Cooking And Mental Health

So how does it work? Running a fun YouTube channel (Cooking with Tris) where I show people how to cook and then over on Instagram have a channel (@speak_up_on_anxiety) where I talk openly and honestly about my struggles with mental health? Can they co-exist at the same time? How do I make the switch from the one to the other? Should I really be doing it?

The simple fact of the matter is the two actually complement each other.

Cooking has over the years been one of my greatest assets is being able to manage my anxiety. Anxiety to me has always been driven by having to face situations that, I feel, are totally out of my control. At its height, many years ago, this could have been something as simple as getting on a bus or meeting friends for an evening out.

The idea that I could be in a place, where I could not be in complete control of what was happening, where things were unpredictable, would bring on panic attacks. I did not have to physically be in the situation for them to occur; at times mere thoughts would be all that was needed. I suffered from this for many years, however, I was lucky and was able to get help.

Slowly over time I have been able to break down the walls that anxiety created, to manage my feelings and behaviours and wrest back control over my life. It has not been an easy journey. My anxiety has never actually gone away; it still lurks in somewhere deep within me and at times it starts to creep back. However I can see it now, it can’t disguise itself as it used to, I don’t fall for its deceit; that is there to help me, to protect me. I see it for what it is, I now know where it came from now and I know all about the trauma from which it was conceived.

Sometimes when I am stressed or dealing with some upheaval, it makes an appearance, albeit fleeting most of the time but just enough to leave me feeling unsettled. Sometimes this happens completely out of the blue, caused by I do not know what? Then all of a sudden part of me becomes that scared and confused teenager again.

When this happens my first line of defence is to take control of something, like casting an anchor over the side of a ship in a storm. Anything will do. Sometimes I start cleaning the flat, other times I exercise. However my ‘go to’ response these days will more often than not be cooking some food or preparing the ingredients for a meal to be made later.

In this space, in the kitchen I have complete control; I am the master of my own destiny, for at least a couple of hours. Here I decide everything, what to chop, how to season, how long something will simmer for. It grounds me, the world; space outside all fades into insignificance when I cook. I lose myself. I am in a place where anxiety cannot penetrate, where it is powerless. It is a place of great comfort to me, of safety and of freedom.

It is my greatest therapy and greatest joy. And this is why I share with the world (well at least those people who make the effort to follow me) the two sides of myself, the light (the joy of cooking) and the dark (the impact of coping with mental health); the light in many ways having been born from the dark.

They are complementary and provide a kind of balance to my life. Whether it is my ego that has driven me to share these experiences publicly or a desire to give my life some additional purpose, I don’t know. What I do know is that whatever I am doing is helping me, it is part of my ongoing rehabilitation and recovery, albeit so many years in the making, and maybe, just maybe by watching someone else out there may find either help or comfort too.  

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