I Have Returned…

June 15, 2020

Grahamspencerblog

(Spencer, 13  Graham, 15)

Hello Friends.

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?  It’s actually been about six and a half years.  I’m doing the math in my head as I type this and I truly can’t believe it has been that long since I’ve been back to this space.  A LOT has happened.  A LOT is happening right now for all of us, isn’t it? The question of why I am back now is a lot simpler than the question of where I have been.  I’m back because I’ve been wanting to come back for a long time and earlier this year, when life was, you know, normal-ish, I set a goal for myself to get back to my blog.  Generally I’m not a big goal setter, but I have a Big Birthday coming up at the end of July and I thought setting some goals for this year would be helpful.  When I’m not actually in the kitchen cooking, or planning on what I will be cooking, I tend to be a procrastinator and sometimes a little lazy.  So as I made that list, it seemed ambitious.  Now, with life altered and a lot of time on my hands, I’ve been chipping away at the goals.  I have already surpassed doing 50 Peloton rides by the end of July, I’ve tackled pizza and sourdough among other baking challenges, and at long last, I’m back here in the land of food blogging.

I’ve missed this space so much.  So much.  Please let me say thank you so much for all of you who have reached out over the years, all of you who have asked me when I’m coming back, all of you who have continued to use the recipes on this site and have recommended it to friends.  It has continued to be a source of joy for me even as I went dark.  Once I get this post out of the way, I will get back to posting food photos and recipes.  I just need to tell you where I’ve been.

In January of 2014, I was felled by a terrible episode of depression.  It seemingly came out of nowhere.  One day I was fine, the next day I felt a little blue, and the next day I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  At first I chalked it up to coming off a busy holiday season with family in town but after the third day of terrible exhaustion, I went to see my doctor.  She told me I was showing signs of depression and gave me a prescription for Lexapro.  She also told me to try and find someone to talk to but “good luck with that because they all have really busy practices”.  (I no longer see this doctor.)  And thus began the next four years of my life.  Crushing soul sucking depression.  It runs in my family and I had had minor bouts of it in the past but absolutely nothing could have prepared me for how awful I felt.  It’s called mental illness for a reason, I was sick.  I felt sick.  Not sad.  Like a migraine without the headache is how I sometimes described it. But so much worse than that. The first year was absolutely paralyzingly awful.  I was seeing a psychiatrist who was not really helping me but I was too wasted to find someone else.  We were trying to find the right meds and the right dosage and all of that took so much TIME and so many side effects.  The few weeks of intense anxiety I felt while adjusting to Lexapro, on top of paralyzing depression, almost sent me over the edge.  I was just waiting and waiting to feel better.  Thankfully, my kids were still young enough to not really understand that something was drastically wrong with me.  They didn’t question why they were getting Oreos in their lunchboxes instead of homemade treats, or why I was in bed all the time.  They didn’t mind the spaghetti with jarred sauce that I made regularly and which should signal to anyone who has read this blog how bad I really felt.  I lost all my joy besides my kids.

After the first year and switching to a new psychiatrist and a different med, I felt a tiny bit better.  Joy was still in short supply and I had absolutely no energy and I was sleeping an alarming number of hours each day, but I didn’t feel that unspeakable awfulness.  The following year was a little better and by year four, I could say that once I was able to get myself out of bed, which was most of the time around noon, I felt more or less normal.  I was back to cooking and baking a bit, I had things I was looking forward to, I was a more active participant in my life.  That terrible weight sitting on my head had lifted.  I had gained a significant amount of weight (common with anti-depressants) and it seemed that most of my feeling terrible had transferred to how I looked.  I really felt all right but I had all this weight on me, a visible symptom of what I had been through.  By January of 2018, I felt ready to take control of the situation.  With my doctor’s blessing and plan for doing it safely, I went off my meds.  Very slowly I started exercising and I also got back to a healthy way of eating. Much more importantly, I found joy again in my life and rejoined my family and friends.

So what happened?  Why did it strike me the way it did?  These are two of the many questions I explored with the two doctors I saw.  Depression, of course, can just happen.  There doesn’t have to be a cause.  But for me, I realized, with the help of my doctors, that I had so many unexplored feelings about having a child with special needs.  We’ve known since Graham was 18 months old that something was wrong and his childhood and adolescence has had so many twists and turns.  But I had never really talked to anyone about how that felt.  I talked about him to people but it was more situational than emotional.  “We need to find a different school for him because his school is becoming a language immersion school and that won’t work for him.”  But not how that felt. How sad I was that he wasn’t “normal” and how exhausting it was to have to keep ahead of the game and find the right thing for him.  How I would think “Why me?” and then immediately feel guilty for thinking that when I had the gift of this amazing kid.  I think the deepest and most candid I got about these feelings were the posts I wrote here on my blog.

But even deeper than these unexplored feelings about having him as a child were/are my feelings about how I mother him.  Beyond the terrible guilt about sometimes wishing he was different, lies the shame in all the times I have yelled at him for things he can’t help.  The impatience I feel for things that are not his fault.  The worry I feel about his future, beyond the regular worry that I feel for Spencer, and how much despair I feel about that.  These are terrible dark things to feel and so painful to confront and I came away from the four years of feeling bad thinking, no wonder.  No wonder I got felled hard by these terrible things I was feeling and these terrible things I was telling myself.  I think the most valuable thing my doctor gave me, besides her unflagging empathy, is the idea that I am so incredibly hard on myself about how I mother Graham because I have very high standards about the mother I want to be and how I should mother him.  He’s an amazing giving loving person, so I should be more patient.  He can’t help it that he can’t keep track of his things, so I shouldn’t yell at him for losing his jacket.  My doctor helped normalize the things I was telling myself and was very adamant that I not “should myself to death”.

Now that I am on the other side of those four dark years, I have many thoughts and feelings about it.  I feel fear that it will all come crashing down again.  I worked really hard in therapy but I could have worked harder.  There are scary things that I explored but also scary things that I left alone.  Will that come back to haunt me?  I also have to deal with the fact that I lost my mid-40′s.  I have memories from those years, of course, but with a pall over them.  It was the dark time and it took up a significant chunk of my life.  When I expressed regret about that to my doctor, she asked me if I could have a magic pill to make it so that the depression never have happened, would I take it?  That’s a tough one but after thinking about it, I would say that no, I wouldn’t take the pill.  My life changed forever when I was 43 not because of anything I did, and that’s a twist that I have to own.  I came out the other side so grateful to feel better.  When I exercise, when I plan for and cook a big meal, when I am fully present with my family, I am extremely aware that it was not this way for a long while and to never take health, mental and otherwise, for granted.

Next up, a food post!



30 Comments »

  1. Oh my gosh, I didn’t know…thanks for sharing. Have tears in my eyes as I finish reading this. Huge hugs to you. A fan, always a fan, S xx

    Comment by S — June 15, 2020 @ 11:40 pm

  2. What a journey, Dana. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for your courage to work through an all-consuming illness. I am so glad you are back! Sending you hugs from Vancouver and looking forward to regularly visiting this spot again.

    Comment by Joy — June 16, 2020 @ 12:02 am

  3. I have always absolutely loved your blog and writing. Over the last many years I keep swinging back to see if you were writing again. Very happy to read this post and thank you for sharing such a hard and personal story. Welcome back!

    Comment by Nidhi — June 16, 2020 @ 1:11 am

  4. Hi Dana – thank you so much for being so vulnerable and open to sharing your own journey of depression in a public way. While our life circumstances are different, I found so many common threads of my own journey with yours. And as you said you lost your mid-40s, I feel like I lost most of my 20s to this illness. I was a high-functioning depressive most of that time and then everything fell off a cliff about a year ago. The recovery journey was definitely not linear but with a lot of self-acceptance, support and hard work put towards healing, I feel so fundamentally different now that I know for sure that I have healed. There were times when I also questioned whether I wanted to erase those memories and why didn’t I seek help earlier but I realise now that my greatest gifts as a human being were shaped by those painful and sad years. I feel like my gratitude and wonder of the life that I experience day to day, whether mundane or extraordinary, is so much more amplified because I have lived the equal measure of suffering in the past. So while it’s taken me a very long time to come to terms with it, because I lived in a state of constant regret in the past, I am grateful that I have lived this journey.

    Comment by Judy — June 16, 2020 @ 2:21 am

  5. So wonderful to see you back here! I’ve missed your posts, stories and recipes so much. What a poignant post after all these years, so so happy you are back to feeling like the Dana we all know and missed! Thank you for your honesty and for teaching us all so we understand what this feels like. You are truly amazing and an inspiration.

    Comment by Mara — June 16, 2020 @ 3:38 am

  6. Dana!!!! You do not know how happy it made me to see your post about picking up from where you left off on Dana Treat. I am so incredibly proud of you my friend; you are strong and so brave for sharing your journey. I admire you so much as this is something so many people would never or will never talk about. I remember these days very well and I always struggled with how I could be a better friend to you – how I could make it better for you. I loved the Dana of fours years, and I love having my old friend Dana back too! You should be incredibly humbled and proud of the steps you have taken to be where you are now.

    Comment by Denise — June 16, 2020 @ 3:52 am

  7. So glad you are back and feeling well!!!!

    Comment by Kate — June 16, 2020 @ 4:18 am

  8. I can’t tell you how much it made my night last night when I saw you were going to come back to posting!!
    It sounds like it was a really tough road to get back here (and back to normal), and I’m sorry you had to go through all that. I love your bravery and honesty in sharing your story. Mental health is something that so rarely gets talked about, but it is so important to de-stigmatize so that people can get help when they need it. <3

    Comment by Joanne H Bruno — June 16, 2020 @ 12:01 pm

  9. A joy to see this pop up in my Feedly this morning. Glad to have you back, and thank you for sharing. Here’s to taking nothing for granted.

    Comment by Mary — June 16, 2020 @ 1:23 pm

  10. Of all the bloggers I’ve ever met in person, you’ve always been a favorite. Your authenticity and beauty and gentle openness and gift for being fully present as a real person radiated, heart and soul.
    Welcome back. Food. Feelings. Share them all. And thank you for letting us inside your journey. What a wondercat you are for being willing to be vulnerable. It’s people like you who move mountains.

    Comment by Brooke Lark — June 16, 2020 @ 2:28 pm

  11. Dana! I recall you posting about this on instagram and my heart broke. I’ve missed you and missed this space. This is how we met and there is so much joy in cooking, family and writing. I know we felt similarly. I can relate to this. In the months leading up to leaving my husband, I felt completely taken down by depression and anxiety. Honestly, I felt like I’d lost my grip. My color was poor and I couldn’t speak properly or focus. It was truly awful. The world was a dark place. It feels like there is no way out and that compounds the darkness. But I’m so glad you found the light! It isn’t easy to admit any of this, but your boys will appreciate your candor and deep love. I’m sending enormous hugs to you. I am thrilled to be commenting on any blog, but particularly yours! xoxoxo

    Comment by Robin — June 16, 2020 @ 3:01 pm

  12. So so glad to see you back and so happy for you!

    Comment by Annika — June 16, 2020 @ 4:57 pm

  13. Welcome back!! Thank you for your raw honesty. I’ve been there too. I lost my early
    30s, and years of my children’s lives to depression. It’s a big, dark, heartbreaking hole. I’m glad you’re back, I’m glad you’re healing. It’s good to see you.

    Comment by Kathy — June 16, 2020 @ 7:15 pm

  14. Dana, It was such a delight to see you in my email box. I am sorry for your intense struggles and pray the difficult journey is forever behind you. Very Best Wishes renewing in your blog and posts!

    Comment by Peggy Gilbey — June 16, 2020 @ 8:22 pm

  15. Dana,

    I’m thrilled that you have returned. Thank you for sharing your story. I know all about suffering from depression as I’ve carried it for 25 years. Can’t wait to see you in your new adventure. You are strong. You are brave.

    Best,

    Shannon

    Comment by Shannon Briggs — June 16, 2020 @ 8:42 pm

  16. So happy to have you back! Sorry to hear of your dark days. Thanks for your honesty and wishing you all the best going forward. xx

    Comment by Andrea — June 17, 2020 @ 7:23 am

  17. Welcome back! I have missed you over the years. Mental illness is something else, isn’t it? I have crawled back from some of my own at some point in the last few years, too, although it sounds like not nearly as tough as yours, my anxiety symptoms were worrying enough that I was able to recognize that I needed help early on. Your boys look great! I hope you’re riding out the self-isolation as successfully as possible. Are you still in Oakland? I might have to head to the kitchen to make a batch of your great chocolate chip cookies in celebration. I had been seduced by other recipes in the meantime, though still use some of the same techniques you wrote about. I now use mostly whole wheat flour because I love the depth of flavor it adds. And we still only have about half of the dough make it to the oven…

    Comment by Jennifer — June 17, 2020 @ 4:22 pm

  18. Welcome back! Thank you for sharing your story. I am so happy to read that you are feeling better now. Your story inspires me, the right words at the right moment. Thank you! Be kind to yourself and very very proud of yourself. Looking forward to reading new recipes!

    Comment by Renske — June 17, 2020 @ 7:31 pm

  19. Dana- I’m thrilled you are back here at the blog! Over the years, I’ve checked back occasionally to see if you were posting again. I have never forgotten about you. I’ve missed your recipes and your writing. Can’t wait to see what’s next!!

    Comment by Sp — June 18, 2020 @ 1:07 am

  20. How is it that I just happened to check on my defunct blog of which I had yours saved as a favorite. I do this from time to time and check to see if you have been active. Alas, you were not and I knew you had good reason. I just knew you would not simply leave without an explanation when you were ready to share the reason. Now we have it. I must tell you I began making a few of your recipes years ago and still prepare them, all the while thinking of you and how your family is. Thank you for yourself. Thank you for sharing your experience of this disease. The more it is spoken of, the more we will begin to learn and ultimately help each other as best we can.

    Comment by Vivian Siismets — June 18, 2020 @ 9:17 pm

  21. Welcome back. Sending kindness to you and your family. A good word – never take health for granted.

    Comment by Kelly — June 19, 2020 @ 5:50 pm

  22. Thrilled that you are back! I’m one of the readers who uses recipes from your blog regularly…black bean tostadas, “disappearing dip“ and many more. I’m so sorry to hear about what you’ve been through. You sound like an amazing mom who is doing her best. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Being a mom is so amazing and at times, so challenging. Sending lots of good wishes from Portland… and really looking forward to more Dana Treat recipes!

    Comment by Karen — June 19, 2020 @ 7:28 pm

  23. Welcome back! I am so very sorry you have been going through such a tough and challenging time in your life. But, I am happy you are persevering and returning to your blog. I look forward to more delicious recipes and maybe some pictures of those cute shoes you wear!
    Health and happiness,
    Kathy

    Comment by Kathy — June 24, 2020 @ 10:39 pm

  24. Welcome back!! I read your blog for many years and thoroughly enjoy your recipes. So happy to see you back after taking the time you needed to care for yourself. Thank you for sharing your journey. I look forward to seeing more from you again!

    Comment by Autumn — June 30, 2020 @ 3:23 pm

  25. Welcome back from that far distant place … you’ve bared your soul here, that must have been so difficult, even if, let’s hope, cathartic.

    The food blogging world has changed so much in the last years, don’t let that discourage you.

    Comment by Alanna — June 30, 2020 @ 9:36 pm

  26. Welcome back, Dana! What a nice surprise to see a post from you again. I wondered what happened and thought perhaps that your personal life had consumed most of your time. I was closely following Graham’s story because I, too, have a son with challenges that I knew would become harder to handle as he grew older. It has also taken a toll on me and I am slowly finding my way back to a happier place. Why do we, as mothers, put so much pressure on ourselves when we do our best?

    Comment by Holly — July 6, 2020 @ 4:48 am

  27. Welcome back and thanks for sharing your story.

    Comment by Emily — July 6, 2020 @ 7:45 pm

  28. Wow. So brave of you to share this. I so admire you. I randomly went to my bookmarks today and your website popped up. So glad it did. Sending you prayers for continued good health especially now during such a difficult time in the world.

    Comment by Rob — September 11, 2020 @ 2:05 pm

  29. Welcome back! I peeked in on this blog sporadically for years checking to see if there was any follow up. Always wondering how you and Graham were faring after the last post. What a surprise to see this week that there are not one, but two new recent posts! I’m so sorry to hear that life has been so rough, but also so glad to hear that life is on the mend for you. Looking forward to reading your future posts!

    Comment by Michelle — September 22, 2020 @ 12:33 am

  30. Many of your recipes are in my regular rotation, and yours is the food blog I recommend most to people looking to cook more vegetarian food – so for me and for them I’m so glad you’re back! I’m also glad you’ve found your way through a rough time, and I hope you continue to find joy in your life and cooking – it’s certainly given me joy over the last several years. Thank you for sharing!

    Comment by Aleah — September 24, 2020 @ 5:39 pm



Leave a comment