If you’ve been hiding under a blanket – literally and figuratively – maybe it’s time to come out.
Did I ever tell you about that time when I spent the better part of two years in bed because I had an undiagnosed autoimmune disease, and my children had to do most of the household chores while I lay there feeling useless as a mother, wife, friend, and unemployed freelancer?
No, I didn’t. Because I was too busy being ashamed and I didn’t tell anyone.
Did I ever tell you about that time when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and finally felt like I had proof that I wasn’t faking? That my complete lack of energy, epic weight gain, and total failure to do the basics – let along accomplish BIG GOALS and live my best life – was a matter of physiology, not character?
No, I didn’t. Because I was still too busy being ashamed, hiding what was really happening in my life, not asking for help, cancelling plans without providing a full explanation, creating misunderstandings and hurt feelings, isolating myself, and damaging my relationships.
Did I ever tell you all about my autoimmune disease? Yes? Was it in that first brain-fog-filled year of overwhelm? It was?
Then I owe you an apology for pinning you against the wall while I delivered an incoherent dissertation on autoimmune disease, epigenetics, molecular mimicry, gender bias in medicine, and the virtues of a pure elimination diet. So, SO, sorry.
I want an Autoimmune Awareness do-over.
In my magical, make-believe do-over, where I love myself enough to be unashamed and honest – and love others enough to trust them (while sparing them the granular details) – I would craft a one to three sentence elevator speech, that goes something like this:
I have Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid. I’m managing it with medication, changes to my diet, and good habits, but it sometimes takes me by surprise. If I have a flare up (which feels like the flu) and need to change plans or ask a favour, I apologise in advance. (Smile.)
Or, I could follow my 17 year old son’s example. During an interview in front of 200+ teammates, parents, and coaches, he credited his change in diet with managing his (previously undisclosed) Graves Disease and allowing him achieve his athletic goals. Matter-of-fact, self-assured, smooth. And without apology.
Or, ideally, I would throw myself an Autoimmune Coming-Out Party.
Nothing fancy or difficult – just lunch with a few trusted friends, a big avocado salad, bowls of ginger carrot soup, and these Almond + Chocolate Coming-Out Cookies. Inspired by Gluten Free Girl, who is full of excellent ideas, these cookies are free from gluten, dairy, and grains, and so insanely delicious that no one will believe it. Squares of almond m*lk chocolate (I use this one) make them truly decadent – not a word generally associated with alternative baking but entirely warranted – trust me.
Feeling Brave? Get Social.
The leap from a few quiet conversations to a dedicated Autoimmune Awareness Instagram post may seem extreme, but it’s worth considering. In writing I am clear(er), more concise; in person, not so much. A simple ‘how’s your health?’ can descend into a 20 minute ramble. Social media can get many people up to speed quickly – or allow them to bypass that info altogether. And if it feels like over-sharing, consider this: your disclosure may prompt friends to examine their own health issues. Many people with autoimmune disease carry on with symptoms for years before receiving a diagnosis (I did). Your ‘over-share’ maybe someone else’s wake-up-call. Every story helps and on days when you feel like you’ve been dealt an inexplicably bad hand, knowing you’ve helped someone else might help you most of all.
Almond + Chocolate Coming-Out Cookies
- 1 cup almond butter (almond spread – 100% almonds)
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2.5 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 80 g non-dairy vegan milk chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 180C or 350F
- Beat together the almond butter and sugar until smooth – but not too long, or the almond oil will separate.
- Add the egg, vanilla, sea salt, and baking soda. Mix until combined. Line your cookie sheets with baking paper. Form the batter into golf-sized balls. Place 6 on each tray.
- Break your chocolate into squares. Press one square of chocolate down onto each dough ball, creating a disc.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges are golden-brown and crisp but the centres are still pale slightly soft.
- Remove and transfer the cookies – still on the baking paper – to a cooling rack. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes to firm up.