I'm going to start off by saying that I am in no way trained professionally in dealing with mental health, all these opinions/feelings/experiences are my own.
It's taken me an hour to start this sentence. In that time I've made lunches for the week and prepped dinner for tonight and like my dinner, I'm prepped to start writing. I remember my first panic attack and remember thinking 'What is happening to me?' It was terrifying but I didn't tell anyone. It was the middle of the night, my brother and Dad asleep upstairs and I just sat on the sofa rocking back and forth until I eventually came round and timidly went back to bed. I had no idea why that had just happened or how to deal with it so in the morning I went for a walk thinking of the all the reasons to why it happened. For me, that made it worse. For the next two years my anxiety got worse and I was having regular episodes at least once a week. Again, I was thinking about all the reasons why it was happening and what was causing it. I ended up in therapy for 3 months through my Uni and my Therapist told me to stop thinking about why it's happening and start thinking about how to deal with it when it does happen. That completely changed my life (not being dramatic at all).
Once I started learning how to cope with the episodes rather than overthinking about why they were happening, everything got much more manageable. Through trial and error, I eventually found out different ways to calm myself down. Don't get me wrong, I did not do this on my own. I have absolute rocks in my life and I thank each and every one of them who have fought with me. They know how special they are to me.
So, what's this got to do with cooking? When I moved in with my boyfriend it was a completely new atmosphere, a new routine and a new way of living. It took me a while to adjust because I've gone from with living with my Dad and my Brother to living with my boyfriend, his Mum and Sister. Two completely different worlds! I realised now that I need to start really 'adulting' and weirdly got quite excited! Every Sunday morning my boyfriend and I sat down and wrote out our lunches and dinners for the week, then we'd both go out and buy everything. I used to hate food shopping, now I was falling in love with it. I'd already had a love for cooking and creating recipes, and this just boosted this.
When I started getting in to the routine of cooking/making our lunches for the week on a Sunday night, then cooking each evening for us both I noticed that my anxiety wouldn't be nearly as bad. Some weeks it didn't exist and I felt so relieved. As I continued this routine for 4 years I noticed a massive decline in panic attacks, I had perhaps 1 every 6 months which was incredible. Fast forward to now, I've been living with my boyfriend for nearly 2 years in our own home. The routine has continued and I haven't had a panic attack since we bought our home. I still get days where I get a bit 'on edge' and I know now to go to the fridge, see what we have and just cook something. Funnily enough my boyfriend never complains because he always gets a tasty meal out of it and it soothes me - win win!
People who are reading this who have or have had anxiety (and people who are very in tune with mental health) will see a running theme with my experience. Control. Anxiety and control go hand in hand. When you have a panic attack, you lose control and it's scary. When you have an episode of anxiety, you lose control and it's scary. When I started the routine of writing shopping lists down, writing my recipes down, cooking on a Sunday night etc - I gained control back. Something that I lost. As well as my routine, the cooking and creating of food itself allowed me back more control. Slowly over the years that control got stronger and stronger.
I now have my lovely Instagram page along with this amazing platform to share my recipes, my love of cooking and now my experience with anxiety. It's so humbling to know that people actually take time to read my content and engage, I never take that for granted so thank you to all of you.