"Something happens to you when you go unheard for so long. Your soul starts to die a little, and you believe your words don't matter. I'm here to tell you that they do. If you have something going on in your body that you know in your gut is not what you are being told, you must take a stand for yourself."
I was sick, on and off, for 25 years. I managed everything from recurring sinus infections to stomach problems, extreme exhaustion to neuropathy, debilitating panic attacks to depression, and the list goes on. I was diagnosed with MS, IBS, hormonal problems, stress, and even mental imbalance. All of these misdiagnoses suggested that my symptoms weren't real—that I was making them up. But in 2007, when a tooth came flying out of my mouth on the set of a television show, I knew that couldn't be from stress.
After years of not being heard, having prescriptions and psychiatric recommendations thrown at me, everything changed. All it took was one female doctor sitting with me for two hours—caring enough to listen. Within a few days, 25 years of unanswered questions had been resolved.
The answer was celiac disease—the worst case this doctor had ever seen. I'll never forget her exact words to me: "I don't know how you're still alive." By that time, the disease had wreaked such havoc on my body that my liver and kidneys were in distress. You see, celiac disease is all about the gut and your ability to absorb nutrients from food. If your body isn't getting those nutrients, it basically starts to feed on itself.
My journey to healing has been a long, hard, beautiful road. Now, by telling my story and starting a bakery, I'm making celiac awareness and advocacy part of my life. I'm happy and helping people.
If I hadn't stayed active during those 25 years of searching, I don't know where I'd be right now. But it isn't easy. The opening quote in this article is from my book, Jennifer's Way, and it perfectly describes the destructive nature of feeling unseen, unheard.
So, here are my tips to help you become (or continue to be) your own biggest advocate. After all, it is your body. You know you better than anyone. Whether your issue is celiac or something else, you have the right to know. Trust your gut.