I read an article a little while ago that outlined the emotional benefits of baking. It was something I always knew personally but it was good to read the psychological basis behind it. The article got me thinking about how my life and career had evolved over the last ten years and just how much cake and my various creative expressions have shaped and influenced my general wellbeing.
A long time ago I used to work in a office. It was an often stale and creatively defunct environment which I would leave to return to my home office to study more of the same. Beige. Life was so beige. I would come home after a crappy day and do what I needed to recenter myself, bake. Cupcakes... loads and loads of the damn things, but I would feel infinitely better. The irony is that I would then have to take them to work the next day to share with the people that contributed to my crap days and the cycle would continue, but I found then that baking helped me channel all the negative feelings and energies of my day into creating something deliciously positive and it then gave others joy too.
These days I'm far from the vanilla office, suits and office politics. I'm living in a creative realm, pink hair, sugar at my fingertips and any number of like minded creatives just a click or a call away. Bliss, mostly.
But living life as a caker often means no sleep and extended periods working on your own, which is the perfect time to really deeply consider all of that creative self doubt floating around in your head and arguing with you about the standard of your work or the placement of that flower. I know so many of us that struggle and while we are there creating beautiful memories and moments for others in cake, often behind the scenes we are really hurting and no amount of cupcake baking can fix it.
Most people don't know that I was diagnosed with PTSD many years ago and that since I have also been diagnosed with depression and most recently, anxiety. Each one of these poses a different challenge for me and they manifest themselves differently in my life. Regardless of the environment in which I work, the colour of my hair or how many cupcakes I can churn out, this is now my reality and to be honest, it has taken me a long time to accept it. I'm a control freak, no question about it but with this, I have to accept it, not change it and I suppose that is partly the purpose of writing this blog. Acknowledgement and acceptance is the hardest part.
99.9% of the time I am fine, I function as a normal (its relative! lol) member of society, I drop my daughter to school, work, contribute, create, but sometimes I need to reflect and recenter. It is hard to explain but those of you who also suffer understand I know, and there are many of us. The issue is that we, as society don't talk about it. And when it is that 0.1% of the time we aren't ok, we hide it and feel ashamed, weak, pathetic and vulnerable. We are not and we should not. It really is ok not to be ok.
If you had a broken arm, you would wear a cast, a sling, people would comment, wish you a good recovery, you would take and do what you needed to ensure that bone healed back up and you had that fondant rolling arm back in action. Why do we not do this with anxiety or depression? Well, because we can't see it. Others don't know its there unless we tell them and then we run the risk of them judging us or pitying us in someway (which for me is a big deal) solely because they don't understand. Its time to STOP IT. We need to stand up, speak out, let people know but also help them to understand.
So, here I am today, standing up., speaking out. I have anxiety. I have depression. I have PTSD. I am a mother, a wife, a sister and a friend. I have two arms, a dog and I can drive a car. I am strong, intelligent, creative and compassionate. I like the colour red, and most recently (and surprisingly) the colour pink, I love soft cheese and reading political autobiographies (such a nerd). These things are all me. I am owning them. I am not hiding anymore. I am not ashamed. This is me.
Whilst it is good to bake away whatever you can, and yes, creative baking does help, I ask that you own yours too. Speak up to yourself, if not out. Talk to your friends, they love you (it is their job!). We need to stop hiding in the shadows of mental health stigma and talk about it. It is the only way anything will ever change and we deserve respect, support and love, just like everyone else.
There are a number of organisations here is Australia that offer a tremendous amount of service and support. These include the ones listed below - contact them if you need. Stop being ashamed, life is so much better in the light where you can see.
Beyond Blue www.beyondblue.org.au