Being different

Here is a post I wrote for Gluten free UAE, a support and info network for ppl in Dubai.
In my home country it’s all about making sure no child feels left out, or different. Being coeliac shouldn’t mean you cannot join your friends for a school outing or go to a friend’s birthday party. This is one thing I couldn’t agree more with.

I was 21 years old when I was diagnosed and it was a big change in my life but the worst part was feeling like a pest. I don’t know how many times I found myself feeling guilty for making demands, always asking my friends for ingredients in the food they cooked and always having to have the final say in where to go for lunch or coffee.

One event that I remember clearly happened in the first year after I was diagnosed. My whole extended family was away on holiday when we visited a museum and stayed there for lunch. It turned out they had nothing gluten free in the restaurant and while my family sat down to eat I could only stare at them and feel even more starved. To be honest, I don’t blame them, they all had young children that had to eat and there was no other option, but that feeling inside, hungry and left out, was horrible and I struggled to hold my tears back until I got home. I was an adult! I can’t even imagine a child having to feel that way.

Having experienced the feeling of being left out I always ask my children’s teachers about food allergies before baking something for the class and try to adjust to make sure everyone can eat the same thing. 

To have someone thinking about you and making sure they have some gluten free biscuits is of course always nice, but nothing brings me greater joy than when I attend birthday dinners at one of my aunts. 
It would never cross her mind to bake a normal cake and give me something else. Since she is not used to gluten free flour she will search the internet and find a recipe that is naturally gluten free so that we can ALL eat the same cake.

As a coeliac I feel different on a daily basis and I would recommend family and friends of anyone with a food allergy to do your outmost to try to help that person to feel as normal as you can. For example, one could easily avoid buying a “cookie” ice-cream if someone coeliac is invited or if going to a restaurant, ask the coeliac person for his/her preference first.

I also think that if people knew more about our condition and what we can or cannot eat, they would be delighted to help out. It is up to us to make more people aware of coeliac disease and I encourage all to spread the word as much as you can. I think it’s the least we can do for our children!
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