By Lyndsey Hafer-Williams
I’m in a funk. Some might call it a wave of sadness or the winter blues. I just call it the funk. It happens twice a year like clockwork. Once in the heat of August and then again in the cold of February and March. It is so predictable, yet I’m surprised every time it hits.
I’m lethargic, grumpy, and generally uninterested in the things that usually bring joy to my life. My days feel devoid of color, my chest feels tight, my shoulders feel heavy, and it’s rather a chore to get through my day.
I’ve battled major depression for most of my life. At my worst, I was hospitalized and at my best, I was stabilized on multiple medications. So these depressive episodes are not new to me, and I have plenty of therapeutic tools in my arsenal to deal with these hard times.
I’ve enjoyed a remission of sorts with my mental health difficulties since beginning the CFDG Plant Fueled Meal Plans 18 months ago. Batching became therapeutic and eating delicious whole plant foods allowed me to nourish and love myself back to health. I was able to get off all but the most minimal of medications, and I enjoyed such a love for life.
But, even with eating all the plants, this year, the funk still hit hard and swift. It pulled the rug right out from under me and wiped me out. My usual zest for life petered out and my ever-present excitement for new experiences was nowhere to be found. I felt lost, and I woke up every morning with no energy, interest, or creativity. The funk literally brought me to my knees.
Last Thursday, I had had enough. I was done feeling crappy and sad and soulless. I didn’t feel any better, but I had to take control.. So, I did the one thing I could think of… I started baking muffins.
I pulled out the whole wheat pastry flour and rolled oats. I grabbed apples and lemons and bananas. I searched through the pantry for baking soda, baking powder, and coconut sugar. I picked out cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and poppyseeds off of the spice rack. I found applesauce and soy milk in the fridge. I ground flax seeds and sniffed out the vanilla.
I chopped and blended and mixed and measured and made muffins for several hours. When I was through I had 6 dozen varieties of my favorite CFDG muffins, and felt a little better. The fragrant spices and beautiful colors had worked their magic. It wasn’t a cure-all by any means, but it had definitely helped.
We had a neighbor pass away recently from pancreatic cancer and I decided to double batch some Lemon Poppyseed muffins from the blog and take them over to his grieving widow. Our elderly neighbor was not a pleasant man and he was super unhappy about having a couple of liberal lesbians living next door to him. However, Lori and I always tried to be as kind to him as possible, and I hoped that in some way we were able to show by example that love comes in all forms.
He grudgingly started to come around the last few years and this past summer he even brought me a big bag of tomatoes and cucumbers from his garden. My wife says I wore him down with happy laughter, dazzling smiles, exuberant chatter, and incessant gardening questions anytime I saw him outside. He liked to gruffly give me advice about my perennials and tell me all the things that I was doing wrong. Personally, I think he took a liking to me. He couldn’t help himself.
When I returned home from delivering the muffins, I noticed my heart felt a little lighter. So, I got in the car and went to our local animal shelter where I used to volunteer walking dogs. I hadn’t done it in a long time because it’s hard for me not to take every one of them home. But, today I decided I needed a walk in the sunshine and maybe it would make me feel better to take a few needy dogs with me.
I walked a scruffy, rambunctious beagle and then went back and picked up a very loud, but adorable chihuahua. It really made me feel better, so I went back a third time and took out the most gorgeous boxer named Daisy. We went to the dog park and ran and played and thoroughly enjoyed the sunshine.
When I arrived home and got the mail, I found that a friend of mine had sent me a sweet card and a lovely bracelet to cheer me up. She had only done it as support for an upcoming surgery that I’m having and had no way of knowing how low and sad I was. I was absolutely blown away by the timing and the unexpected kindness shown to me.
And then it hit me! We are all in this crazy circle of life together. I had just spent my day doing something for others and she had done something for me. Just think of it! If we all just did one kind thing for someone else every day, not only would it lift us up, it would perpetuate the cycle of goodness and happy energy flowing all around us.
This is not a new idea or concept. It’s well known that in helping others we help ourselves feel better. But, when we start to think of it in global terms, it is an amazing thought!
If we choose to eat plants, we feel better.
If we choose to take muffins to someone in need, we feel better.
If we choose to send a card to a friend, we feel better.
If we choose to walk shelter dogs, we feel better.
If we choose to smile and hold the door for a stranger, we feel better.
If we get up every day and choose to serve others, we feel better.
And everyone on the receiving end feels better too.
I want to encourage and challenge you to do something for someone every single day.
Even if it’s a small gesture of kindness I promise that not only will it bring a spark of joy to a friend, a relative, a neighbor, or a stranger, it will also lift you up, lighten your spirit, put a smile in your heart, and possibly set your soul to singing!
Now, I’m not saying that baking muffins or walking dogs made the funk go away. I’m still struggling and it will be a while before it passes. But, at least I feel that I have moved toward the light a tiny bit and away from the all-consuming darkness that is the definition of depression.
If the only thing you can do today is just get out of bed? Then that, my friend, is ok. Sometimes, just breathing and surviving your day takes a Herculean effort. I get it. I understand.
But, may I make a suggestion?
Get up, get dressed, go to your kitchen, take a deep cleansing breath, wipe your tears, and start to heal yourself.
Just make a batch of beautiful, delicious, muffins and bring one or two to a friend. Let that simple action wrap you in such a warm blanket of love and light that your heart starts to feel less burdened and your spirit starts to feel the tiniest spark of that undeniable joy that you know is inside of you.
Do you struggle with depression? If you’re open to it, talk to us in the comments below and let’s keep this convo going.
The national suicide prevention number (US) is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Thank you Lyndsey for your honesty and your willingness and courage to be vulnerable. After I read this piece last week, I was inspired to make a new muffin recipe for Lyndsey and for you. Your kitchen is calling your name, my dear.
Whole Food Plant Based Cardamom Coffee Cake Muffins (oil free)
Cardamom Coffee Cake Muffins
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 1 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped (100 g)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 cup raisins (75 g)
Wet Mixture Ingredients
- 1 cup unsweetened, non-dairy milk (235 ml)
- 1/4 cup applesauce (65 g)
- 1/4 cup 100% pure maple syrup (60 ml)
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Dry Mixture Ingredients
- 1 cup teff flour (145 g)
- 1 cup brown rice flour (130 g)
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar (35 g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350° F (175° C).
Make the topping by whisking together the non-dairy milk, tahini and maple syrup in a small mixing bowl. To that small bowl, add the remaining topping ingredients (chopped walnuts, cinnamon, cardamom and raisins) and stir until everything is combined. Set aside for now.
Place all of the “wet mixture” ingredients into a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside for now.
Place all of the “dry mixture” ingredients into a large mixing bowl and gently stir to combine.
Transfer the wet mixture to the dry mixture and gently stir until combined.
Line a muffin tin with liners and evenly distribute the batter amongst all 12 liners.
Gently press some topping onto the top of each muffin until all of the topping has been used. Bake for 23-25 minutes.
Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before you dive in.
After I made this recipe I had Kellie test them with regular whole wheat pastry flour and they worked perfectly using the same measurements in the recipe.
Our photographer, Maggie made them with Pamela's All Purpose Gluten Free Flour mix and they came out awesome. She used the same measurements in the recipe.
Maggie photographed them with gluten free flour so if you are using teff flour and brown rice flour (like the recipe calls for) and yours look different, that is why.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with making muffins.