Ask anyone what "The Great Tribulation" is and you will get a whole slew of answers, depending on the religious views of those you ask. The one answer I will agree with came from the pastor of my old church up north: we are living it right now.
The last two and a half years of my life have been an evolution of sorts; my home life came to a rolling boil which spilled over into separation and divorce. Two of my beautiful boys are now in college and the youngest is a senior in high school. My job in Accounts Payable was shipped to Mexico and through no fault of my own I became unemployed. I met someone new. I crossed the border of forty, was diagnosed with major clinical depression and gained a ton of weight. But life goes on, and after taking a few months off to have my own little personal nervous breakdown I realize that no matter what else life throws at me, I will still have to continue on. Whatever God brings me to, He will bring me through, as my mother would say.
Or, "keep calm and carry on," as Queen Elizabeth II put it.
And so I will carry on. Over the last year I had to begin taking medication for high blood pressure and my depression. Between the feeling of my heart pounding right out of my rib cage, arrhythmia (also new), the inability to function normally for the first two months of the antidepressants and the weight gain, I have resolved to get healthier. Because being sick sucks. Especially when you aren't visibly sick. There are no wheelchairs or crutches with depression, no tangible evidence to others that things aren't right. They will just think you are lazy. Your friends and family will say things, like "snap out of it," or "I'm always here if you want to talk about it" - both of which to any sane person will seem like reasonable ways to try and help their depressed loved one.
But there is no "snapping out of it," and no amount of exercise and fresh air will help. Talking may help for the present moment, but when there is something really, really wrong the depression doesn't just leave because you want to feel better. That's mental illness. There is no outsmarting it. If you understand how it works it is easier to recognize, but if you don't get help it doesn't just go away because you are smart enough to work around it.
Part of how I've dealt with stress in the past is by eating. Not cool, I know. But food, to me represents family and comfort. When I love someone I cook for them. Cooking is probably one of the deepest personal expressions of self that one can demonstrate for another. That is why I make lefse and rosettes and homemade caramels and cookies at Christmas. It's sharing the love I remember from growing up with my Swedish and Norwegian grandmas. Nothing says love like grandma's warm lefse, slathered in real butter and sprinkled in cinnamon and sugar. Of course not all cooking turns out good, but don't let that part taint the fact that whoever cooked for you really loved you.
Cooking mishaps tie us together as well as the great dishes do. The cookies I baked from a self-concocted recipe when I was ten that turned out like car tires (the ones my older sister discovered late that night when she came home from a party) turned into a great laughing point to remember. Our foods, no matter what culture or heritage you claim as your own, link generations of families together. We have these tangible, real things that we can share with people who came before us and who will come after us.
Although there is still a strong urge within me to embrace my loved ones with sugar and baked goods, I am striving to demonstrate a healthier type of love for my family and friends. After all, I do want to keep them around for as long as possible. It's heart-wrenching, but although my soul still yearns for Paula Deen and her butter-drenched southern goodness (Mmm-mmm-mmm my Mama's lemon bars come to mind...) we all must eventually wake up to reality and realize that we no longer get up at five a.m. to milk cows and work in fields. Our bodies just simply don't need all that love anymore. Well, maybe every once in a while. For dessert. If I've been really really good. But it won't be because I'm stressed out. I'll go to the gym to work on that.