The Raw Truth about Living AIP
The Long Truth
Living with autoimmune disease is like trying to walk a tightrope with a rabid monkey on your back. Gotta find my balance again. —Tangie P.A Facebook friend shared this as her status this afternoon. I held it together for all of two and a half minutes while I said bye after visiting a friend and walked to the car. As soon as I slid behind the wheel and slammed the door shut, I promptly burst into tears. Because it is so true.
I started the Autoimmune Protocol almost a year ago. I fought the actual necessity of it for months before caving and admitting it needed to be done (read about that story here). I've been on some variation of AIP almost consecutively for the last 11½ months, and let me just be real here: it has been the most overwhelming roller coaster ride of my life.
Some improvements I saw immediately—weight loss, better digestive health, less bloating, clearer skin, more pain-free days than not, better moods overall. Other symptoms took longer to clear. And then the reality: some of them never cleared altogether. They were well-controlled enough without meds so I figured that I was good to go for reintroductions, and the symptoms would eventually just get better with time.
The fact of the matter is: they aren't. Some have even started regressing towards their previously inflamed state. So as I was leaving my friends' house, nauseous with aching knees and feeling restless and agitated and ill at ease for no apparent reason, I happened to glance at my phone and saw the status. And it just hit home. HARD.
I battle everyday to live my life with asthma, allergies, endometriosis, scalp and nail psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and mood and anxiety disorders. And I'm trying to do that by living the AIP lifestyle. And I feel exactly like my friend—I can't find balance.
I'll be forthright and honest. I will admit that I'm not eating strictly AIP (if you follow my Instagram, you already know). Like not even a healthy modified AIP. I make poor choices with bad oils, natural flavors, dairy, and cross contamination issues weekly—sometimes more than once a week. I consume too much alcohol much too regularly. I bite off way more than I can chew, and I'm constantly stressed because of it. I feel like I'm living life in fast forward one moment and so down and out and behind on everything the next. I have no focus and live in a brain fog for days only to be clear-minded and rife with motivation the next day. There's no consistency from one day to the next. I work too many jobs, but every time I try to cut back, I end up with more on my plate. It's hard to say no because "no" doesn't pay the bills. I'm in a constant search for socialization, and it's hard to say no to invites because saying "no" doesn't chase away the loneliness of being single and living by myself.
And because I can't say no, I'm tired. I'm tired of not getting enough sleep at night, but mostly I'm tired of that fact that my autoimmune condition requires so much sleep for my body to feel normal. I'm tired of the lack of convenience and of reading labels on everything I pick up to put in my mouth. I'm tired of asking about ingredients and recipes when dining out or visiting with family and friends. I'm tired of craving pizzas and cheeseburgers, chips and salsa, my mouth watering for a taste that will be a fleeting second of joy in exchange for hours and days of pain and discomfort later. I'm tired of hearing "Just have one. One can't hurt you." I'm tired of turning down drinks at the bar because I shouldn't drink at all and definitely never risk beer, vodka, or whiskey. I'm tired of being embarrassed to go on first dates because I don't want to have to order my food in front of him. I'm tired of explaining my diet, my food choices, of justifying myself. I'm tired of listening to the jokes and snide comments about eating gluten-free from strangers, friends, and family alike. I'm tired of hearing "Well, what can you eat?!"I'm tired of being asked "Is that on your diet?" I'm tired of being told, "OMG, I could never eat that way!"
Guess what. I hope you never have to. It's one of the hardest things I've ever struggled with. Because I just want to feel normal. I want to be an average 26 year old. I want to run from work to the beach without wondering if there's anything I can eat at the party that won't make me sick, if I should really drink that tequila and club soda with the girls. I want to be able to kiss that cute guy giving me the eyes without wondering if he's been drinking gluten-filled beer or eating spicy nachos (and not because it's that his breath might stink). I want to hang out with friends and coworkers and not care what restaurant they choose for dinner. I want to be able to only have to cook on the nights I want to instead of spending hours on meal prep each week only to realize on Wednesdays that I either prepared way too much or way too little.
I want balance. And I don't know how to find it.
Just to be clear, I'm not writing this because I'm against AIP. And I'm not giving up. I'm writing this because it needs to be said and it needs to be shared. I've had a bad day, maybe even a couple of bad weeks. But I've also had some great moments and some touching triumphs. I have met a wonderful group of AIP bloggers who are beyond supportive and full of knowledge that they are willing to share. I have met a wonderful web community of like-minded individuals who have reached out to each other to create a wonderful virtual network of support and education amongst themselves. I have heard from many of my readers how much I have helped or motivated them through their tough days.
Because, yes. There are lots of those. The tough days. And there are more to come. But I also would not be as accomplished or happy or motivated as I am on my good days if I had not dared to try. I would not be able to taste foods as clearly as I do now, savoring every nuance of flavor and texture with every bite, celebrating in what I can create and enjoy. I wouldn't be as knowledgeable on the necessity of food and proper nutrition to replace medicine and work towards healing myself. I would not be the same me at all. And good days or bad, I don't want to give up on her.
So that's the long truth.
The Short Truth?
But I'm not a quitter.