get Kelli out of the house, enjoy the sunshine and spring weather, and pick up some fresh, local goodies!

Cheers, Pete