of patterns and puzzles

coming back to Taiwan every year is an adjustment, and this summer it feels more so than most. we've only been back a few days and I'm still in the thick of trying to create a new routine. I desperately want this year to be better than the last. blogging, writing, gym time, yoga, healthy eating, socializing... all these pieces I'm trying to put together. but the weight of this past year is almost crushing. on top of [or more likely made worse by] my food and health issues, I've been struggling with depression and anxiety. that may not be a pretty thing to share, but it's honest.

several people have suggested to me that I should write about my food issues on this blog. I reacted quite negatively to that suggestion because I don't want this blog to be about my struggles with food, any more than I want my life to be about my struggles with food. this is not the thing I want to define me. but it is a part of my journey. and though I don't think I will write about it often, just locking away that part of my story and trying to ignore it doesn't feel right either.

almost exactly a year ago, I had just returned from Vietnam and was on the cusp of falling victim to a C. Diff infection that would rule the next 9 months of my life. it took 3 months and 4 doctors to figure out what was wrong. I was very sick. I became a social hermit. I lost a lot of weight. [which -- many people felt the need to comment on how great I looked, without understanding, and it just felt like a backhanded compliment.] I fought to get better. it took another 3 months to heal myself to a point where I could go to the gym and start rebuilding my strength. and 3 months after that before my system returned to a semblance of normalcy. [which for me includes an absurd number of food allergies and intolerances, but at least I could eat more than rice and plain chicken.]

then I spent a month this summer visiting doctors back in the states, trying to sort out all my digestive issues. the short story is: my C. Diff is gone, my system is generally in good health, but my food allergies and intolerances are still unexplained.

the longer version involves allergy testing for 28 food items and 12 insect venoms. blood tests and biopsies for Celiac's. breath testing for lactose, sucrose, and glucose malabsorption. a full endoscopy and colonoscopy. and the low-fodmap diet on top of my usual no gluten/soy/egg/nut/shellfish diet on top of some truly ridiculous restrictions recommended by the gastroenterologist.

I am grateful that my insides proved to be healthy. I am relieved that I do not have Celiac's or Crohn's or some other seriously damaging condition. but I am beyond frustrated that there was no clear answer as to why certain foods make me feel unwell. I am angry there is no explanation for why these issues began, or why they worsened exponentially 2 years ago. and I'm almost disappointed that  with all the testing and diet changes this summer, I have yet to discover any new foods that cause significant issues.

now I'm back in Taiwan. without any real answers. trying to adjust and figure out what I can eat. it feels like my life has been on hold since I got sick last summer. after everything I've been through this past year, it is -- demoralizing -- to think that I'm in the same place. that I have nothing to show for my troubles, other than an increased list of restricted foods.

it is tempting to let that statement stand. it would be all to easy to accept a reality where I was a victim of a terrible year [I was] and to believe that year was a complete waste of my life [it wasn't.] just because it didn't go as planned, I didn't achieve all that I hoped and wanted, does not make the time meaningless.

I've studied enough about writing to know that in the best stories, the heroine gets the crap kicked out of her. over and over, worse and worse. things get dark and ugly to the point where even the reader doubts she will reach her goal. but just when the heroine seems to be finished -- you realize that this is not the end. there's more to the story. and then, of course, she rises up from the ashes, solves the big mystery, and crushes her enemies in a blaze of power and redemptive glory. [at least in the books I like to read, anyway.]

I'm not there yet. but with all the struggles of the past year, physical and mental, I have to hope that things will get better. and I'm doing what I can to control my fate and make things better. I'm pushing through my jet lag, organizing my closets and unpacking. trying new foods and finding workable recipes. making time for both the gym and catching up with friends. things are still in process -- but I have the pieces I need to assemble a life that keeps me happy and healthy.

this is not the end. there's more to my story. and someday soon, I know I'll figure the puzzle out.

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