It was around week 7 that I really wanted a donut.
As a seasoned physical therapist and health educator, I have ramped up telehealth appointments while continuing to homeschool my children, ages 5 and 8. Now a couple months into quarantine, this has not gone amazingly.
Social media is distracting me. As a healthcare professional on a forced semi-leave of absence, sometimes the stories are scary, sometimes they are helpful, and sometimes, they just leave me in crumbs. I can’t stop looking though. On top of the sadness, I see all the beautiful bread recipes and photos, delectable cookies and cakes, all the deliciousness that stirs up my own childhood memories of comfort and care.
Unfortunately, for me, these celebrations of bread products are taunts. I just can’t eat that way anymore.
I’ve been gluten-free, and more recently, dairy-free, for more than four years due to an autoimmune disorder. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis affects 14 million people in the United States, making it the most common thyroid disorder in America, per a report from EndocrineWeb. Like so many with this condition, plus a leaky gut, I have figured out that I feel much better not eating gluten. It was a journey to identify my food sensitivities, but I got help from data. My TPO antibodies, one marker for inflammation, dropped from the 300s to under 100 within five months of eliminating gluten from my diet. I also got to avoid the abhorrent flu-like joint pain I’d had before, and fatigue that lasted five days whenever I ate gluten.
I don’t cheat anymore. It wasn’t easy to get here. And as someone who loves to eat out and travel, I still don’t love the restrictions.
Now, though, I am a better therapist to my patients with auto-immune disorders, just as I became a better therapist when I became a mother. I am much more connected to postpartum women and peri-menopausal women with nutritional deficiencies, as well as to any woman who feels fatigued not just because of the baby at home, or because of her hormones.
But man: I still miss real warm bread. And donuts. So, I do enjoy the occasional gluten free-splurge on special occasions. Didn’t day 45 of quarantine count as a special occasion?
I recently drove out to my favorite gluten-free bakery, The Happy Mixer in Chalfont, to celebrate my daughter’s fifth birthday. Having escaped alone from home, I was listening to a Brené Brown Podcast. At the time, Brené was giving me permission to feel while I drove away. I got six donuts and I ate 3 and a half that day. OK, it was four and half, and the rest of my family each received a half each because you know, too much sugar...
But then I got cocky. I wanted more donuts to celebrate with extended family — from six feet away, of course. I assumed the same shop would be open, but it wasn’t.
On day 50 of quarantine, I just wanted to cry. I can’t bake sourdough, biscuits, or fry breaded chicken. Couldn’t I at least have a gluten-free donut or lemon pound cake from this heaven-on-earth strip mall shop when I wanted it?
Not today, Brené whispered. No donuts for you. You will do hard things today, she said. So we begrudgingly drove to the nearest chain donut store. I picked myself up for the sake of my daughter and asked what she wanted. It was very specific: a yellow donut with red sprinkles, and a chocolate donut with white sprinkles. They were out of all flavors except glazed. Darn you again, coronavirus.
Still, I kept perspective: In terms of everyday challenges, this was not worse than my kid not being able to go to the playground. This was not worse than not being able to go to work and help people feel better by connecting in person. It was not worse than missing my family’s yearly trip to New Orleans. And it was definitely not worse than the thought of not putting my daughter on the bus to kindergarten in September because school still may not be in session. That day will require a warm, gluten-free baguette with real butter (cheat) and maybe a dozen gluten-free donuts and a large coffee. I will check ahead to make sure the shop is open that day.