Saturday, October 17, 2015

Denial is not Lying (Or is It?)

Denial is one of our human defense mechanisms.  I have used it numerous (thousands?) of times in my lifetime.  It is unconscious, which means we do not realize we are lying to ourselves.  Its not a conscious lie, but it is not the truth.

A few years ago a physician suggested that I try a gluten free diet. This was after I told her I had cut out lactose because it caused digestive symptoms.  I told her I still had some digestive problems even without lactose.  She told me to try omitting gluten for a couple of weeks and see if it helped.  Sadly, it did help.  This was just shortly before "gluten free"  became a popular diet.  I was quite happy when it became a fad and made grocery shopping much easier.  People kept asking if I had Celiac Disease when I told them I was "gluten free", and I said no.  Truthfully, even being off gluten and lactose, I still had symptoms.  I added the constraints of "Low Fodmaps" to my diet which omitted garlic and onion and some fruits and vegetables.  My current diet is a pain for my loved ones, but will most likely add to my longevity.  

When I changed  doctors,  the new doctor listened patiently as I explained that I seemed to be both lactose and gluten intolerant so had modified by diet.   She asked if I had Celiac Disease.  I told her that I did not to my knowledge.  She ran a blood test, but said that since I had been off gluten it was inconclusive and would only be accurate if I began eating gluten again.  Neither of us thought that was a good idea.  There are some long term consequences to not modifying one's diet to accommodate Celiac Disease, and I do not like the symptoms of ingesting gluten.

I stored the conversation above as "I do not have Celiac Disease".  I was reviewing my health record a couple of days ago and realized my doctor did indeed diagnose me as having gluten enteropathy (common description: Celiac Disease).  My first response was, "no that is not right;  she said my blood test was negative.  Wait, no she said it did not show up but it most likely would not because I have been off gluten."  I did not like the diagnosis (label), so I denied it and used selective memory in storing the highlights of the conversation.

Until I began to recall the details of our conversation, I just had stored my conclusion as "I do not have Celiac Disease".  Finally, this morning my curiosity overcame my desire to deny, and I was rather amazed as I surfed the Internet.  
  • Having Celiac Disease can inhibit your growth.  I am the shortest member of an admittedly short  nuclear family.  I am not quite 5 feet.  They were all at least several inches taller than I am.  My son's are both 5'10.
  • I have always been thin without much effort.  Celiac disease causes one to not be able to metabolize and use the nutrients in food efficiently and so many who have it are thin. 
  • If a person with Celiac Disease does not cut out gluten, they will often become intolerant to lactose.  
  • Developing osteoporosis is common for those with Celiac Disease.  I was diagnosed with osteopenia at about 45.  Thanks to weight bearing exercise and cutting out gluten, it has not progressed to osteoporosis.  
I was diagnosed as having IBS as a teenager.  At the time they did not apparently know much about diets and Celiac Disease, and the symptoms seemed to decrease as I moved through adolescence and slightly modified my diet.  As I aged but still  had bouts of "symptoms", people would ask if I had IBS. I would reply that I did not.  If you read my Shadow Boxes entry, you know I do not like labels. Sometimes that desire to not be labelled can lead to denying the obvious.

This is how denial works!  We don't or do want something to be true, so we edit our thoughts to support what we want to believe.  Only when we think about why we do or don't believe something can we uncover the truth.  Mindfulness (exploring my thoughts with fresh lenses) is a cure for denial.  

As I read the symptoms of Celiac Disease, I realized it did answer questions and explain symptoms that seemed rather random in the past.  To know more about myself and my body, entertaining the knowledge of what that particular disease can do is helpful to maintaining my health.

Denial is a crippling defense mechanism.  It clouds our vision and causes us to believe things that simply are/are not true.  Challenge your thoughts!

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