it starts with denial

Every five minutes, I’m back in the washroom. My abdomen seems to be conspiring against me. I pace between the kitchen and the washroom, as if the other room holds the answers. The nausea is so thick that I don’t dare leave the sight of a bowl (toilet or otherwise). Nothing helps matters.

I take Tums for comfort, but their effect is non-existent. It isn’t acid reflux. I take Advil for the pain, which helps me calm. The pain remains, but I relax ever so slightly. It’s just enough to tuck into bed again.

Sleep helps. My body continues to weave through its gastric pain, but sleep allows me to miss out on a few hours of it. For a few moments, I might even think that whatever was plaguing me has gone away.

It certainly couldn’t be gluten. It couldn’t be. I’ve ordered from that pizza place before. It couldn’t be.

I start to feel a touch better. I sit up, and the nausea slowly seeps in. A walk will help, surely. Perhaps it’s muscular, and some gentle movement will help. The fresh air tricks me for a spell. It wasn’t gluten. It couldn’t be. The nausea must be something else. The one glass of wine I had last night? Perhaps the meat was off? It couldn’t be gluten.

Monday comes, sleep having done me well. Breakfast doesn’t hold its regular appeal. Walking into the lab, I attempt to convince myself that I can manage. The nausea is only minor. The nausea is only minor. The nausea is only minor. Focus on the work, Lauren. Forget about the rise in my throat. That slow rise, resulting in nothing. Pure nausea, without the relief of actually throwing up. I just want to throw up. If only I could. If only it would help. Focus on the work, Lauren. Just do this experiment. I won’t throw up. It’s only nausea. Focus on the work, Lauren. Maybe it would help if I lied down. Perhaps if I just sat, this would go away. Focus on the work, Lauren. It’s not gluten. It couldn’t be. My hands barely seem like my own. The nausea fills every moment completely. What was I doing? It’s not the gluten. It couldn’t be.

I submit to it. I’ll go home. I’ll rest. This will fix whatever it is. “It wasn’t gluten, was it?” “Oh no, I must be coming down with something. I don’t think it was gluten.” It couldn’t be. I’m picked up and delivered home. I crawl into bed, and sleep.

When I wake, a few moments of relief come. Perhaps that was all I needed. So, I rise. I start to make some food. And the nausea trickles back in. Once my lunch is ready, I can barely stomach looking at it. It’s not gluten. It couldn’t be. I eat some, and lie down once more. Pulling out my laptop, I try to watch something. It’s a blur. I can’t focus. The rise in my throat consumes me.

It’s not gluten. It couldn’t be. Right? It’s not gluten. It couldn’t be. I couldn’t have let that happen. I couldn’t. I’m so careful. Right? I couldn’t have made that mistake. I only had that pizza, from the place I regularly go. Have I ever asked if they use the same pizza-cutter? Have I ever checked how they cook it? Not in ages. It couldn’t be. I’ve never been sick from them before. Not until now.

I try to distract myself, but in the gluten fog, my brain takes its leave. The days float by with this seemingly endless nausea. The intensity ebbs and flows, and days later, I make it to work. It seems as though the nausea will always be here. I forget about it for a little while, only to have it return.

The gluten’s legacy doesn’t easily end. My body continues the self-attack. After those initial few days, the attacks are less. The waves are smaller. My body is doing its job, stamping out the threat. However, it makes a simple mistake. It acts as though I am the threat, rather than the gluten.

A week since the pizza, and I’m still weak and caught in nauseous waves. The light is there though. I know that this will end, and that my routine will slip back into place. This incident makes three. Three times glutened in my seven celiac years. I do my best, but sometimes mistakes are made. I trust the wrong place, someone doesn’t understand the seriousness of gluten-free or I read the ingredients incorrectly.

Tonight, I will go out for dinner. I will trust someone else to cook for me. I will live, not in fear.