A sofa in my kitchen

Some day I would love to have a sofa in my kitchen. If I had my dream, I would cook and my friends would pour me a glass of wine while we visit and chat together in my kitchen. “Here taste this. Does this need more of anything? More cumin? salt?” …ahhh. I love it. I don’t even need help in the kitchen. Just keep me company and enjoy the smells and let’s laugh together. No guilt.

My kitchen – totally staged for this picture. This is as clean as it gets.

My husband gets so excited when we’re having company because I jump at cleaning the house and planning the menu. Other days I’m too tired, moody, sad, or just plain bored of feeding everyone (yet again). It’s not right, but mom life has been difficult for me. I used to love the fast paced work life. Some people do crafts. I loved to work. Call me crazy. (You’re crazy, Kelly!)

I thought staying at home with my kids would be a dream. I would take care of everyone, plan a menu, make beautiful packed lunches and plated dinners, and be willing to have sex with my husband with enthusiasm all the time. Life would be a dream for everyone.

Good days & bad days …depression and anxiety

Guess what… having kids is absolutely wonderful, but when you struggle with depression and anxiety, your good days are full of dreams and your bad days are… well… not dreamy or filled with freshly baked GF bread. Rather your bad days are filled with sleepiness, sitting on the couch, letting your kids sit in front of shows (again), and sometimes with tears or irritability. I know now when I’ve encountered a trigger for anxiety when all of a sudden I find myself wanting to back out of all my plans for the week. When normally I love having plans and places to go with the kids (even doctor’s appointments break up the monotony).

Now, after the right medication and consistent talk therapy with my counselor and starting EMDR therapy, I have far fewer bad days. In fact, I have tons of good days. I’m able to talk through my feelings and my emotions a bit more logically. I recommend therapy for everyone, not just if you’re depressed. But if you are sad and low often, you should talk to someone. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy, and it doesn’t mean you need medication necessarily. You might just need to process through some thoughts and have a professional guide you. It’s so worth it!

What do I do with what I’ve learned

I’m sitting here at my favorite coffee comfort spot (the end of my couch which now is sagging on this side), and I struggle with how to express what I want to give or take from the world. So I journal. Do I desire to share my story for personal gains? Or do I really feel this nagging in the pit of my stomach to make all the pain count for something?… I want to help others not wait as long as I did to get treatment. I want to help other moms understand that they’re not alone if they’re depressed or having trouble managing their kids’ allergies.

Is my gut feeling God telling me he wants me to help others? Sometimes I think he’s telling me, “I didn’t let you suffer in this way for nothing. I need you to reach out to my people, my children, that I love.” After reading Ecclesiastes again in the bible, I’m not naive to think that we can find a reason for everything that happens – good or bad – but we do get to choose how we respond once we make it through.

We all have some selfishness in us. Brene Brown, in her teaching, “The Power of Vulnerability” calls our inner shame voices “shame gremlins.” Our thoughts can come at us in different ways. “Perhaps I’ll make it big and be able to let Jud stop working if I blog.” or “Kelly, you just want to be famous.” or “Who are you to write?! You haven’t read a book in ages. You’re just a mom. No one wants to hear about your ‘momming’.” They’re shame gremlins that seep into our minds and make us feel unworthy or unlovable or useless. But you’re better than that. I’m better than that. We have to look at ourselves and try to see the truth. Do you have a heart for others? I do. I had a woman come up to me after a conference once when I spoke to a group about allergies and shared my story. She was suffering with allergies and had so many questions about how to cope and handle her symptoms and manage her diet. My heart broke for her. I just wanted to give her a big hug and say, come stay at my house for a while. I’ll take care of you!

So, when I really ask myself, “Kelly, why are you doing all of this. I think I can honestly say, ….’I just want to take all of you into my house and take care of you. I want to invite you to our table and show you that life with allergies or depression or anxiety or motherhood is not your full identity. And we all have a story to tell and share. Let’s hold each other up and spread kindness and love. Don’t give up, sweet friend.'”

What if those negative thoughts we hear in our heads are just our own self-hatred trying to convince us we’re not good enough? Not pure enough? Not worthy enough? No smart enough? When really, a desire to help your neighbor or fellow mom or coworker comes from a place of passion and true loving heart to see the joy on another’s face. I get more satisfaction talking with another mom, friend, or stranger about food and cooking than from most topics. I love food far more than I care about nutrition, but alas, the latter is what keeps us ticking for longer and is that important tid bit of life that effects everything else. When I can bring a friend a delicious soup, casserole, loaf of homemade bread, lunch, or family meal, I feel like skipping. Helping others is also a great way to take your focus off your own depression and sorrows. I’m not talking about pushing aside your feelings. Please don’t misunderstand (I did that for years and look where it got me. Blogging about all my problems.)

Our kitchen before we remodeled.

My kitchen contains no sofa

My kitchen is a dream that I designed myself, but alas, it contains no sofa. Just a tiny little stool that has seen as many memories as my hundred year old house. My children regularly pull over this pink, well loved, vintage (in the real sense) stool to reach mischief on the counter.

The After shot. This gal took a lot of work to remodel.

A good friend once came to visit me for the weekend during my intense internship while I lived in St. Joe. Where I was staying there was a big open concept kitchen with bar stools looking in. She would sit and talk with me while I cooked for her. I’ll never forget it. It was at that time I realized my true calling – to cook for others just for the sake of loving them and for the community of it. I went to culinary school and never really enjoyed working in industrial kitchens. Don’t get me wrong, it was a blast, and I’m so happy I did it. But I think the stressful life of the culinary world was not a good fit for me. I think by now I’d still be doing tequila shots every weekend and probably enjoying plenty of other bad habits if I had stayed in that life. I don’t blame the culinary world, I blame my addictive personality in which I prefer to self-cope instead of feel my emotions and truly express myself real and honestly. That’s my default – stuff the emotions because they’re getting in the way. Therapy, the Enneagram, and my sweet friends have helped me see the error of my ways.

As I begin living the “feel your emotions” and “allow yourself to HAVE emotions” life, coping skills are a must. If you quit your coping habit, mine was smoking (more about that in my post Healthier by 40), then you better replace it with a new healthy one quick. Have a plan. That’s hind sight talking. I only sort of had a plan. I was in therapy for my depression but I didn’t realize how much of a crutch the smoking was for me. So the binge eating started and the depression got worse. With medication and continued therapy though, things are so much better. I’m not cured, but I’m able to make better choices and treat myself with more kindness.

Cooking is something I have found to be a difficult hurdle when depressed, but, with the right music and timing, can offer me such peace and calm. I recognize that is not how everyone feels about cooking, but not me. Tell me to read a book and relax or take a bath… no thanks. Stressful.

But when I heat up that stock pot and toss in the first handful of diced celery, my heart starts beating again.

Then some onion and carrots.

Soulful slow jazz or maybe some Brandi Carlile playing on my bluetooth speaker.

I might have a glass of wine or la Croix.

The kids are playing with daddy.

Time stops in my mind.

Now I add a little GF flour to the softened vegetables & oil and make a toasted roux. I grab some cheap pino grigio, saved for cooking, and deglaze the pan before adding my favorite chicken stock. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer while I finish boiling the GF noodles and chopping up the mutilated (but still good) rotisserie chicken from Family Fare – hey! momma can’t do everything today! Into the pot with the chicken and noodles. Toss in some fresh parsley & sage from my garden and then I’m really feeling like a culinary farmer. (That’s the extent of my farming – herbs that come up on their own every year.) I finish the soup with a little extra organic garlic powder, some salt and fresh ground pepper. Homemade chicken noodle soup, baby, and my whole family can eat it.

Life is good.

Life IS good, isn’t it? There is so much to be thankful for. A roof over our heads. A hot cup of coffee. Sweet neighbors that say hello and wave with a friendly smile. Fresh onions in a hot pan. A kiss from a loved one. A thank you from a stranger. Sometimes we have to start taking care of ourselves a bit more before we can recognize what we have and what God’s gifts look like. Yes, my family has allergies and we’ve been on a tough road these past few years, but we’re making it. And if you get a chance to come sit on my stool or sit at my table, I would be happy to cook for you and remind you that, in time, “this too shall pass.” Meanwhile, let’s hold each other up and encourage healthy coping and good self-care.

What do you reach for to cope with stress or anxiety? Have you found something that really brings you joy and contentment that could be turned into a habit for coping with stress? Share it with us.

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