I always find it difficult to explain my anxiety and depression to people, it all began with me at a young age, being diagnosed with GAD and depression at the age of 13 (the year my mother was first diagnosed with cancer) The doctors threw all kinds of pills at me and sent me to the school counsellor, none of this had any positive effect on me personally, I battled through my own mental health issues refusing the medication which turned me into a numb zombie and not going to the counsellor as although I understand they were doing their best, it was a very impersonal, cold and scripted form of “help” which I just felt was extremely condescending.
After keeping my head straight for almost 5 years, mainly for my dad and brothers sake; my mum passed away a few weeks before my 18th birthday after an extremely rough battle with various types of cancer. She was my best friend in the whole world, so me being me I chucked my barriers up, withdrew into myself and hit the drink pretty hard for a time. This was the first time I spiralled into a pit which took me many months and my first time moving away from home to drag myself out of.
When I moved away I got my first real job in the restaurant business, front of house at a restaurant in Hythe, Kent and took to it like a duck to water. Working my way up the ladder quick and working in/managing some of the best restaurants and bars in Kent. I had started CBT sessions through referral from my doctor and honestly cannot vouch for them enough. I was tentative at first as I didn’t see how it would be any different to counselling, but it was worlds apart, a lot more personal, brutal at times, but uplifting, rewarding and ultimately tamed any self harm/suicidal thoughts I’d have from time to time.
My anxiety for the first time was in check it seemed, always there, but under control.
After a particularly toxic relationship hit it’s very sour end; I ended up spiraling into the worst pit I’ve been in. At this point I had left management due to my extreme anxiety and stepped down into bar work in a local pub as something safe and familiar. Yet I couldn’t even look anyone in the eye anymore, engaging with people (which was my job!) was impossible and I just became a mumbling oddball, far removed from my usual confident outgoing self.
This is where I decided to finally give my old dream of cooking professionally a go as we had an opening in the kitchen. Despite the usual initial fears/teething problems I found myself instantly happier doing something I had always loved: cooking.
With no formal training or guidance I left after 6 months in the kitchen to join a bistro in Whitstable, where I got to experience the real highs and lows of a proper professional high end kitchen. Now don’t get me wrong on this next part; I adore and love what I do, but it’s a battle for me (and many many others) almost every single service.
This industry is brutal and there’s still far too many archaic mindsets and stigmas about what you should be able to put up with being a chef: ludicrous hours, ridiculous amounts of days in a row, cuts, burns, back and leg problems you never have time to recover from. Yet the old mentality of having to “suck it up” “be a man” “you’re not a real chef if you complain about it” is still very prevalent in many kitchens around the world and it’s time it changed.
Then whilst at work one day using my steel, I thought of what I think is the most accurate analogy: much like my knife, when I’m over worked or tired I become dull, I become blunt, I don’t work quite as I should and I’m nowhere near as sharp. I need to spend time, care, attention to hone myself again, to get myself back to a useful state, clean away the burrs, just like my blade on a steel. Also like my knife, I’m not very good at doing it all by myself, without some help from others I’d just stay dull and useless and never be up to the task. Luckily for me I have amazing support from my girlfriend, my friends, family, colleagues as well as total strangers.
I am always here for anyone who’s struggling or just needs to talk, whether we’re best friends or you don’t know me from Adam (Hi Adam, hope you’re good!)
Hone yourself, stay sharp