Coping With Cooking

If you looked at me you’d never know that I struggle with depression. Although it’s something I almost never talk about, it’s been a serious problem I’ve had ever since I got sick. I wasn’t always like this; it’s not always like this. A few years ago I had a stroke and was paralyzed on the right side from the neck down, ever since then I’ve have more complications like muscle rigidity, memory loss, weakness in all limbs, collapsing, etc. So these past few years it’s been difficult to stay active which has its effects both physically and mentally. If you’ve struggled with depression you’d know it comes and goes but is always lurking in the shadows. I’ve tried to find different things to pull me out of what friends call a “funk”. I used to turn to the arts like dance, painting and drawing to relieve stress or pent up emotions but I’ve had to try and find something else that I could do that wouldn’t cause pain during or after the process.

For as long as I can remember, my mom would constantly tell me “If I wanted to keep a man I’d need to know how to cook and be domestic.” I always blew it off because of being too lazy to give a damn about cooking, but once I moved in with someone I found myself subconsciously doing what my mom pretty much beat into my head. I started cooking and cleaning more often. I found myself being the “perfect housewife” to kind of prove to my mom that I could be domestic, I had just chosen not to be in the past. Slowly but surely I’d started to really like it. Every time I cooked something, I’d send a picture of it to her with a message that said “Remember when you said I wasn’t domestic?” Soon it stopped being about proving my mom wrong and turned into me feeling good about cooking. I was proud of myself.

Fast forward to when my boyfriend and I moved out of our dinky little studio into a new one bedroom apartment. After a few weeks I found myself slowly slipping back in to the hole that I’ve worked so hard to stay out of. I turned to cooking and oddly enough, it’s been the most cathartic thing for me.

The more I cooked, the better I felt about life and when I stopped, the deeper in the hole I’d go. I remembered from a research project I did in college on the effects of music therapy and schizophrenia patients’ quality of life that active therapy like making songs had a more positive effect instead of just listening to it. I wondered if making food would give a better effect than just eating it, which I already knew made me feel good. So I started doing research to see if cooking could have the same effect. Lo and behold, I stumbled across Culinary Therapy.

Culinary Therapy is a therapeutic technique that includes benefits such as self-esteem building, enhancing brain development and helping others connect on a more interpersonal level. It teaches patients how to cook a healthy meal while giving them the opportunity to focus on something positive, to become open and vulnerable for social activity with others. Cooking can be therapeutic in general, and Culinary Therapy can be used to combat anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities along with other mental and physical disorders of all ages.

It makes sense when you think about it, in shows on TV or even people in our lives stress cook/bake. So if you struggle with anxiety, depression or want to try something new and therapeutic; I suggest you get on Pinterest and start cooking. I think in the future I’ll try going to cooking classes in the area and see if it’s even more effective than cooking in my kitchen on my own. I just hope that they have a dishwasher; the prepping and cooking I love, but the clean up I can do without.

by Brandy Lewis

Originally published at on December 31, 2015.