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How To Deal With Family Members That Don't Believe
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I have been gluten-free since June 25, 2004. I have gotten sick 5 times - twice at resturaunts & 3 times at my in-laws.

Both my husband & I have a hard time talking to my mother-in-law about celiac. I don't look sick, so I am not. She also maintains she has been cooking a certain way for years & will not change. "She has to learn she will get sick sometimes & just deal with it". We ask what is in the marinates....and she will lie to my face.

I have tried giving her short informational articles, but they end up in the garbage. I doubt she reads them. We gave them a bag of groceries that I couldn't eat, all new & unopened. She was 'just use it up, don't give it away".

We are at the point we will not eat at their home anymore. The upcoming holidays are making this very difficult. This year Thanksgiving will be at our home (my father & brother also have celiac), and she made comments on the gluten-free Thanksgiving. She nicely offered to bring HER stuffing, even if we can't have it. I declined for cross-contamination reasons. She is now bringing a salad - which we will not eat.

Any suggestions on how to get through to her? She really believes I am just trying to get attention.

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Any chance your husband can intercede on your behalf?

Mom 2 2

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I take all my own food - stop by a grocery store and pick something up you can cook when you get there.

My grandmother was the same way when she was alive. She thought it was all in our heads - my dad, her son, is diabetic and she would just roll her eyes, make funny noises, strange comments and we would move on and go to where we could eat anyway.

Luckily everyone I am around either thinks I am just weird or belive me but they all support me. I refuse to eat where I will get sick. She cannot force you to eat, I understand the under-currents and everything, sometimes you just have to push or, as you are currently doing, refuse to go there to eat. They will either finally get it and fix something you can eat or not.

Do NOT make yourself sick.

-Kate

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They should make this a part of celiac diagnoses.

What to do when your family doesn't believe you.

It is easier for me to come to this conclusion, my daughter who is 2 also has celiac. Anyone who would give her something to eat that is not thinking in her best interest is harming her. You wouldn't sit back and let a child be harmed, so don't do it to yourself.

Family is not supposed to make "those comments" or potentially hurt you.

Spend the holidays with those you love and love you.

Laura

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I would say that it's time to realize that you can't get through to her (some people are stubborn that way), and that nothing she offers you to eat is guaranteed to be safe. In your house, you have every right to decline that she brings anything, so you can even tell her to scratch the salad. You know what you have to do to stay healthy, and what she thinks about doesn't really matter at all.

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I have the same problem with my husband's parents and his 7 brothers and sisters who all are married and with children and bringing food to the parties. It took the last 5 years and an ultimatum for them to accept the peanut allergy, and now we are learning of my son's celiac diagnosis. This should be fun, especially with the worst sister who is an emotional bully who likes to confront me at the parties. She's the know-it-all who doesn't want to hear about it, yet "plays dumb" when she brings peanut desserts. I don't expect any cooperation from them whatsoever, so I plan to bring all of his meals to the future parties. So you can basically say that I gave up banging my head against the wall and talking to deaf ears, and they can stare and tell all the extended relatives all the stories they want about how unneccessarily fanatical I am. As far as I'm concerned, they are selfish, self-absorbed people who have great difficulty placing themselves into other's shoes.

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roxyk,

Oh, my heavens! Your mother-in-law sounds like mine--especially the part about being convinced that I am just being a hypochondriac to get attention! My kids both have celiac disease, too, and my mother-in-law has expressed the desire to "talk" to their pediatrician (with the intent, no doubt, of explaining that the doctor shouldn't trust anything I say about their alleged "reaction" to gluten and should rely instead on her assurance that the boys are totally healthy!). This is ridiculously hysterical to me, because my in-laws live in a different state! They get to see the kids for maybe a week a couple of times a year! Of course, my older boy did stay with them for a three-week visit once before we had put the pieces together and realized he had celiac disease, but so what? Does that mean that they know "the truth" about my kids' health, and I don't? Needless to say, they won't be keeping the kids again--no matter how angry they get about it!

I am SO glad I don't have to deal with my in-laws often--especially since I am not "permitted" to bring food into their house, as it is "insulting." This doesn't stop me from doing it, but it does precipitate fights. My husband has so far chosen to be absent from our confrontations, and it is actually very painful for me that he won't tell his mother when she's crossed the line. (His father is also passive, so I really shouldn't be surprised....)

I haven't figured out what to do. I want to keep my kids out of her house at all costs, but she would throw a fit (and I am pretty sure my husband would side with her). I have had so many accidents in the past month just from plain old bad luck (like a contaminated batch of canned salmon, of a brand that I have eaten without problems for over a year) that I have no intention of eating anywhere I can't be sure is safe, and her kitchen is definitely NOT. I am thinking that I may have to refuse to visit over the holidays and just send the boys with their father. This would at least put the onus of keeping them gluten-free on him, for a change--unless he decided to lie to me about it. It would be out of character for him, but I am actually very reluctant to trust him about this. He seems to think that 1.) he owes his mother respect (which is laudable), and 2.) respect=deference/obedience. In other words, if she wants to feed my kids pancakes, well, it is her house.... It also doesn't help that none of our celiac disease has been biopsy-proven, so he's not even 100% convinced that gluten harms the kids (especially my older boy). I guess he shares his mother's belief that parental insight and clinical improvement on the gluten-free diet mean nothing; only specialized medical tests can establish that gluten is problematic for them.

So, like I say, I don't really know the best answer to my dilemma. I brought it up in therapy once, and my therapist responded, "Why do you have to visit them?" A good question. If only our kids weren't tangled up in the whole mess, it would be a whole lot easier to declare that we will visit only on the condition that I be able eat gluten-free meals (whose preparation is either done or supervised by me), without any derogatory comments (blatant or subtle).

Sigh. I wish I had an answer for you--or for me!

--Sarah

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Wow. I am so glad to see I am not alone.

I will give my husband credit. He tries. He has made lots of trips to their home to specifically discuss it. Bringing food to their home is not an option. She said that is "insulting - I just need to learn to deal with it".

I think we will just stick with the avoidance, until they someday (hopefully) learn.

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I should mention, my mother-in-law is a therapist.

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Sarah, your situation is nearly identical to mine except slightly worse as my in-laws live 5 miles away. My mother-in-law was sweet enough to ask the question, "is this genetic?" at the dinner table of 12 seated at a wedding shortly after my diagnosis. When I responded 'yes' she replied, "oh that's just great." My husband rarely says anything in my defense either. He's gotten a little better, but not enough where I feel protected by him. His father is the passive observer, his mother is the tyrant. I finally had to tell my mother-in-law how it was and how it was going to be in order to preserve my sanity and safety. I gave her a copy of the Wheat Free Worry Free book too (my sense is that she never has read a single page.)She freaked out and told the entire family I was an awful, terrible, disrespectful person (that's putting it nicely and without the profanity:). If she is confronted she yells louder to try and divert the attention away from the fact that she is the one doing the wrong. But when the dust settled, things have been just as I stated they should be. She doesn't like me and says bad things about me, but at least she respects me more now in regards to how things are with Celiac. It hurts knowing that his family thinks I'm this overconscious, paranoid, crazy person...when in fact I'm not. What I learned is that if your husband won't stand up for you, you have to stand up for yourself. Will there be repurcussions? Of course. But people who have no compassion or concern for the well-being of others will never change. So it's best to change how you react to them. Take solace in the fact that you are not alone in your experience. I know exactly how you feel...and sending a hug your way as I feel your pain!

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My situation is almost the opposite here. Me and my three kids are all on the gluten-free diet (hubby goes along with us) so we have a completely gluten-free house. I have a sister and a nephew (from a different sister) that have it but don't really "worry" about being gluten-free (the nephew is 7, so it's his parents <_< ) Anyway, whenever we visit, any of them, they ALL go on about how they have the same symptoms I have had and just KNOW they must have it, too, but just CAN'T imagine following a gluten-free diet... UGH! UGH! UGH! They ask me all the questions, I tell them anything they want to know, they are amazed that my kids won't eat all the cr*p their kids eat in front of them, but then, months later, they are still eating pasta every night and complaining about their kids and their own symptoms. I feel like this is a terrible example for my kids and am getting totally fed up with them, too. My 6 year old has to explain that, no, she can't have a sandwich because it makes her sick, when they've been told over and over.

Oops, sorry about the rant.

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:D for now, i am very lucky where family is concerned--my sister is also celiac and she is a dietician to boot--she is also a great cook and she experiments with recipes until she gets the right flour mixture that makes them taste like the wheat alternative :P --at family dinners there is always lots of things we can have plus things we cant and thats ok ;) --the others should beable to have the things special to the season that we cant--my grandkids should get to have old fashion sugar cookies and stuffing in their turkey :D --it does cost more to fix much of our foods, so i dont mind if there are items i cant have--i just enjoy the ones i can :P --the only time i do get upset is when someone offers me something and then doesnt want to tell me what is in it :angry: then they are offended if i wont try it--oh well ;) happy holidays to all of you--i am hoping this will be one of my happiest seasons ever :D deb
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I'm a lucky one, too. My inlaws are good about trying to understand the wheat free thing. Sometimes my MIL forgets little things like to have corn tortillas instead of wheat tortillas when she has us over for dinner, but I understand because I think it's an honest mistake. I've tried to break the news gently to those close to us by just saying, "It seems that Cyphar has a problem with wheat. He has diarrhea when he eats it/ it hurts his intestines." Everyone I have said that to has taken it very well and they try to make adjustments. He doesn't have "severe" reactions when he does get a little wheat, so I don't feel like I need to be too hard on myself or him when he accidentally gets a pretzel or froot loops from a little buddy. It takes several days of 100% gluten-free to get his stools firm again-- in fact his stools have been not firm for about 2 weeks because of the number of accidents. But his behavior is good, so I am not worried. I hate trying so hard to keep him gluten free and then I see him with a mouthful of goldfish in church. But I know that the less he has, the better his health, so of course I don't ever give him anything that I think might be contaminated. Anyway, I'm a little off the subject now.

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Sounds familiar! I have only known that I am Celiac for a week and when I told my Mother-in-law her response was "Oh well, just about everybody has that these days". We are going to visit them in a few months, and I have no idea how to cope with them while there. My mother-in-law is very insensitive obviously, so explaining to her the nature and effects of this disease is pointless. The more I deal with this, the more I feel like just keeping this to myself for fear of people scrutinizing me.

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Twister2,

If someone said that to me, I would respond "Yeah, you're right about that. But the difference between me and everyone else is that I am committed to getting and staying healthy, and the only way I can accomplish that is by staying totally gluten-free. It's not particularly convenient, but my health is the most important thing to me!"

Maybe you could fire off a similar retort?

--Sarah

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Hi,

Oh my gosh, reading your comments reminds me of just how many times over the past 30 years or so I have had to defend myself in terms of food. Of course I didn't know that Celiac was the reason I was always sick, at first, so those around me just thought I was some kind of eccentric freak who liked trying new and different foods (I would try almost anything if I thought it was going to help me stop wheezing with asthma). During those days I would get sick and lose 20 pounds, then start eating wheat again and gain 25 pounds, over and over, until I finally got tired of ending up in the hospital, and became serious about eliminating certain foods in an effort to capture that ever-elusive good health.

Some people would grimace and offer rude remarks, but I learned to just turn around and keep trying to find some kind of peace and good health, so I could realize all my hopes and dreams.

Last Christmas I bought Enterolab diagnosis kits for all my close family members. Some never even took the test, but my sister and brother did, and my sister has Celiac (she's had thyroid cancer already). I'm the only one who sticks to the diet, and I am able to outpace even the youngest of workers at my job, or wherever I may go. I got the Enterolab test when my youngest grandson couldn't keep down his formula at birth, and the test diagnosed that he was Celiac as well. I babysat him 5-6 days a week for his first 11 months, and diligently avoided all those poisonous foods. Then his mother decided to put him in daycare, and decided that he didn't really have Celiacl, so she now feeds him all those foods I worked so hard to keep away from him.

I captured a stool sample the last time I changed his diapers, and sent it off to Enterolab to verify once again that he does have Celiac. His doctor at Kaiser did a blood test or some kind of test and said it came out negative. I will keep trying to help those around me find good health, no matter what. It is a matter of life and death, after all. Welda

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