By Abby Baird, Teen Board Member
I’m Abby B, a junior who has had Celiac for almost three years now. I play multiple sports and go to a small private Christian school, meeting in person, despite Covid-19. I got diagnosed with Celiac Disease when I was in 8th grade and have had it for three years now. Since I go to such a small school I am the only one in the high school that has Celiac Disease and the only one who must eat strictly gluten-free, which is hard because many people and teachers don’t know or remember that I am gluten-free. With life starting to return closer and closer to normal, I would like to talk about some of the struggles of hanging out with friends while having Celiac Disease.
When I first got diagnosed with Celiac Disease I was confused and scared about what this would mean for me and how it would change my life. I found that it was hard for me to think about telling my friends what was going on, that they would end up seeing me for what my problems are and not for who I am. Eventually once I was officially diagnosed I told all my friends and they were so supportive and immediately asked what they could do to help me. Three years later I still have those exact same friends and it has definitely gotten easier, but that does not mean that living and eating out with friends is easy.
The first piece of advice that I would give anyone who has to face trying to tell all their friends about having Celiac Disease, is just to be honest. Don’t try to downplay what your disease is or how it affects you but instead tell them exactly how you feel and what it does to you. This ensures that you have not only told your friends what is wrong, but you have also communicated how serious this autoimmune disease is. It is not an easy thing to have to tell all your friends, but they should understand and they should want to help you through this.
Secondly once you have told your friends that you have Celiac Disease, communicating with your friends about your needs is crucial. Instead of trying to fit in, you need to speak up for yourself and tell your friends about your needs and what you can and can’t do when it comes to food. It is definitely something that is abnormal for a teenager to have to do and it is not an easy thing, but in the end making sure that you are eating safe is so much better for you than trying to fit in.
Lastly I just want to stress how important confidence is in all of this. Being a teenager is already stressful enough and to have something else added into the mix can make it so much worse. I have found over the three years that I have had Celiac Disease that being confident in what I can and cannot eat, or what Celiac Disease is, has been so helpful. There are always going to be people who think they know what you are going through, or try to tell you that you are wrong, confidence is key in those situations. Being sure of what you know to be true can be so helpful for not only you but for your friends as well.
Life with Celiac Disease definitely has its ups and downs, but if you are able to have your friends try to help you, it can be made so much easier.