Britt Reid, one of our Gluten-Free Calendar Men, has an incredible story concerning his struggle with Celiac Disease and Mental Health. Gluten not only attacked him, but consumed him, sending his life spiraling mercilessly out of control. Leaving those around him to pick up the pieces.
1. When did you realize you had Celiac Disease?
Shortly after my son was diagnosed with Celiac at age 22 months, Aug 2012. He had been very sick for 2 months, in and out of the hospital. Doctors missed his diagnosis. My wife figured it out before the doctors and she made the house gluten free.
I went through a scary withdrawal about a week after we stopped eating gluten at home. A week later, I got violently sick with hallucinations, after eating a pretzel. It didn’t take long before I called my doctor, actually I cornered him in the poker room, he was a poker buddy. The diagnosis made everything make sense.
2. How long were you sick and what was your life like before you were diagnosed?
My mother often told people that I ate everything until I went to school, then I stopped liking food. Physically, I recall it started when I was in my teens. I would have horrible gas and intestinal problems. I would spend about 4 hours a day sitting on the toilet. I saw my 1st G.I. doc when I was 20 and that was the first of 5 scopes before the age of 38.
I heard everything from eat more fiber to, it’s colitis. One even said I had the colon of a 80yr. I saw doctors, spent four days in the ICU after collapsing one morning, had all kinds of tests and never got any real solid diagnosis. So life went on.
By 38 I was living in pain, had constant diarrhea and bleeding and was told I needed a rectal surgery that could result in wearing a colostomy bag, which was not an option for me.
Mentally was the craziest part for me. My mother and sister both deal with mental issues and I used to hate it. I would say, never me. In my 20’s I started experiencing signs of minor bipolar disorder with bouts of depression and panic attacks.
In my 30s the bipolar became rapid cycling with major bouts of depression and major manic crazy days. I had panic attacks and my thinking process was messed up. But to me, I was ok, nothing was wrong.
I would say screw seeing a shrink, I like me. But, I did go. I saw counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, but never for long. For me ‘normal’ was having addictions, lying, cheating and scheming to get through life. I used my mania to become a successful sales person, but lost interest after I became the top salesman in various industries. Then I got laid off and sunk deeper into my illness.
I made a lot of bad decisions. My biggest addiction was poker. I was and still am, good. I won a lot, but was out of control. Needless to say I blew it all. I almost lost my family and lost a few friends along the way.
5. How hard was it for your family dealing with your illness before you were diagnosed?
It was hell. I just didn’t realize how bad it was until I got better. I thank God I didn’t lose them.
6. How is your life now that you are Gluten Free?
Now, this is the strangest thing, all my problems disappeared shorty after going gluten free. Physically, my intestinal problems have gone away, unless I get glutened. The mania and depression nearly vanished. Today, I look back and realize I would be dead or in jail if I didn’t go gluten-free.
As for my addictions, I have no real desire to play poker. Instead of coming up with excuses to play, I have real reasons why I don’t, spending time with my wife and kids. This is just the surface of my transformation, my story is a lot longer and would be one a hell of a book.
7. Men tend to wait to go to the doctor until they absolutely have to. How long were you sick and what advice would you give other men?
I was probably sick most of my life and I did go to the doctor. Never was Celiac Disease mentioned, they should have caught it with my GI issues. But it was the mental illness that was a shocker. I beg everyone with mental illnesses to try gluten free!
Thank you Britt for sharing your story and being so honest and upfront. I know there are more people like this out there. If you know someone suffering from similar symptoms or issues, please find out more information, get tested, and see what gluten-free can do for you.
*If you would like to share your story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org