Tag Archives: anxiety

Gluten-Free Astrology: Virgo (Born August 23 – September 22)

Hey, Gluten-Free Virgo, wait up! Don’t click…darn. Lost another one. Logical Virgo is the sign least likely to brook the vague suppositions on which astrology is founded, so I’m sure they’ve mostly fled.

Nevertheless, for those in the Virgo ranks whose anxious nature keeps them from completely dismissing even something so silly as a horoscope, or who are working on broadening their rational worldview, or who are simply too kind to abandon me now, I’ll carry on. After all, this stuff is important. Get ready, because my spot-on analysis is about to blow your left-brained mind.

Fun fact: your sign is the Virgin, but she stands more for purity of purpose than for any other kind of purity that might occur to you—though most of you are probably still a bit too reserved to go prancing about naked like this statue. Photo © Tom Magliery | Flickr

Fun fact: your sign is the Virgin, but she stands more for purity of purpose than for any other kind of purity that might occur to you—though most of you are probably still a bit too reserved to go prancing about naked like this statue.
Photo © Tom Magliery | Flickr

The GF Virgo is an organized creature. When you hit the road or the skies, there’s no throwing a half-stale bag of Popchips and a Larabar into the suitcase at the last minute for you; you travel prepared with an assortment of food optimized to fill all your calorie and nutrient needs for precisely the amount of time you’ll be away—plus backups in your carry-on and a bento box for the flight. And no, you didn’t accidentally pack anything liquid.

When you were first diagnosed with celiac or gluten intolerance, you wasted no time in clearing out the pantry, wiping down every surface, and perhaps even lining your drawers and resealing the dining room table.

Because of your budget savviness, you’d probably amassed quite an impressive pantry, so throwing out all of those opened packages of flour and pasta and even not-glutenous but possibly contaminated containers of sugar and baking soda may have hurt a little—but just a little. Your mottos are “order above all else”; “a clean home is a happy home”; “idle hands are the devil’s playthings”; and all that Protestant ethic jazz. Some may therefore consider you rather cold or callous, or at the very least a stickler.

And, well, the stickler part is probably true. No trying “just a taste” or figuring “this should be safe” for you. Every package gets checked, every question gets asked, every manufacturer gets directly called. And, as a result, many fewer glutenings get got. You go, GF Virgo.

The cold and callous part, though? No, that’s not you. You care intensely about doing the right thing, and that includes doing right by others. You’re dedicated to your family, friends, and community—so though you may not be as nurturing as a Cancer or as buoyant as a Leo, in your own way you’re just as warm as your fellow summertime signs.

Photo © Rromir Imami | Flickr

Your symbol, the Virgin, is often pictured holding a sheaf of wheat. In the GF Virgo’s case, she’s probably carrying it somewhere far away from her own kitchen to gift to someone who will be able to use it. Because that’s just the kind of person she is. (She will then scrub her hands for five minutes afterwards. Because that’s also the kind of person she is.)
Photo © Rromir Imami | Flickr

This month, you might put your conscientiousness to work on behalf of your fellow GFers by helping a local restaurant to iron out the kinks in its gluten-free service. Using your eagle eye for flaws, teach that sandwich bar attendee to keep the breaded chicken farther away from the cucumber, or point out (gently) that soup isn’t gluten-free if it’s served in a bread bowl. Or take advantage of back-to-school season to do a little educating of your own—many public and private schools have a thing or two to learn about gluten and allergies. Beware, however, of your tendency to overcomplicate. Not every change must be implemented by a planning committee.

Oh, and while I’m criticizing you, I should remind you that you yourself have a tendency to be overcritical, not only of others but of yourself. Virgo rules over the nervous system and the intestines, so the GF Virgo is at the heart of a perfect storm when it comes to gluten-induced anxiety. You’re also quite health-focused, and therefore prone to hypochondria. This month, try to take it easy on yourself; give yourself the same care you give others, but avoid obsessing over the details of your day-to-day wellness. Getting out of your own head (and your extraordinarily tidy house) just might be the best thing for it.

GF Virgos tend to be shy, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few famous ones running around. (Pardon me, they are in fact very rarely found “running around” as opposed to “proceeding in a calm and efficient manner toward their goal.”) Here are a couple:

Confucius

Confucius

Confucius, born September 28th, 551 BC, might seem to have a birthday outside of the Virgo date range. However, my ultimate guide to astrology and several less trusty but ultimately convincing websites tell me he was a Virgo, so I’m just going to assume it has something to do with planetary motion and thousands of years having passed and all that. But was he a GF Virgo? Judge for yourself: I hear Confucius said, “I do not eat if I do not get the proper soy sauce.” Sounds like a celiac saying to me.

Mother Theresa

Mother Theresa

Mother Theresa, born August 26th, 1910, would not be very happy to hear herself associated with this blasphemy, but she was without a doubt a Virgo through and through. It takes some serious belief in rules, order, and a sense of what’s right to become a nun in the first place, not to mention do the additional work to which she dedicated her life. But GF? Well, I don’t mean to say that Mother Theresa was a fad dieter, but she did briefly flirt with eating nothing but rice and salt, in imitation of the diet of the poor. She was talked out of it eventually, but at least for a time, turns out, she was by default a GF Virgo.

Anyone else you can think of? I can’t help but imagine that all of those celiac experts must fall under this sign (Peter Green? Stefano Guandalini? Alessio Fasano? Total Virgos). However, I don’t know their birthdays, and neither does Google, it seems, so you’ll have to take my word for it—though if you’re a GF Virgo, you totally won’t.

As always, the “information,” such as it is, in this post has been largely ripped off from The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk, which is in fact the only astrology book you’ll ever need (need here being a relative term).

See also: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo

My dear GF Virgo friends, I am ready for you to tear into me for propagating such unremitting nonsense. (But…come on…didn’t I get it just a little right? Let me know if so!)

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How many crumbs would a wood table suck if a wood table could suck up crumbs?

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably already have a sense of this, but let me remind you: I’m kind of an anxious person.

That said, I’m also a forgetful person. This combination means that sometimes I forget to be anxious until after something has already happened. It’s like my brain decides, “Hang on a second, I didn’t hear your heart racing. Let’s try that again.”

Throughout my school years, this tendency manifested itself in anxiety dreams about tests and report cards after I’d already received my grades. And, not to brag, but they were generally good ones—so what was I so worried about? Today, I keep up the tradition at work by hitting “send” on emails only to immediately scroll through them to check for typos or misaddressed salutations or other pernicious little errors—too late to take it back, but not too late to stress about it.

And, of course, if I run out of fodder for my after-the-fact fretting, there’s always gluten.

Take this recent example: my sister and I bought a table.

“What’s so stressful about that?,” you might ask (if you didn’t read the post’s title, that is; otherwise, you’ve probably already guessed, you smartypants, you). Here’s what’s stressful about that:

It’s a used table.

A used wooden table.

Now, a used wooden table is not in and of itself stressful. In fact, when my sister and I were at the store picking it out, I was quite relaxed. We spotted the table almost right away, so I didn’t have to worry we wouldn’t find one that day. We’d thought to take measurements of our kitchen before heading out, so I didn’t have to worry that it wouldn’t fit. We haggled down the price a bit and got some chairs thrown into the bargain, so I didn’t have to worry about price. And Salvation Army delivers—every few weeks, at least—so we didn’t have to worry about transport.

I didn’t even think to worry about gluten.

But yesterday, the table arrived (no returns allowed), and all of a sudden I thought to worry. People (including me) throw out wooden spoons and cutting boards after diagnosis, after all. How many times have you read that “wood is a porous material that can trap small amounts of gluten” (on sites like About.com). Wood is pretty much the first thing to go, after, you know, the sack of semolina you’ve been hoarding to make your own pasta with one day. And here I’d gone and introduced a big hunk of used wood right into my gluten-free kitchen sanctuary.

I thought it over. Just how much gluten could be in that table? Had its previous owners used it as a cutting board for bread, or rolled out cookies directly on its surface? Was there a baby in its former home who mashed her cereal—or Play-Doh—into its wooden grains? Did the family eat dumplings or empanadas or pierogies at this table? Pasta or pizza or pie dough? And how much of it, if so, would have gotten into the table itself? Was the table, even now, dropping crumbs onto the floor beneath it? (It didn’t seem to be…but gluten is small.) Would I gluten myself just by touching the table or eating at it? Should we leave it wrapped in the plastic in which it came? Or should I simply avoid eating at my own table? If I didn’t, would I steadily lose the gains I’ve made, and gain the antibodies I’ve lost?

In short: What. Had. We. Done?

I chewed my lip, wrung my hands, and ambushed my sister the moment she got home from work.

“We have a table!” she said, happily.

“Yeah!” I said, feigning cheeriness just for a moment. Then I dropped the ruse. “What if it has gluten on it?” I said.

My sister—clever, even-keeled sister—thought that one over for about half a second, and replied, “Well, we could just eat off of plates. And maybe use a tablecloth.”

Oh.

Right.

People use plates and tablecloths, don’t they? Somewhat regularly, even. Nice, comforting things, plates and tablecloths: things through which gluten—real or imaginary—cannot penetrate.

Feeling foolish, I nodded. “Yes, or placemats.”

“Placemats,” Althea agreed decisively. “I like that.”

With that, all my buyer’s remorse and postmortem nerves—suddenly as silly seeming as any of those report card nightmares in the light of day—evaporated.

Well, almost.

When buying secondhand, there’s always one thing left to worry about: that is, of course, bedbugs.

Indulge me with your thoughts on whether, say, an Udi’s cookie dropped onto a washed wooden table should be considered cross-contaminated, or tell me about the last time you made a mountain out of a molehill. Otherwise, have a worry-free weekend.

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Riddikulus! Gluten, boggarts, and powerful magic

Are you sick of the Harry Potter references yet? No? Good, because there’s more where that’s coming from.

Recently, as I was cataloging the changes to my malleable psyche effected by my celiac diagnosis (nearly six months—that magical number—ago!), it occurred to me that were I to encounter a boggart in a dark alleyway, wardrobe, or Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, it would probably now take on the form of a gigantic piece of wheat bread shedding crumbs as it staggered toward me on crusty legs. (Before, it definitely would’ve been bedbugs.)

WalkingBread_original

This is a sticker I received in a Breaking Up With Captain Crunch giveaway. Too good not to share.

If you, like me, devoted years of your child- or adulthood to reading and internalizing the Harry Potter series, you already know that the only charm to defeat a boggart—a shape-shifter that instinctively takes the form of its opponent’s greatest fear—is Riddikulus. The charm, as dear Professor Lupus put it, “is simple, yet it requires force of mind.” You must close your eyes, concentrate hard, and dream up a way to make fun of your greatest fear. Once the boggart has taken on its new and hilarious form, there’s just one thing you must do to vanquish it: laugh.

hp3_16

That walking bread? Give it a big toaster-burnt spot in the shape of a mustache. Or envision a gigantic toddler picking it up and gumming it to smithereens—with a bib to catch the crumbs, of course. Or speckle it with freezer burn, open up a big air hole in the middle, and imagine it as gluten-free bread from the nineties—which, from what I hear, was either very funny or very scary. Cross-contamination, schmoss-contamination, and boggart begone!

Photo © kaylacasey | Flickr

Photo © kaylacasey | Flickr

At the NYC Celebrate Celiac event this past Saturday (more details to come), I talked to a bunch of great people, and speaking about my blog helped me to put into words a mission statement I hadn’t concretely realized before: Gluten-free is for life, so you’d better start finding ways to laugh about it.

Whether you’re newly diagnosed and afraid you’ll never fit in or eat well again, or a seasoned g-freer who dreads the idea of a waiter chirping, “Whoo-oops, I thought you said vegan!,” chances are if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity you’ve got a gluten-related boggart or two. It is my hope that my posts do less to feed your demons and more to dispel them, using the most magical weapon at our disposal: laughter.

I’m not saying being gluten-free is fun—I’m just saying it’s funny. It’s comical that I get twitchy about passing a dish of wheat noodles at the dinner table or standing too close to someone eating a bagel on the subway. It’s silly that I have to keep a sponge in my desk drawer and carry it to the sink to wash dishes at work. It’s hilarious whenever someone asks me, “What happens to you when you eat gluten?”

For me, every time the concept of Gluten-Free For Life starts to seem serious or scary, I can find a million reasons—starting with the word gluten itself—to laugh about it instead. I hope you feel the same way about celiac, or NCGS, or whatever else ails you. After all, as Dumbledore would certainly agree, to the well-organized mind, it all is but the next great adventure.

By the way, in case you were wondering: Yes, this blog is written pseudonymously by J. K. Rowling.

Tell me what your boggart would turn into, and how you’d defeat it. What’s the funniest thing to strike your gluten-free fancy recently?

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Good news, bad attitude

Guess what.

My test results came back!

I had been anticipating them with the same bated-breath anxiety that has preceded every report card or grade posting in my life (like I said, total Ravenclaw). When the email appeared in my oft-refreshed inbox, here’s what I found:

My tTG antibodies, which in January were hovering at some nebulous above-100 level, are down to 4. Single digits, baby! With the “negative” range defined as 1 to 3, that makes me practically normal.

My vitamin levels, which we all know I was having some trouble getting up, are now normal to HIGH, thanks no doubt to the multivitamin I’ve been dutifully taking (increasing my risk of cancer with every milligram, if the New York Times is to be believed). The one exception is the still somewhat low vitamin D, which is hard to believe considering how much sun I get. I mean, look at this healthy glow:

Photo on 6-27-13 at 8.51 PM

My WBC is just barely low and my RDW is just barely high, which according to Google indicates anemia, or maybe AIDS, or, most likely, nothing.

Everything else? Normal, normal, normal. Normal!

This is good news. It means my body is backing off. It means I’m doing this gluten-free thing right. It probably means, as my sister reminded me, that the Arrowhead Mills popcorn was perfectly safe. Phew!

With the active siege nearing an end, I suppose it also means that my little sprue city has begun to recover. Somewhere deep inside me, villi are getting to their feet, stretching out, feasting on now-overabundant nutrients. At peace at last, my body will, I suppose, turn its attention to patching wounds and rebuilding infrastructure and, from there, to business as usual. The battle is won.

But, like any good pessimist, I’m not satisfied. Eating away at the sense of victory is the fact that I still feel about the same.

If you’ll permit me to return to the report card metaphor: It’s a bit like getting an A in a class without feeling that you actually learned anything. There’s a sense that the instructor missed something, that the serviceable papers you wrote and the multiple-choice bubbles you filled in merely concealed the depths of your ignorance. That if the grader were just a bit more perceptive you’d have failed.

Thus, the picking through the results for abnormalities; thus, the restless Googling of unfamiliar abbreviations; thus, the overwhelming urge to diagnose myself with latent adult-onset type 1 diabetes or Sjögren’s Syndrome or acute hypochondria. Like any objective, abstract metric, the test results are unconvincing in the face of my subjective but oh-so-concrete feeling of being unwell.

I’ll see my doctor in a couple weeks to discuss the results, and if the visit is anything like the last one, she’ll tell me not to worry, that this takes time, that a handful of months—however long they’ve seemed, however many blog posts you’ve crammed into them—are brief in the scope of celiac recovery.

In the meantime, I’m curious to know, for those of you with celiac experience: which went first, the symptoms or the antibodies? 

And, for everyone: how do you think I should celebrate?

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