Everyone, meet Christine Duncan! This digital/social media age is weird and wonderful, because I have never actually met Christine face to face. But, I happen to know her brother and many of her friends (that was crazy when we found out all those connections, right Christine!?) And, because of her blog Precepts and Life Preservers I feel like I know Christine personally. She writes bravely from the heart and wears her emotions on her sleeve…and the screen, which is exactly what I strive for as well.
Christine is totally funny (I get you, girl!) and my FAVORITE part about her is that she was one of my biggest supporters and encouragers as I launched out as a writer, and she sure didn’t have any reason to, other than she is completely kind and amazing. Christine was among the first women to begin making my recipes and sharing my posts, and she was the first writer to ever ask me to write for her blog! Now, I am sharing her with all of you, my readers.
I am very happy to feature Christine today as my guest. I asked Christine to contribute towards my blog, because her message is a very important one that is not talked about enough. Mental health is taboo, especially within the church – and that’s silly! There are waaaay too many people suffering silently when they need not to be. Instead, they need friends and loved ones around them to support and “get” them. They need reassurance that there is hope and help. They need grace and patience sometimes, but really they just need to know that they are actually waaaay more normal than they think.
That’s why I have asked this competent and compassionate writer to share candidly about her journey with a form of chronic depression. I wanted her to be real (which she is), and I wanted her to convey hope (which, she sure does!). Guess what, everyone: if you suffer and struggle due to any degree of mental illness, you are not alone and you can certainly thrive when you have The Lord’s strength on your side! Be encouraged, as you hear from one who knows this to be true!
The Time My Kitchen Was a Battle Zone
When my friend Danielle asked me to guest post on her blog and write about my journey with my mood disorder, I knew exactly what I should write about, but didn’t know if I could.
I’ve taken a few deep breaths over this ol’ keyboard today, friends.
Seeing as her beautiful blog is about life and food, and family, and kitchens… was I really brave enough to talk about how for almost two decades my kitchen, and therefore my home, was a war zone?
And I wish I was talking about the normal kind of kitchen-as-a-battle-ground.
The small victory over the piles of dishes that never lasts.
The mounds of homework that tangle relentlessly with the mounds of junk mail.
The constant belief that maybe today is the day you won’t be missing that one single ingredient needed for your Pinterest-worthy supper.
Or maybe you’ll be victorious over all the picky eaters who have converged at your single table in one fell-swoop.
Because trust me when I say, that was only the beginning for someone like me.
How about when for almost twenty years your kitchen represents all the things you battle on an ongoing basis, from a mental health standpoint? And how, then, your kitchen is the grounds where your mental health effects not just your dinner goals that night, but every night? And how your mental health will also trigger an episode of chronic proportions that will zap you not just mentally, but physically, emotionally, even spiritually over and over so that the last thing you want to ever do is step foot in that room and do it all over again?
That my friends is a whole other kind of battle zone. And it was one that made me feel like a prisoner of war on a frequent basis.
Christine, girl, that sounds so depressing.
I live with something called Early Onset Dysthymic Disorder. Basically, this is a low-grade chronic depression that I have had since childhood. And hear me when I say this particular mood disorder does more than make me sad or withdrawn… instead it’s a constant misfiring of crucial neurotransmitters and chemicals in my brain that affect anxiety levels, sleep, energy, concentration, memory, and day-to-day coping mechanisms down to how even noise can disable how my brain works or recovers or adapts.
So as a stay at home mom and wife, my biggest battle ground and war zone that my Chronic D would inhabit on a regular and debilitating basis was the kitchen.
And it didn’t take long before just thinking about entering the kitchen caused me to spiral into depressive and anxiety-driven tendencies and trigger Dysthymic episodes that would affect myself, my kids, and even my husband’s peace of mind.
It would soon become a very real and disabling cycle. And more and more, I felt like a failure, an anomaly, and very alone.
There is an expectation as a stay at home mom that the least you can do is make your family dinner, am I right? And barring the normal kinds of days where it’s pizza on delivery, or store-bought granola bars on the way out the door for breakfast that just didn’t happen, people assume that you handle kitchen duty like a boss.
But for me and my chronic D?
It was a daily reminder that the never-ending fight was coming. Dinner was an anxiety-ridden countdown to how many ways I would fail in one go-round. It all required a brain that would work under pressure. Something I didn’t usually have.
The kitchen represented the one room where life would be painful. The battle was always waiting. It would require concentration I didn’t have. I would become unreasonably overwhelmed by timers set, temperatures fluctuating, things needing prepped, children interrupting, losing my calm. My brain would start sending out signals that the simplest action was impossible. I could look at the pot I needed a hundred times, but not really see it. The sound of water boiling over couldn’t be separated from the sound of the dog chewing her bone at my feet, from the sound of the T.V in the next room, and my brain would spin.
Tasks that would take minutes would need redone or take hours. This would sink me lower into frustration and now the pasta cooked a little overdone would, to my brain, become a hurdle of epic proportions, heighten my anxiety, and voila, dinner was RUINED.
I would physically crumble, I would meltdown in my emotional inability to mentally cope, and my broken brain would then signal another Dysthymic symptom, unreasonable anger, and doors would be slammed hard enough to be heard for blocks as I reacted like life was ending and find a corner in my bedroom to curl up in while the waves of depression would start in earnest.
This was why my kids couldn’t have friends over unless it was last-minute and I felt okay. This was why I never had dinner parties. Or hosted Christmas. Just the expectation of having dinner with my three people was too much most days.
A good day meant I made supper on auto pilot. In a haze. Thank the Lord for frozen food and pass the chicken fingers.
And after a while, you know what happens? You just stop going in there.
This wasn’t even me being a diva. This was a disconnect that no amount of extra vitamins or exercise or even faith could correct and so after enough time goes by, you find yourself understanding why people with depression wind up saying this one thing; Lord, it doesn’t feel worth it. I give up.
Want to know a secret? You can go a head and say those words. You can say those words to Him all you need. Say them without shame, dear ones.
But want to know another secret? He’s been waiting for you to. Because He also has been waiting to do through you what you alone are unable to.
Waiting to fight your battle for you… not for a victory, but FROM a place of victory. A victory to end all victories.
I know it sounds presumptuous. I know it sounds cliché. I know it sounds way too easy.
Oh but the grace of God accomplishes the impossible and takes you through when you can’t even stand on your own. This is what I began to learn as I struggled to make it through each day. As I learned over the years to take my eyes off the kitchen and all it represented, and put my eyes on the One who would feed my Dysthymic soul!
Are you putting God in your sights as you face your battle ground?
It’ll change more than just how you do dinner.
You know, I started reading this one verse to myself before the dinner hour started:
“I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
And it sounds simple, I know, but His desire is not for our reliance on Him to ever be complicated. This realization was the best news my depressed and disabled brain had ever feasted on.
To the woman still in her pajamas at seven o’clock at night wondering when all the hard will stop, you’re not alone.
To the person crying in the closet where the sleeping toddlers won’t hear you, He hears you fully and has been anxious to answer.
To the mama staring into the brain-fog knowing her family is expecting normal, He is not fogged-in in the slightest, He’s got you.
Your home will be transformed from battle field to strong tower, do you believe it?
And you don’t need the mental, emotional, or physical strength, because He has more than enough.
You just need to invite Him into your battle, and allow Him to show you what He can do.
Christine is a blogger, writer, speaker, and kitchen-conqueror in Him.
She loves to talk and write about all things life, faith, and mental health.
You can be sure to find her at www.preceptsandlifepreservers.com and on social media here:
Chocolate Comfort Cookies
These were my favorite homemade cookie growing up… and I still love to make them, especially if I’m looking for something to soften a sour day. And with family recipes, sometimes there’s just no adequate “healthy” version. But that’s okay.
Beware, the cake-like softness will have you addicted, so don’t be fooled by their common-looking appearance.
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup cocoa
½ cup of shortening
1 cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup of “sour milk” (add one tsp of vinegar to milk and let sit, with slight stirring before use)
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa in a mixing bowl and set aside.
Cream together shortening and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well.
Fold in dry mixture with the wet, alternating with the sour milk, until combined.
Drop by the tablespoon full on prepared cookie sheet.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 350 on middle rack.