So! I did a thing a while back. I didn't tell anyone. Anyone at all. And now it is time to come clean, because it's been long enough that I think I can finally shoot down the pushers.
I did a second gluten-free trial, lasting just under one month. I spoke to all three doctors and specialists, who were okay with it. Although I shall quote my primary physician, Dr Carolyn, who has treated me since 2003: "I don't see why it's really necessary, though. You've never had gluten sensitivity, let alone celiac. But if it will help you psychologically, then sure. Let me know." And to quote my neurologist, Dr Debbie: "Why are you doing this to convince other people? I mean, I'm genuinely amused. You don't need to cut out gluten for health reasons, anyway." All I could do was shrug and say, "I guess to prove a point to the health-pushers?" She said I had a point, since that was irritating, to be pushed at.
The results were...
Wait for it...
There was no reduction in chronic pain, fatigue, inflammation, or malaise symptoms of any kind. I did not feel more energized nor clear-headed. My life did not change, not even a flicker.
Now. For the past several weeks, I've been verbally assaulted across the board by people who just want me to feel better - by using blatant, callous emotional manipulation to force me to comply.
The most popular one so far has been "Well, what if you were dying? What if you found out that gluten would kill you and that by going gluten-free you could save your life?" See, okay, that is a fascinating thing right now. That is one of the most manipulative, passive-aggressive, hard-hitting, one-sided forms of coercion ever. The speaker is hoping to catch the listener in a corner, with no choice but to agree. And see, they're correct there. Obviously if I were in such a scenario, of course I would go gluten-free. But the catch is that I am not dying. I am not sick. Thus, no desire nor need to go gluten-free. Not unless that life or death scenario occurs!
Following up that particular attack, we then have this, "Well, then, don't you think going gluten-free would at least reduce symptoms and pain?" Which ties into the first, of course, and is subtle enough to seem harmless and reasonable. And... no. Because gluten causes problems if one is reacting to gluten. Which I wasn't. "But I read this book written by this doctor that said that for everybody, gluten can cause overall body inflammation and pain!" For everybody, really? All seven billion humans, with the exact same medical issue. One would assume the CDC, FDA, and various world governments would be all on top of that like roaches on dog food. Plus, I listened to a conversation said by this doctor, who is personally treating me, that said that I didn't need to restrict my diet like that. But you're right, book-writing doctors would know better.
Now, the big guns. This attack is my favorite, because it strikes right at the heart, it tries to destroy the option of choice: "So, I guess you'd prefer a life of pain over fewer symptoms." It can be said in multiple ways, but the core is always a smug, smarmy, morally superior, I've got you now rhetoric. It's a tough one to counter. If you say yes, you seem as though you just don't ever want to really help yourself after all. If you say no, well, why haven't you taken their advice? You see the attempt at emotional superiority and twisted logic? At this point, you can tell they are grasping at straws. They've seized on an idea, fixated, and found themselves unable to let go. I get that. And they most like don't even realize that what they say to you is painful or upsetting. They only want to help. They care deeply enough. Obviously, when you love someone, you want to see them happy, healthful, pain-free. When they are in chronic pain, when they hurt every day, you hunt frantically for ideas about treatments. Even when they have doctors and treatments, you just want to do something, anything, because you can't stand to just stand by. They're hurting. Why can't you help? You feel helpless.
But emotional manipulation and verbal attack is a very ugly way to go about helping. They are more likely to stop talking to you. In fact, with most of these people, I've started not talking about my symptoms. Which is funny, because these are my support networks. These are support groups, people who are willing to help. Except for the ones who don't know how to help, the ones who don't have chronic illnesses like mine, who can only see the experiences vicariously. Intellectually, they may understand that it is inappropriate to push, but it feels so right emotionally that they can't help it. And I've been there. I've done that.
The problem here is that if people actually cared about your pain, your chronic illness, they wouldn't apply these manipulations; they are generally more concerned with winning you over and being right. Nobody truly means to be an asshole in a situation like this.
However, in the end, that gut-sensation of being right, of knowing what might work, is overwhelming and almost brainwashing. It's almost cult-ish. I'll call then health preachers. This isn't about just gluten-free. This is about every dietary alteration ever suggested. This is about every medical treatment involving home treatments like food and exercise, meditation and yoga, supplements and massage, etcetera. I haven't even gotten to pharmacological medicine and holistic medicine yet. Or the people who deny psychiatric illnesses, who think psychiatry is fraudulent, who believe firmly that clinical depression isn't real and is literally psychological, delusional. Frustrating, isn't it.
So, anyway. My Plan. I went gluten-free for just under a month. I kept notes. I was alone, because Adam was away on business, so I just cooked for myself and didn't touch anything with gluten. I was hungry and bored. I mean, the food was delicious. There was a lot of quinoa and lentils and sprouts and cheese and meats and snow peas and carrots and apples. I ate a lot of steak. But I just felt annoyed.
My doctors were extremely amused and not at all surprised when I told them the results.
Seriously. Three separate doctors. All saying the same thing. I mean, at this point, if I were to tell Dr Carolyn to refer me to a blood test just for the hell of it, she would quirk an eyebrow at me and ask who was giving me the money for the test (I don't know if Medicare covers those), and we would laugh.
But I didn't tell anyone I knew. Not for the whole duration. Here and there, I casually mentioned that I'd done gluten-free trials without any changes, I casually mentioned that I didn't need to cut out gluten and that there were plenty of other ways I was already mitigating symptoms. I stopped updating my support groups. I just said that I was doing well on my medications and therapies, and when the weather got bad I would flare up terribly and kept treating myself. I mean, even if all my symptoms vanished, I would still not be rid of pain, because of the cerebral palsy. Which 1. is never going away and 2. is getting worse as I age, which cannot be stopped or relieved. Which people rarely realize, because nobody thinks about the crip adults.
So, yay, you, my LJ friends, get to hear it first. I went gluten-free and it didn't do shit for me! Yaay, that was pointless! Let's dance!
It was fascinating. During my trial, I was reading entries on my friends list about people cutting out gluten and realizing that their lives were changing for the better, that they were celiac after all, or intolerant, and that going gluten-free made all the difference and they could love food again, woooo! I was so happy for them I almost cried. It was amazing, reading about their joy and euphoria and ecstasy. Food, they cried! Food is wonderful again! And I nodded, and grinned, and focused on myself and how my gluten-free test trial was just like any other day, except boring.
And I put up with preachers, and pushers, and well-meaning manipulations. And I said nothing. It did hurt, being attacked like that. I sobbed and snarled and surrounded myself with friends who knew the powerful irritation of being shoved around by gluten-free pushers. I kept going. I took double the Klonopin. Days and weeks passed. I stopped the trial. I ate grains and wheat again, slowly, lovingly, with savor.
Today, I was recommended a wonderful book called "The Gentle Art Of Verbal Self-Defense" by Suzanne Haden Elgin. I've gotten a sample of a few chapters, and I'm so hooked that I'll be purchasing the updated version as soon as I have money to buy it. I'm lucky that I've been able to recognize Verbal Attack Patterns recently, but the book will teach me to escape as well as use communication to resolve. I need that. I need to learn peaceful communication getting to the root of the problem without hostile interaction and confrontation, without arguing over semantics. I like to hyperbolize. In fact, a handful of friends and I like to snark at, hyperbolize, and satirize the beliefs of health preachers, like those who firmly believe that gluten-free diets could help everyone who doesn't need them, the way that accepting Jesus will get people to Heaven so the preachers can see them after death and hang out with them in a conforming afterlife. See why this may not work? See why this can be more about the preachers than the listeners?
It is nearly impossible to fight a very calm, gentle person. I need to learn that art of fighting with calm. I need to learn to not be enraged and screamingly upset and insulted whenever anyone tries to manipulate my emotions. I need to learn to break my own cycle of verbal hostility, which will help me handle those manipulations disguised as helpfulness.
Other thing I loathe: Being told that having a mild version of a disability doesn't count. I already discussed cerebral palsy and aging with the chronic pain caused by spastic hypertonia. And they don't back off. No matter how many times you patiently explain anything. Now that is where I really, really need to learn gentle verbal self-defense tactics. Because oh my fucking gods I want to punch them full of holes.
Ahh, humanity. Fun!