Time to hide some pretty things again amidst an ugly picture.
Over the course of these conversations, I am going to write sometimes about happiness. I need to write about the idea of it, because I am still trying really hard to figure it out. Psychotherapy has not really helped, so it’s something that constantly gets into my head and bothers my thoughts. At one point in time, I was pretty sure there were a few things I knew that defined my continued well being and happiness. I did not need much really. It was all the standard things that should just make up a person’s well-being and their associated appreciation of that ‘happiness’– a combination of good health, a support structure of caring family and friends, and a meaningful and aspiration-driven career or some form of motivation-inspired passion if nothing else.
But, as we all know, a great part of me left last year and never really came back. I have (or ‘had’ because of ‘things built up in my head’) all these great things in my life that I should be grateful for, but somehow the demons in my head started to build up an indestructible structure against all the positives. I end up crying where I should be laughing. I have anxiety where I should experience excitement. I have rejected concern where it could have been embraced. I willfully allow my messes to stay messes. I am afraid to leave the places that keep me safe. The people that used to make me feel safest just seem so far away from my grasp. Sometimes, I even feel so far away from my safety net. Sometimes the safety nets forget to care in their own stresses (rightly so because they are so incredibly busy), and I feel like that’s it. My last bit of safety is gone.
Worries like these do make me scared that I can go back to last year. It would be really easy, and maybe this time I would not be so lucky – for an incredibly meaningful piece of my support structure to be there at the right place & time, to have some sort of black-out instinct to stop my actions from going a little bit further, for luck, and maybe a higher power to be on my side. [Though, I’m reticent (apparently not reticent at all about everything else) to pull religion into this because I am far from being a good practicing Catholic.] Given how many steps backwards I took between January until now, some days feel like last year all over again, and I feel ever so close to losing it again completely. Maybe all I need is just a couple of hours alone, and that’s enough for my head to win. And this time the demons win.
- Mood – Pensive.
- Focus – The idea of happiness.
- Craving – Eclairs. (There are also tarts below after the long story).
- Feedback from the husband –
- JH said the tarts came well together all in one bite. I unfortunately made too many desserts last week, so two of these tarts ended up in the garbage because the raspberries were wilting and the glaze started running. I didn’t want us to experience food poisoning.
- He also liked the eclairs. He often complains that I never pipe enough filling when I try to pipe from the ends, but this time I cut the eclairs open and just spread the lemon curd so the filling was even with each bite.
I had a long conversation on Sunday with another person about health. She reminded me that I was lucky because my sickness is and can be ‘controlled’. I could see from her perspective every meaning behind that statement, and I know that it was not meant to be offensive or to create stigma. I do not have a terminal disease without a cure. I am not in a war-torn country where my odds of getting out alive are little to none [ the two noted examples for comparison ]. In good odds, I could end up being my
complete old self one day if this medicine trial and error process would just work towards stabilization again. Really, for a few months there, I had the perfect anti-depressant, anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety combination. But hell, it took from May until October to get there (though – was it actually real, I wasn’t working yet, and hiding at home; there was no litmus test), with several ‘blind cats leading blind cats’ experiments, suicide attempts and dozens of incremental painful side effects to get to just the ‘right’ volumes. Then unfortunately, we had to take one out of the combination because I just decided that I really wanted to become paternal pretty much now, and it has just been downhill from there.
At the end of the day though, this relates back to my apples-to-apples comparison (in some previous post, I know I did it). I logically cannot compare what I am going through with the two examples above because they are not the same. Even though I get into my head all the time, I am appreciative of what I have. But right now, I feel like I am everything from ‘controlled’, so in some ways I felt sensitive to that statement. And there are some thoughts behind that. With a terminal disease, people can often see it and in many ways, help to somewhat shoulder the pain for the person experiencing it, especially as it progresses. Unless the person experiences a mental illness along with the disease somewhere along the way, I think it’s very possible that there is nothing in the person’s head preventing them from embracing love and support until it is naturally over. Obviously, with the latter example, everything is very apparent. I am not trying to downplay either cases at all; they are both so serious in their every right. But I need to say something about mental illness and how it is not comparable. Mental illness is not so apparent. When you have mental health issues, and everyone just sees the ‘good days’ or the ‘façade’, the ‘big old smile’, the ‘posts on social media’, ‘ the one time you say yes to go out’, they assume that your sickness is ‘controlled’ (case in point the person’s statement), and that you are the same person you were before everything started. That nothing could have left you.
And that can be as frustrating, even though I know I have been equally frustrating with pushing people away for just those very reasons…for not giving people the chance to even understand and listen. But really, unless people live with you, they don’t see your battles. Yes, you can let people in to an extent over some two-hour conversations here and there, but they are not going to know or understand the every day, and then days go on, and they continue to forget until something triggers them for another two-hour conversation where there is the belief that you are okay. When people forget, you gradually lose the will to want to remind them to care. They don’t see the crying every day, or the push to just stay awake and focused so you can continue being ‘somebody’. They don’t see you wanting to give up on that one scary occasion that comes up every so often. They don’t know that you have thought of every possible way to say goodbye (literally and figuratively). They don’t know that you have picked up the pen, focused on it while mentally fazed, ready to write goodbye because you feel like you are nothing, and are just done with everything. They might only see just two hours of crying out of thousands, and think it is a lot or not enough, or I don’t even know anymore. Case in point, I get THIS much in my head and all I am thinking is frustrating, confrontational thoughts. It doesn’t ever stop.
I am not arguing that any of the people in my life would not be there for me. It is not fair to create crazy expectations of everybody that knows and is supposed to meaningfully care. Honestly, I have not made it easy. I have come back, backed away, and backed further away from social circles and family. But, sometimes I don’t know what to do when I have back-to-back-to-back (etc.) days of lows except hope that the people who ‘care’ about me can somewhat understand and sense when I am not okay and need the endless time to figure out how to get there, but at the same time not want to give up on being in my life because I am acting selfish and unnecessarily self-protective…that I am afraid to talk about everything in person…that there are days I am afraid to leave my house in general…that sometimes, some will understand more naturally than others (the people that have been forced to be in those roles). They can sense that there is something bigger, and at the same time, be okay with it and the fact that I am not okay, and every day for me is still scary and confusing.
That’s why I needed to write about this. I needed a way so badly to slowly think through things that are so uncomfortable to talk about in person (unhappiness, lows, suicidal thoughts, loss) to anyone, that just writing about it publicly behind this social media / ‘food blogger’ mask somehow in many crazy, hypocritical but ‘logical (for me)’ ways became the most cathartic release possible. I could write about this for hundreds for hours (and this ‘story’ probably took me a week or more of evenings to collect my thoughts for these exact words and put pen to paper). Nobody has to read it because it’s too long, but I can say all the things that I want to say, take as long as I need to work through my thoughts, and with whatever is going on in my head at that moment telling me crazy things about the things I care about – somehow still feel safe. I love writing more than speaking, and I don’t have to feel bad because I didn’t want to talk about this in person. I can just write my feelings as I always have felt most comfortable doing, and once again, don’t have to feel bad because to do so was my choice. I don’t want a diary, but I just want to write about everything. I need to write about everything that happened, and is still happening.
So, I completely actually just stopped talking about happiness. I guess I just haven’t felt it completely in years, and I wanted to start working through it (but as usual, got sidetracked). I still know how to laugh, and feel positive or excited feelings on the good days, but these spurts are different from feeling that actual feeling. There are some days where I feel like JH looks at me like I am my old self again. While it hurts a little in some ways, I can see the wistful hope in his eyes, and it makes me feel a little at peace. But each day means getting through that day, and hopefully experiencing some of those moments along the way. I never intended to figure out happiness in just one conversation. I mean, I spent a whole month last year (and likely more if factors weren’t stopping me) running away from Toronto “trying to find happiness again”. As much as I loved travelling, it wasn’t there. I came home, and it got worse. So maybe right now, I’ll just chalk it up to the meds effing me up, and well, hope for something more than short spurts of positive feelings. I’ll figure it out, I think I have to. For all the meaningful things that I have in my life, I will have to hold myself up, pick up a bat and break off the demons…one at a time. And if it doesn’t work out, then it just meant that the demons were going to win anyways.
In the meantime, how about something more upbeat? How about happiness for 5 seconds in the form of sugar – let’s say Lemon Meringue Eclairs and Raspberry Panna Cotta Tarts? My fondness for tarts has already been described in many instances, but I am also a big fan of choux pastry, especially in the form of eclairs. They’re just so exciting to pipe and decorate, especially this past weekend when it was freezing cold outside and I just wanted to stay at home and work on multiple baking projects. What can I say, baking projects give me the few hours of ‘happiness’. I guess we are somehow getting there.
The Not-So-Secret Secrets:
LEMON MERINGUE ECLAIRS
All the Little Pieces
Pâte à Choux for Eclairs- Adapted from here
|175 grams of all-purpose flour
33 grams of sugar
Sprinkle of salt
|Stir together the flour, sugar and salt.
In a medium saucepan, bring the water and butter to a slight rolling boil.
|240 grams of water
120 grams of butter
|Dump in the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, vigorously mix together all the ingredients over medium-low heat. After a few minutes, the mixture will come together away from the pan.|
|250 grams of eggs (does not need to be mixed; I just let the yolks and whites slide in)
Spray water bottle
|Transfer the mixture to a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the mixture for about 5 minutes to let out some of the steam.
Gradually add an egg, and stir for about 30 seconds to insure it is incorporated into the mixture. Do this until all the eggs have been added. Mix the mixture on medium-speed until it looks glossy and holds a beak on the attachment.
|At this point, I usually transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a large star-tip attached, and leave it in the fridge overnight sitting sealed in a measuring cup wrapped with plastic.
The next day, take the out the mixture and let it loosen a bit at room temperature. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F.
|Pipe out equal-length strips onto a prepared cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Ensure you pipe with enough pressure so the strips are ‘full and fat’, otherwise the eclairs come out looking really skinny. Spray each eclair with a little bit of water so it does not dry out.|
|When ready, immediately lower your oven to 350 degrees F, and put the eclairs on your middle racks (I had two cookie sheets). Bake for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, rotate the pans and lower the oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Finally, lower the oven to 300 degrees F and do a final bake at 10 minutes. Let the eclairs cool completely on a cooling rack.|
- Once the eclairs have cooled, cut them open using a sharp knife.
- Spread the lemon curd, and press to seal the eclairs. Wipe away any residual curd so the eclairs look clean, as if they were never cut open.
- Pipe and torch the meringue. Add any additional toppings like blueberries.
RASPBERRY PANNA COTTA TARTS
Some More Little Pieces
- Pâte sucrée
- Pastry cream
- White chocolate mirror glaze (dyed pink using 2 drops of pink dye)
- Raspberry Panna Cotta (recipe below)
- Ferrero Rocher (buy it from the store)
Raspberry Panna Cotta – Adapted from here
|1 sheet gelatin
2.5 cups whipping cream
|Pour one cup of whipping cream into a medium saucepan. Bloom the gelatin sheet in the liquid for about five minutes.|
|1/3 cup sugar
½ cup raspberry puree (strained / sieved to remove seeds)
|Once the gelatin looks a bit dissolved, set the saucepan over low-medium heat. Heat until there is a slight bit of steam / bubbles coming from the mixture. Do not boil. Add the sugar, and let it dissolve.|
|1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
|Remove the saucepan from the heat. Whisk in the remaining cream, raspberry puree, vanilla extract and salt.|
|I placed half a Ferrero rocher in savarin molds. I then poured the liquid over top. I froze the molds overnight for easy un-molding.|
- Fill baked tart crusts (ensure the tarts were baked using a ring mold relative in size to your savarin mold) with an even layer of pastry cream. Okay, mine do not look even; just fill it with something.
- Over a cooling rack with a cookie sheet placed underneath, unmold the panna cottas. Working quickly, pour the white chocolate glaze over each panna cotta (I did it in two rounds).
- Once most of the residual glaze has dripped off, working quickly again, use an offset spatula to transfer the panna cotta over the filled tart shell.
- At this point, there is enough space to wrap some halved raspberries around the panna cotta. I added edible gold and chocolate crunch balls on top to make it prettier.
- Looks-wise, it reminded me of an ornate necklace charm. That, or for some reason, soap. I assure you it tasted nothing like soap.