taking a detour

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It’s funny how we never really know what’s going on in others’ lives. We are only privy to snippets of what being someone else is like. Especially in the world of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and all the other supposed connectedness that the interwebs grant us; we probably know next to nothing about the people we “visit” and “talked” to everyday.

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We can paint a perfect picture to send out into the world or create a soapbox to sound off on, all while safely positioned behind the screen that our dsl cable or our phone plan provides us. All of us have done it, created a pretty little picture of a pretty little life, just edit out the boring parts, take away the nasty bits, eliminate the hard decisions, gloss over the struggles and there- you now have a beautiful portrait to put on display.

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Just like when I take a photo and I actively do my best to crop out the chaos and the things I deem either ugly or unimportant, I have spent the last months presenting you with a portrait that only tells a fraction of our story. I was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune disease where my body is actively doing its best to kill my thyroid gland (which apparently controls almost every function in your body. Who knew?), mistakenly believing that it is something foreign and will cause my gland to slowly diminish in function, possibly stop all together, over my lifetime. This has caused a year-long bout with hypothyroidism, which I will spare you the, oh so lovely, details of (if you wish, you can read more about it here) and has resulted in my doctor asking me to remove gluten completely from my diet. Apparently, gluten has the same chemical makeup as the cells of your thyroid gland and when you eat that delicious piece of cake or slice of bread your immune systems goes into overdrive, not only attacking the gluten coming in but hitting your thyroid even harder. My diagnosis also means that I must be on some form of thyroid hormone replacement for the rest of my life, something that this chemical free, home-birthing, coconut oil swilling, refusing to clean with anything other than vinegar and my other homemade concoctions woman really struggled with accepting.

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I had originally thought that finding a reason for feeling like I’d aged 50 years over the course of one would have been a huge relief but it has not been quite so black and white and having to remove one of my favorite things from my diet, seemingly over night, has done nothing but add insult to injury. I am Italian after all, so basically I have lost an entire food group here people! My doctor warned that this is not something that can be managed instantaneously and often requires tweaking, especially in the medication department, until continuous control of my hypo symptoms can occur. There could also be times where I will swing into hyperthyroidism and back again, another common occurrence with Hashimoto’s and something that obviously makes calculating the amount of hormones I need to take on a month to month basis even harder. I have had a few symptoms ease over the last month of treatment but honestly my bad days still seem to be more prevalent than the good, so much so, that sometimes I’ll have a fantastic morning then crash and burn by dinner time, other days it can be reversed.

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I have struggled with whether to share our newest obstacles here or to just keep it close. This was never meant to be a personal blog, however, it is written from my point-of-view and about our collective life. I do not want to spend my time, or yours, whining and complaining. What I do hope to accomplish from sharing this is possibly connecting with others who have dealt with similar situations, whether it be some type of thyroiditis (or any chronic illness for that matter), gluten-free living or both. Our first go at gluten-free bread, which called for potato starch, tasted like, well, potatoes…and not in a yummy way! And even though we rarely eat any convenience food, the quick, yet still organic meals that I did use when we were overworked, or just simply ran out of hours in the day, all seem to contain a gluten filled product as their main ingredient. It seems like we are starting from scratch and re-teaching ourselves something that we had just gotten the hang of.

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Truth is, I have times where the food restrictions alone get me down and cause me to wish that I could just go back to bed and sleep through the day. I also struggle with not being able to go, go , go the way I once did. Working in the garden now consists of a few minutes weeding and a few minutes sitting…greatly reducing my productivity. And if I push too hard through a given day, inevitably the following day will be a bad one; a full day out with Kevin and the kids on a Saturday means an entire Sunday lost, trying to recover. All of this causes me to feel like a frail 80-year-old woman, as opposed to, the capable 30-year-old that I should be…which tends to take a toll on my overall morale as well.

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This new path that we are forced to walk now will, unfortunately, be pervasive into every aspect of our homesteading life. Everything from the food we grow and cook, to time management and accomplishment of tasks will have to be reworked. There are some days where I am less than helpful and Kevin has to steer this ship all on his own. Needless to say, he’s been a little extra tired and made a few more trips to the chiropractor than usual, as of late. I am also, yet again, reminded of how much of a saint this man of mine is, the same guy who insisted on eliminating almost all gluten from his diet in order to support me! And while I do not wish to ever be defined by this I do need to learn how to live within the confines it creates, which is something I am bound to struggle with as I have always been a “doer”, often pushing through into the wee hours until a particular goal is reached.

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Even though, I am angry and sad that I have to deal (sometimes fight against) this new reality of mine, I am also grateful, both for the fact that, if controlled, it will likely never be life-threatening and for the lesson that it has already given me. Struggles are quiet little creatures that many carry with them, hidden from us all, tucked away in their pocket or shoved to the bottom of their bag. We have no idea what they could be feeling, what really triggered that seemingly exaggerated emotion to what we view as a benign situation. Someone could have every joint in their body aching and throbbing, regardless of just having got out of bed and after sleeping for 12 hours straight. They are also, probably, not out of shape (they may even exercise on a regular basis) and they are most likely not inherently lazy. They are doing the best they can, with the hand they were dealt on that particular day and are probably harder and more judgmental of themselves than you could ever dream of being.

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Here’s to giving everyone a little leeway, ourselves included.

Do you have an experience to share or any go-to gluten-free recipes that you swear by? 

*To the family members and non-internet friends who are reading: know that if this is the first you are hearing about all of this it is not because I was trying to hide it or didn’t want to share it with you before I broadcasted it over the internet. Recently, our time has been spent assimilating all of this new information and trying to adjust our lifestyle and thought process, well that, and trying to keep the homestead running while most days we end up being one worker short…which you wouldn’t think would be a big deal…but when you are already essentially two able bodies short of an actual farm crew, it really is. I also figured that this post was a way to have the conversation once, rather than 100 times. I welcome any questions or thoughts you all might have.

Love Always, -L

20 thoughts on “taking a detour

  1. Hugs to you, well I have not been on a health journey such that you are embarking on, I do appreciate how difficult it must be.

    I have a friend who blogs about gluten free living, lots of great recipes for breads, crackers, muffins, cookies, etc. She is awesome and you can find her here http://www.sheletthemeatcake.com

    Wishing you all the best and sending thoughts your way.

  2. BIG love. I had a taste of dramatic life and food change trying to stave off gestational diabetes. I have many friends who are paleo or gluten-free and do it well. The hardest part for me to part with carbs was the total disregard for the culture within which I grew up: no pasta?! I’ll never forget the phone conversation with the midwife no more than 8 minutes after I devoured a plate of pasta primavera and drank an entire of chocolate milk. I still work on keeping all carbs and sugar to a minimum and work on a daily mantra of self-forgiveness. As an all-or-nothing kind of girl, I would get down on myself for one little slip, which would cause future slips, in a self-perpetuation cycle of crazy unhappiness. It’s really, really hard to rethink every step of your life to assimilate new information. Take your time, be forgiving of yourself and stock your cabinets with things you can eat as a convenience when you’re stressed. And, most of all, don’t forget breakfast-for- dinner nights 🙂 xoxo Also know that it’s apparently worth the extra money for an all-purpose baking flour mix, which helps with the “tasting like potato/chickpea/almond bread” and Wegmans has a great convenience section of gluten free items. your local food coop might too. xoxox erin

    • YES to all of this! The little one handed me a pretzel stick today and I ate it with out thinking. I swear it took an hour before I realized what I had done. (Did I mention brain fog is another symptom, lol) My first instinct was to kick myself so I’m gonna have to work on that self-forgiveness thing. 😉 thanks for the suggestions too; the AP flour mix is going to be an ongoing odyssey, the first two we tried were awful.

      Thankfully, most chocolate, red wine and homemade ice cream are all gluten-free…so most likely I will survive! 😛

  3. So sorry to hear of your struggles. Four years ago we had to cope with my husband’s throat cancer- all he could eat in the end was pasta! I joined him in this diet (Did nothing for my waist line, but kept his weight up which was the main thing). We got through it a day at a time, and he’s fine now. But it gives me an inkling on what you are facing. My son through choice follows a paleo diet- he just does without bread full stop- I have followed the recipes he gave me, when they come to stay, which involved coconut flour and sweet potatoes! You’ll find a way.
    In one of the various jobs I had I visited old people- some who gave in and those that fought- my favourite quote from one lady was “I does a little and I rests a little then I does a bit more!” That’s the way- be gentle to yourself!

    • So glad your husband is well and I admire your son for making the choice to eat paleo. I’m sure it is a much healthier existence eliminating wheat, and heavy consumption of grains in general, so I keep trying to reframe it all as a blessing in disguise! Love the quote too! ❤

  4. Dear Laura!!
    I feel for your struggle and wish I could help in some real way. You are doing such a beautiful job with all you do, children and farm, and family and inventor of egg dishes (with enviable beautiful blue and green eggs!) and artistic blogger/author — i just know you be inspired to figure out just the right diet that will work for you and still be tasty. Half my family are paleo (non-gluten) eaters just by choice, and thrive on it. I have asked them to send recipes. Love, Anne LoPiano

    • Thank you for the kind words Anne! Just knowing that there are so many sending positive vibes out into the universe for me is enough. 🙂 thanks for inquiring about the recipes as well. It helps to know that actual people are preparing and eating the recipes…I think they end up being tastier than the random ones you find through google! ❤

  5. Hi Laura
    Thanks for sharing your struggle in such a beautiful heartfelt way. Having experienced first-hand the goodies that have come out of your kitchen, (and being Italian), I can imagine the difficulties as you move forward. However I’ve also seen the amazing things you & Kevin & the rest of your awesome family have accomplished already at the farm. I know you will rise to this new challenge, too. Love, Linda Goebel

    • Thank you for your kind words, encourgament and faith in us! We have been working very hard to re-teach ourselves how to bake and cook in general. Hopefully, we will find some recipes that we like especially before the holidays roll around.

  6. Laura, I’ve been meaning to comment on this for ages! On my Nurse Practitioner’s advice I gave up gluten about a year and a half ago when I was having fertility issues. Little did I know there were a bunch of other health things that I didn’t think could possibly be gluten related (rashes I thought were poison oak, canker sores, migraine headaches, etc.) that sure were- lots of things got better! It was a sad transition at first and I still miss things when I focus on them, but I think overall my diet is much better. We still eat pasta! There are some good rice based ones, you just have to get good at cooking them. There is such a huge range in the quality of GF products out there- just keep trying stuff until you find the tasty ones. There are lots that are not a compromise at all. I would warn against trying to substitute all of your favorite gluten rich items right off the bat, though. For instance, give your pallet some time to forget the exact texture of perfect bread. Bread is kind of the final frontier for GF living, I think. It’s really tough to get better than a quick bread type consistency.
    Some of our staples: Bob’s Red Mill corn bread mix- not very sweet, I make them as muffins to always have a quick starch around, Pamela’s Pancake mix- use way less water than they call for and add fruit, Pamela’s Brownie Mix- super dangerous. Making a quick lunch became a challenge so we have gotten into the habit of lots of leftovers so I can heat something up the next day. I try to always have some extra quinoa (toast it in a pan first and make with stock or bouillon), rice or GF pasta in the fridge as well to make stuff up quick.
    My guess would be that the lack of energy and down mood related to the Hashimoto’s is making this whole diet transition much, much harder. As a nurse at work and in my immediate family I have seen people go through the process of finding the right level of thyroid supplementation and boy do things get better when people get it right. Clearly the vibrant, 30 year old you is still in there! You are still getting so much done (I just saw the garden pics- wow) despite all that has been going on!
    Hang in there. It gets better!

    • Ellis,

      Your comment was so touching because it was the exact support and understanding that I was hoping for by putting all this personal stuff out into the world!! Funny you should mention the other aliments that you experienced that were alleviated by eliminating gluten. I too suffer from chronic cankers sores, migraines and a chronic, autoimmune skin rash called Granuloma Annulare (some believe that the GA is somehow connected to gluten intolerance as a higher percentage of people with Celiac have GA than people without. All have plagued me since puberty. Probably should have seen the Hashimoto’s and hypo coming sooner, considering.

      I have been playing with the gluten-free pasta and have only cooked it correctly once, lol. My first go at it turned to glue and of course my second was, let’s say, too al dente! I totally agree with you on the bread front, I was just telling my MIL the other day that I am to the point of it being easier to just not eat anything that requires a sandwich bread consistency. If I make cheeseburgers or pulled pork for dinner I just forgo the roll all together because, otherwise, it actually ruins the rest of the meal for me, try eating something that just doesn’t taste good/right. Like you said, it will probably just make the overall quality of my diet better and I am slowly getting used to not eating those things.

      Thanks for the brand recommendations as well. I made corn bread, with Bob’s Red Mill, last weekend for a side at dinner and then ate it for the next few days at breakfast with eggs. It was fantastic! Pamela’s mixes are next on my list to try so thanks for the tips. Lunch as been my downfall as well, I have to work on thinking outside the box on what to eat midday. My appetite has been strange since starting the meds so I usually end up grazing throughout the day, which would probably work better if at the beginning of the week I prepared stuff and stuck it in the fridge so I could quickly grab it when the rare urge to eat strikes.

      As you said, the symptoms definitely make the adjustment to a whole new lifestyle that much harder and I should probably attribute the look of the garden more to my, seemingly superhuman, husband than to myself as of late. 😉

      Know that your comment really brightened my day and helped put into perspective that this is all totally doable, I just need to take it one step at a time…something I’m not particuarly good at but that I am working on. 🙂

      • One step at a time, bleah! I hear you on that one, I prefer manic marathons of activity myself. But alas, it is surely the way to go on this one. I’m still recovering from my pregnancy and although it is nothing compared to the work you’re doing right now to get better, I feel super frustrated that I can’t do everything the way I used to be able to.
        And as to the superhumans in your world- count yourself too! When I work with patients in crisis I often wish the mood and energy problems could be somehow visible to others (and to themselves, really). We don’t expect a person with multiple broken bones, lying in bed in traction to hop up and make themselves dinner. With these invisible problems, however, no one can see how difficult even the most basic things can be and people’s expectations can be totally unfair. It becomes such a confidence destroyer when everyone, including the patient in most cases, is thinking why can’t he just feel better? or do x, y and z? It’s not so easy. I think I’d take some broken bones over a broken thyroid.
        I’m so glad you got a diagnosis and are on the path to healing. I have a sense you are the kind of person that will find the gifts that this process has to offer, although I’m sure they are still pretty buried at this point.

      • Thanks for you supportive and encouraging words! They help remind me of what’s important. I hope your postpartum recovery gets better and you can get back to feeling like your normal self again too. 🙂

  7. We have been GF for almost 7 years now (and I’m Italian 😉 ). First I want to assure you that it gets easier. The first 6 months are the hardest. It quickly becomes “normal” life.
    Tinkyada brown rice pasta has been our favorite from the start. We don’t bother with any others anymore. You do have to watch it carefully as it goes quickly from done to mush.
    I love the “Gluten-Free Gourmet” series of cookbooks. They include our absolute favorite bread recipe that we make weekly as our sandwich bread.
    It will get easier!

    • You are so right, it really is beginning to feel like second nature now. And thank you so much for the pasta recommendation. I found some at our local grocer and made it for dinner last night, it was AMAZING. I don’t know if it’s just the fact that I haven’t had wheat pasta in awhile or if it is really just that good but it tasted nothing like gluten-free to me! That will definitely help keep morale a little higher around here now! 😀

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