I am in Glasgow. Ostensibly to celebrate my Niece's birthday, but also I am in great need of some rest and relaxation. This time last year, while in my homeland to meet my then-newly-born niece, I discovered that I had a stricture (narrowed part of intestine, usually due to scarring, and a complication of Crohn's Disease) that, when coupled with inflammation from active Crohn's, had become a bowel obstruction. Instead of enjoying the time I had with my newest family member, catching up with friends and looking after my brother and sister-in-law, I spend most of the week in severe pain and/or vomiting. Not fun. For a long time I couldn't eat anything more than the blandest, softest foods and even then, not in large quantities. I was miserable. It was another hurdle in my efforts to get healthy (and maybe even be well enough to have a baby of my own..?) I was weak, exhausted, sore, fed up and the depression that I had been battling for the last 8 months was threatening to take a firm grip once more. (I was also unemployed, following redundancy, for the preious 5 months and was aware that the benefits that were barely keeping us afloat were about to expire. It would be a further 5 months -sans government assistance- before I found employment) What should have been a joyful time, welcoming my Niece into the world, was overshadowed by the thoroughly un-joyful situation I was experiencing.
Of course, like many people fighting depression, I am able to put a brave face on it when I need to. I hope that my brother and his brand-new family were unaware of the full extent of the dark clouds hanging over me.
One year on and depression still looms large in my life, it's not something you can just "get over". I must reassure you, things are much better for me. I have a full time job that I enjoy and that provides a focus to distract me from things that continue to upset me. Thanks to excellent treatment and a wonderful consultant, the intestinal stricture has reduced to allow me to eat and enjoy more food, gain weight, find energy, and live life a little more. At times when I feel weighed down by despair, I find things to do that lift my spirits. I love to read, to lose myself in another world of someone else's invention, and I love to cook.
I keeping with my new year's resolutions, I have been trying new things in the kitchen. I have made crispy shredded beef (in an attempt to reclaim Chinese food, gluten free) and chicken Pho (although, not the most authentic version in the world). The most simple things, however, sometimes bring the most joy. I found some tomatoes in the fridge that looked like they wouldn't last the night. A bit bruised and sorry for themselves, I quartered them, tossed them on a baking tray with salt, balsamic vinegar and rapeseed oil, and left them in a warm oven for a few hours. The smell alone was reward! I was sorely tempted to open the oven and eat straight away! Only the knowledge that time would do wonders to these sad little fruit afforded me the patience I needed to wait. I ate them with ham in an omelette, the Husband had them atop a burger with halloumi cheese, then the rest were added to ragu, to add a soft, sweet flavour that passata cannot impart. Not rocket surgery, certainly, but an absolute delight.
Another source of pride on a plate lately, has been courtesy of Jamie Oliver... I bought a jar of his red onion and rosemary pasta sauce for half-price in Sainsbury's. I had been held up at my GP surgery and had run out of time to prepare the intended moussaka for my sister-in-law, who was due at our home shortly expecting dinner. So, I added Jamie's sauce to the minced lamb, topped it with sliced potato and halloumi cheese and baked for about 30 minutes. My only complaint was that the husband ate the leftovers before I could! There is now a smug looking aubergine in the fridge, believing it has avoided its fate...I will find an alternative use for it, believe me!