I’m sure I am not the only one who has found themselves saying, ” I didn’t ask for this.” Trust me when I say that this road was not chosen. I struggled daily for a long time with wondering if somehow I was being punished. Knowing that food is the source of what makes you sick almost daily is discouraging and to say it impacts your social life would be a huge understatement.
I’m an introvert. I have always preferred getting together with one to two close friends over group settings. However, I find that I am typically an inconvenience even to get together with one friend now. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that restaurants, with only a few exceptions, do not cater to those with health conditions that make it essential that the person strictly avoids specific foods. Even the restaurants that do are not a comfort zone for many with allergies and other conditions. This leaves the person to trust that the staff at a particular location has enough compassion and understanding of food allergies/intolerances to change gloves and clean cooking stations and utensils. If they fail to do so, I will spent the rest of the day/night throwing up or suffering other reactions depending on which food my meal came in contact with. Then in the following days, I am sure to feel pretty lousy. All conditions are different but for some, cross-contamination can be deadly.
Other people don’t understand this and it is not fair for me to expect them to. Not only can this be an inconvenience when you are going out to eat but it is in most other settings also. Going to a party? You’re the one person who can’t eat anything which is always a great conversation starter, right? One that gets boring quickly and usually ends with a skeptical, “I’m sorry.” It’s awful that I now hate when people look at me with sympathy because I know most don’t believe me anyways. They don’t understand.
This past week, a friend and I had discussed going to a health food store after work. The day of, I requested we head to the store at 7 PM after I had had dinner. She said this was too late for her which I expected so we canceled. I had rice for lunch that day and missed breakfast. I was starving and as I sorted through the recipes I could make for dinner, it occurred to me that anything I would make was going to take a few hours between cutting veggies, preparing meat, and letting it all cook. True home cooking can be unbelievably satisfying but it can be a challenge when you work forty hours a week. Boxed meals which are always packed with corn starch or traces or wheat and/or dairy were out of the question and the thought of having rice again made my stomach turn.
I say all of this because I know that there are others out there like me who are saying “I didn’t ask for this.” I never wanted to be forced to restrict my diet to exclude all the foods that I enjoy most. Baking has always been one of my greatest joys and now, it’s one of my greatest challenges. There was a time when I loved cooking dinner for my husband because it didn’t take two hours to prepare. I loved having guests over to share a meal with friends and family but this is a rare occurrence now. I am having to learn to cook again with ingredients I had never heard of that cost double, often triple, what I’d pay for common substitutes. I didn’t ask for this.
Every day my husband reminds me that I’m worth it. He is encouraging and patient as we figure out life together through these roadblocks. However, there will be few people in my life who will also say to me that I am worth it. I know that there will be few people in my life who want to spend time with me despite the inconvenience that I can’t be due to my illness. I’m learning that that is okay. I’m also learning that while most people won’t go out of their way to be my friend, that some will. Just a few days ago, my husband shared with a friend how I had been really struggling lately. That friend and his sweet wife showed up a few hours later to surprise me with a smoothie which of course, they had to call me to order to make sure it didn’t include any of the foods that could make me sick. My heart melted when I found out they wanted to do this for me. I literally had to leave my desk at work and go to the restroom to cry.
If you’ve never seen the movie Inside Out, I would encourage you to watch it. The main character, a little girl, moves away with her parents to a new town leaving everything she loves behind. In the movie, you watch as the emotions in her brain are played out by characters. Her joy is lost and she is going through a time of experiencing emotions like fears, sadness, and anger. Watching this movie, I began to understand how I, like many others facing their own battles, feel today. As I wait on results for an MRI and EMG, there are nights where I wake up and I can’t get back to sleep because I’m afraid. There are days when I’m fighting everything in me to hold the joy that I once held so easily. I miss the way my life was before all of this and even though I know that it will somehow work out for God’s glory, it’s hard understand at times.
Today, I cling closer to the unconditional love that I find in Christ. When others don’t understand, He greets me with compassion and open arms. To others like me who feel abandoned at times and as though the world around you is saying, “You are not worth it,” know that God is saying “You are worth it and you are so loved.” He wants to be your friend and comforter. He wants time with you even when others see you as an inconvenience.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Mathew 11:28 NIV