I talked to a patient last night, one who was considerably worse off in the mental health department than I am, and he said to me, “I function pretty well for a crazy person.” This is something I think about myself on a near-daily basis, and hearing it from him was an eye-opener. If he thinks he functions pretty well and is all the way down there on that end of the spectrum, what does that say about me? (I think it says maybe that I’m crazier that I thought. But I don’t want to get into that just yet.) My therapist has been talking to me about positive self-talk and I realize that telling myself I’m a highly functioning depressive is like writing a big blank check that says it’s OK for me embrace the negative aspects of my depression—to cancel plans with friends or not get that important thing done because I was “too sad.” And I tell myself it’s OK if I flake out on that stuff because look, I still made my family dinner! I went grocery shopping this week and while I didn’t get the medal I thought I deserved, I got to say that I function well in society because I ran an errand! I’m not sure if any of this is making sense, but what I’m trying to say is, just because I have this disease doesn’t mean I get to use it as an excuse for bad behavior. It does mean I’ll have bad days, and it does mean I truly may not be able to get out of bed and go to that play date at the park, as good as it may be for me. But it also means on the good days, I’ll be able to run errands and plan activities for the kids. And I need to embrace that for what it truly is, not hide behind the fact that living with depression is just so damned hard.
I have been thinking a lot about normal and what that word means to me. I said to a friend recently, “I just want to be normal.” I just want to be like everyone else. I don’t want to have to take medicine, I don’t want to have to take naps in the middle of the day, and I don’t want to have the thoughts I have, the scary ones and the sad ones, the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness and the questions: “Are You sure I’m really supposed to be here? That my life is important too?” I asked my therapist and (of course) she encouraged me not to compare myself to anyone else, and said normal is maybe just doing a little more than I do now. Maybe a good goal for normal would be showering every day. Another would be to wake up a few minutes earlier so I can see my kids off to school. A third could be setting a regular bedtime. So I will work on these things, and they will take time, and then maybe when I’m comfortable with them, I’ll ask again, what does normal look like for you?
Because I’m a highly functioning depressive I am still able to make dinner for my family just about every night. I wanted to share a couple of new recipes we’ve tried and encourage you to try them as well. The third is an oldie but a goodie, a cupcake that’s been in my arsenal for a while but includes the best buttercream I’ve ever tasted. I’m making them this week for a good friend, and I think you should too.
Shauna Niequist’s White Chicken Chili
MY KIDS ATE THIS CHILI. I have made so many kinds of chili: regular chili, green chili, turkey chili, chocolate chili, vegetarian chili, even taco soup. This is the only one my kids have eaten and actually enjoyed. Also, it’s an easy recipe that’s totally doable on a weeknight.
Teriyaki Meatball Bowl from LaaLoosh
This girl has a true grasp of Asian flavors. I made my own teriyaki sauce for this recipe and it was amazing! My meatballs weren’t perfectly round so of course my kids complained (these don’t look like meatballs! How are we supposed to eat these?) but they tasted absolutely delicious. I served them with edamame for a well-rounded, very filling meal.
Gimmie Some Oven Vanilla Chai Cupcakes
So, so good. A wonderfully spicy chai-inspired cake with a buttery frosting, made less rich and sticky-sweet with the addition of more spices. Yum.