by Shirley Drew
For the past five years I have been dealing with chronic fatigue and joint pain. While I had been physically active for many years, I was suddenly faced with the fact that doing anything resembling exercise was just too painful, not to mention that I lacked any energy to do so. It was very frustrating and demoralizing.
I have had this discussion with my doctor many times, who urged me to exercise and lose some weight. “Even ten pounds would make a difference,” he would say. But I just couldn’t do it. Every day was a fight just to get through it. So I decided to be more assertive with him. I told him in great detail what a day was like for me. The difficulty I had getting out of bed and the pain I felt taking my dogs for a short 15 minute walk. He listened. He asked questions. He ran tests.
The medical tests revealed that I am quite healthy (good news), so my doctor suggested two things. First, he suggested I try a gluten-free diet for two months. I thought gluten sensitivity was related to digestive problems, but I agreed to give it a try. Though I was NOT excited about it. Second, he scheduled a sleep test (for apnea) on November 14.
I started the gluten-free (GF) diet on October 17. The diet is not difficult, but it is tricky. By this I mean that gluten is stealthy. It hides in places you would never suspect if you’re not looking for it. I have some close friends who are gluten free, and one suggested I keep a food journal. I know it’s a good idea, but I resisted. It’s tedious.
Then, on October 24, an amazing thing happened. Something was different. My joint pain was diminished by about 80%. I felt…incredible. I felt giddy! My first thought was: Wait—could this be the placebo effect? Then I remembered I hadn’t really wanted to start this diet. I whined about it constantly for the first several days. My second thought was that I was just having a rare “good day.” But the pain has not come back.
So I joined a local health club. I’m working out two or three times a week. Yes, I’m sore—but that’s quite different than being in pain. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but so far it hasn’t. Though my fatigue still persists, it is easier to deal with minus the joint pain. And I hold out hope for the sleep study coming up next week.
So you may ask, what does all this have to do with writing? Well, I finally decided to keep my food journal, but it's about more than what I eat. I am also writing my thoughts, feelings, accomplishments, and setbacks on a daily basis. Right now, this journal is just for me. But who knows where it will lead? And the writing process is contributing, as it always does, to my sense of well-being and general happiness in life. What could be better than that?