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Burnt Anxiety: How Cooking Saved A Therapist

“I suck at cooking.” Those are the words I formerly lived by when my pasta was overcooked and mushy. Or when the smoke alarm blared while I frantically opened my kitchen window to let the smell of burnt fish waft far away from my disappointment. Then there was the diagnosis. Boiling from the mouth of my therapist, “It’s called Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” It all finally made sense. The insomnia, the pacing, the “everyone is staring at me and my shaky hands.”

To make matters worse, I became a marriage and family therapist. I am supposed to know which morsels of empathy, wisdom and heartfelt goodness to serve (sunny-side up) to my clients. How will I support a person on their worst day when I cannot stop thinking about the ridiculously embarrassing thing I said 5 years ago?

Then I became a wife. A wife who is a feminist (and so is her husband). But also, a wife desiring to keep the house looking spiffy and to cook epic meals for her marriage. A wife determined to hear the “Mmmmms” while her husband saunters over to the stove for a second helping. In the beginning, the meals were served with cans and boxes and shame.

Then I evolved. I watched cooking TV. I cried when Anthony Bourdain took his life. My mouth watered over insta #foodporn posts. I became determined to learn and heal. I became a chef. Through each knife cut and nicked finger, all the burnt toast and un-risen dough, I focused. I became mindful and mesmerized by lasagna. It was in these little moments, cooking dinner or prepping lunch when I realized my anxiety was fading away.

So now, I cook. I cook when it hurts. I cook to relieve my fight, flight, freeze response. I cook alone and for others. I cook to stay in the moment, reminding myself to pay attention and let the knife cut through the fear.

And guess what? Sometimes, I still burn the food.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Writer. Foodie. Self-Taught Chef. Always Hungry.