The Burden of Meal Planning

A co-worker with whom I’ve felt close enough to share what is happening asked me if there is anything she can do. In the moment, I said no, I’m not sure and I don’t think there is anything anyone can do other than support me emotionally. A while later, I thought about last night’s meltdown because I couldn’t figure out dinner. I had a plan – go to the grocery store and pick up a ready-made dinner. Unfortunately the grocery store did not cooperate with my plan as the ready-made dinner was not available in its entirety. I was at a loss. I called my hubby and said I don’t know what to do. He gave me some instructions, which I followed. I went across the street to get the remaining items. But the items ended up being more expensive than the originally planned expense. Fortunately, our finances are healthy enough that this is not a big deal. However, in the moment, I had completely failed at dinner because plan A did not go as planned and plan B cost more than I anticipated, and thus the meltdown on my drive home.

The thing is, dinner planning (maybe even all meals planning) has always been my thing. Even when I was single, I always ate a meal for dinner (not salad, not just cheese and crackers and wine, an actual meal with a protein and a veggie). I always had a plan for it in advance and that’s continued in my married life. Ninety percent of the time, I knew what we were going to eat for dinner the day before or at least the morning of. Occasionally I’d get tired of the planning and then I’d complain to my hubby and demand that he take care of it. When I did that, he took care of it. Now, dinner planning, similar to my outfit planning, is a daunting task. I find it simply overwhelming to think about what to eat. I can’t recall what protein I have in the freezer, what vegetables there are in the fridge. I cannot even recall what I used to make for dinner – I know there are some standard recipes I’d fall back on. Right now though, it’s all too much of a burden to think about or figure it out.

When you’re not telling everyone what your illness is, or even that there is an illness, or even if you are telling people, how do you ask for help with something like cooking or cleaning? It’s not that I’m not physically capable of it. I’m not bed-ridden (though I might feel like it) and I’m functional as far as going to work, seeing friends on occasion, or traveling. Certainly, I’ve never offered to set-up a meal train for someone who is having a depressive episode. I’ve never offered to clean someone’s house (or hire a cleaner for them) when they’re going through something like this, if I’ve even known about it. It’s never occurred to me. However, as a community, we do this all the time for people suffering from other illnesses, surgeries, or even in the days following giving birth.

Yet, this is a time when I (and many others out there, I’m sure) would appreciate that casserole the neighbor might bring over if I had a broken limb or was bed-ridden (and if I knew my neighbor well enough). It’s the day-to-day tasks that become overwhelming. My hubby, being who he is, has taken on a lot of the cleaning and other day-to-day tasks himself. He’d also likely be embarrassed to have someone bring a casserole over or set-up a meal train. Should he really be embarrassed? Probably not. Truthfully, though I’m embarrassed that I’m not able to manage the day-to-day things, that I’m so easily overwhelmed. I certainly feel a great amount of guilt from it. It’s enough guilt and embarrassment that I’m not going to go back to that co-worker, whom I consider close, to ask her to make me a meal or two so I don’t have to plan or think about it.

It also makes me realize that this is one of those things that come from the stigma of mental illness. You may look like you always do and maybe to some degree, function as you always do, but in the privacy of your own home, it feels like it’s all coming apart. Asking for the help that people would offer up for any other illness becomes embarrassing and daunting in itself.

Of note, to my dear friends who read this, please don’t think this is my passive way of asking for help – it’s really not, especially since most of you are in other cities. It’s just my musing for the day.

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