Comfort Food Confessions (+ Ooey-Gooey Mac & Cheese with Roasted Brussel Sprouts!)

Smile – we made it! This is the final full episode of Season 2 – Comfort Food Remix. Many thanks for tuning in and being so supportive on this journey. Aside from using this season as an excuse for me to eat a lot of carbs (lol), I’ve really appreciated everyone’s support as I’ve opened up to share more personal parts of my story. Thank you!!

Click here to watch the video (recipe below)

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 12.05.29 PMTo show my appreciation, I am divulging a secret to you all; while I framed a lot of this season around getting over heartbreak, it was a cover-up of sorts. All my reflections and advice about getting over hard times are really about another battle I’ve been fighting. It’s about how I learned to manage a bad bout of depression that knocked me down from about April – October this year.

I wrote the following article on my 26th birthday in September, from the pit of one of the lowest points of my life. I never thought I’d share this until way in the future when I was “ready,” but if there was ever a time for real talk, it’s now.

I want to show you that it’s possible to overcome great defeats. I’ve talked a lot about moving forward in the last few posts, but I know one of the biggest struggles can be getting up after a really bad fall. If you’re going through rough times, here is some comfort I wanna feed you:

  • You are not alone.
  • There is hope. There is purpose in the pain (Frankl, 1946)*.
  • Things will get better, often sooner than you could have ever imagined.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression, I want to help. I truly believe that the purpose of pain is so we can in turn help others through our compassion & understanding. I wrote some lessons about my experience below and am more than open to having a conversation or assisting you out in any way I can. We’re in this together.

September 8, 2014

“Today I am 26. Like every year, I’ve had significant experiences. I met a lot of people, travelled to new places, and learned many lessons. I had my ups and downs, endings and beginnings. During the happiest of highs, my catch phrase would be  “Twenty-Five, Feeling Alive!”  Little did I know that just a few months later, my life would plummet in the opposite direction.

I’m pretty open about my depression and anxiety. It helps a little bit to express myself, and more importantly, I want to encourage others struggling with mental health troubles to move past any shame, embarrassment, or fear and get help like I did. I actually wish I’d gotten help much sooner, because it was almost too late. 

I spent my summer contemplating whether or not I wanted make it to my 26th birthday.

I’m not here to talk about where my depression stemmed from
– It’s in the past and there’s nothing we can do about that now
– It’s multi-faceted, and if I truly understood it all myself, I’d probably be a lot better by now. 

I’m here to elucidate the process of “getting help.” This is not the happiest of articles, but it’s the truth. And being real is helpful, I think.  

1. Deciding to get help is a step in the right direction. But only one step of many. 

Just as we can’t just inject a patient with diabetes with gallons of insulin and call it a day, healing from depression takes more than quick-fix doses of happy times. Therapy and medication helped, but by the time I got them, my condition was pretty severe. The deeper you sink into the depression, the harder you’ll have to fight to get out. 

Finding the right treatment can be a complicated process. You won’t get along with every therapist, and not every medication will work for you. Try to stay patient, and if possible, ask for help with getting help. Trying to sift through databases of treatment centers adds even more stress to your condition. 

There is no instant gratification. Sources of relief can be fickle and transient. So, be prepared for a tiresome journey.

2. Especially because your depressed self will resist everything that everyone tells you to do. 

From my experience with mental health professionals, being a counseling student, and extensive online research trying to figure out depression relief, I found that these are the common suggestions:

a. Eat well
b. Exercise
c. Maintain a good sleep schedule
d. Surround yourself with friends and loved ones
e. Try to think positively 

We all know these are great things to do (even if you’re not depressed). Logically, it makes so much sense. But it just feels nearly impossible because the above steps are the exact inverse of our toughest symptoms.

a. Depression will cause you to lose your appetite, or crave really bad food. (Real talk: I gained close to 20 pounds in 2 months because all I wanted to eat was donuts, cocoa swirl cookie butter, and chocolate covered pretzels #AllCarbDiet #TheseSweatpantsAreTheOnlyThingsThatFitMeRightNow)

b. Exercise? I can barely get out of bed.

c. Speaking of which, my body wants to sleep all the time for lack of energy; my mind wants to stay asleep to escape the pain.

d. I don’t like myself very much most days, so I don’t don’t expect other people to either. This makes the idea of socializing scary – a foreign phenomenon for me. And the considerate part of me doesn’t want to be a drag of negative energy for whomever I encounter. Even texting people back is unbearable; with that, I’m really sorry to everyone who didn’t hear back from me this summerI’ll try to be better. I’m trying to get better.

e. All of the above lead to those feelings of guilt and worthlessness they always talk about in the Zoloft commercials.
3. You’ll feel very alone, even with the best support system.  
To add to those feelings of guilt, no matter how much your family and friends love you, they can’t make it better. The warmth from their comforting and encouraging words and deeds will wear off much quicker than you’d wish.  And then you’ll start to feel bad for not being able to feel better. You start to feel inadequate for getting to this point despite having a good life. You’ll hope that no one will take it personally like you have something against them. You’ll hope that they don’t think they failed or are at fault. No one knows the right thing to say to someone that’s depressed. But trust me, they’ll remember that you tried and that’s what matters.

They can surround you with love, but learning how to love yourself comes from within. In the times when your craving for isolation takes over, when you succumb to the darkness, it’s up to all the will and faith that you can muster to keep a grasp on to that speck of light.  

4. And so, the only thing you can do is look forward, even if you’re just barely inching by. 
Everyday contains one personal struggle after the other, as sleepless nights melt into daytime darkness. On the worst of days, even the simplest tasks of the day are unbearable. Getting out of bed, deciding what to wear, making cereal. It’s demoralizing, really. I’ve actually had multiple days straight where I didn’t leave my room. It’s been a few months since I stopped replying to messages. 

I don’t know if I’ll be back to my old self again. Accepting that fact removes some of the pressure to not only heal, but get to 110% again.”

As you can see, I was still in a very bad place in September. Shortly after writing this article, I seriously contemplated dropping out of school and giving up on this whole YouTube thing. It’s only been three months and I’m happy to report that a lot of the above steps really do work and I’m feeling better and stronger than ever. My faith at the time was, like, mustard seed status, but I’ve experienced the joy of seeing it grow into something more fruitful than I ever thought possible:

“32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” – Matthew 13:32

I still have days when I feel down in the dumps, but getting over depression isn’t about making all the negativity go away; it’s about learning how to find the ooey-gooey positivity in the situation, no matter what.

Recipe: Ooey Gooey Mac & Cheese with Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients:

– 1 box of whole wheat macaroni

– 3-4 cloves garlic

– 2 tbsp butter

– 2 tbsp flour

– 3/4 cup tangy orange cheese (such as sharp cheddar!)

– 3/4 cup creamy white cheese (such as monterey jack!)

– 1-2 cups brussel sprouts

– 2 cups of whole milk (I like organic)

– 1-2 pieces boneless skinless chicken breast
– 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

– olive oil

– salt & pepper

Instructions:

  1. Prep veggies

– Set oven to 400 F

– Roughly chop garlic & set aside

– Cut off ends of brussel sprouts & cut in half

– Toss brussel sprouts in olive oil, salt & pepper. Place on a cookie sheet (line with parchment paper or foil to make cleanup easier).

– Roast for 25-30 minutes, but after about 15 minutes, toss with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar & flip them all over.

– If the brussel sprouts finish before the mac & cheese, leave it the oven, but turn it down to 200 F.

  1. Mac & Cheese, please! 

– Boil pasta according to package instructions.

– Make a roux – cook garlic in butter medium heat until light brown. Add flour until light brown as well.

– Turn up the heat to medium-high & add the milk. Add a bit of salt & pepper. Whisk until well incorporated & heat until it starts to bubble.

– Turn the heat off & add the cheese. Stir until smooth and melty. Oh yes.

2.5 Do the Chicken (optional)

– Soak chicken in balsamic vinegar for at least 10 minutes

– cook in olive oil on both sides for at least 5 minutes on each side.

– Chicken is done when internal temperature is 165 F (No thermometer? Just slice it open & make sure there’s no pink. Rare chicken is NOT a thing, lol.)

– Remove from heat & let rest.

  1. Put it all together. Impress your friends. 

– Mix the cheese into the pasta.

– Add most of the brussel sprouts into the pasta & stir it in.

– Cut cooked chicken into bite-sized slices & mix those into the fun as well.

If you’ve read this far, here’s another oz. of encouragement:

*“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Thank you again for stopping by. Praying for hope & joy for you and yours this Christmas season!

With love,

Tiffany R.

Dining At Tiffany’s

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