My name is Gemma, or Gembles, as my little brother calls me, and I am so excited to have you here!
A few years ago, I began a blog; a chronicle of glimpses into my life; the intention to briefly explain a photograph that summed up my day. This blog developed into sharing my experiences and struggles on the journey that my health has taken me. I have learnt so much from reading others’ experiences that I now blog to share some insights and lessons too, and hopefully help other people on their path. I have always enjoyed writing and reading, and my blog also enables me to get my thoughts and experiences out on (electronic) paper, and improve my writing ability.
I want to show that when life gets rocky, there is always something that we can do, that we can all find something to keep fighting for, and that we can all help each other through hard times.
During my childhood and teens, I developed various symptoms, which became more severe over the years. After countless doctor visits and tests, and feeling like I was going crazy after repetitively being told nothing was wrong, I was finally diagnosed at age 26, in 2011, with fructose malabsorption. This seemed restrictive and overwhelming, and then more tests showed that I had several other severe food intolerances (wheat, dairy, egg, and peanuts to name the main ones!). My diet became very strict (almost non-existent!), and there were months of gruelling elimination diets to test my tolerance levels.
A lot of my symptoms improved following the change in my diet, however some things were still not right. In 2012, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition; Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I was also diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E) in 2013. These bring with them dibilitating elements, such as severe fatigue, lack of stamina, and poor concentration (brain fog). I also have major light headedness, dizziness, orthostatic intolerance, nausea, palpitations and chest pain due to chronic orthostatic hypotension, which I have had since I was a child. In January 2014, I finally discovered that the fundamental cause of this, and possibly all of my health issues, is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)/dysautonomia.
All of this currently means driving, working, and independence is a distant memory. I do feel lucky though, to finally have been diagnosed, because now I can work towards improvement.
In 2014, I began a diet called the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), which is focused on eliminating foods that may aggravate or cause autoimmune diseases. I love food and cooking, so I am determined to not let my restricted diet keep me from delicious tastes and fun in the kitchen. I enjoy creating new food ideas, and so this blog will be a database of my recipes so that other people with food intolerances, allergies and clean eating lifestyles can see that living life with a strict diet does not have to mean tasteless, boring food. In 2016, my intolerance to meat came to a head and I decided to stop eating it, and slowly brought back in some grains (avoided on the AIP diet) into my diet. My antibody blood tests showed no bad effect from doing so, and as some of my symptoms have improved without meat, I have maintained this diet adjustment for the time being.
At the end of 2015, I was diagnosed with epilepsy (absence seizures). This is something that has occurred since I was a child, but has taken some time to be identified. I am working with a neurologist to find the correct medication and gain control over this.
Having chronic health issues is definitely a challenge; something that has turned my life upside down. However, it has taught me to be strong, to keep positive, and to enjoy the small things. It has shown me the people in my life who are important to me. It has made me feel blessed and value what I do have, as sadly, a lot of people have it a lot worse than me.
I worked as a cardiac paediatric nurse, but after two years of not being able to work, I began a writing course in 2015; a Graduate Diploma in Creative and Professional Writing. I completed this in 2016, and in 2017, commenced a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in Creative and Professional Writing. I am studying part time, and I rely on a lot of help to be able to cope with it physically, but it is doing me a lot of good – it gives me something to focus on in my life, and it is something I have long dreamed of doing, so brings a good out of a bad.
Along with that, and having a lot of cuddles with my beautiful Shih Tzu pup, Captain Albi, and time with my family and friends, I enjoy blogging, reading, baking, mulling over a cuppa tea, photography and craft. I also am quite skilled at marathon stints of tv series and movies!
I look forward to getting to know you, whether you have a similar story or a vastly different one. Please say hello!