I like cooking. I like the creativity of it, the sense of achievement, the feeling of producing something bigger and better than the sum of its parts. I’ve found that one of the main symptoms of my depression is not being able to eat much at all and six months ago, cooking meant boiling the kettle for instant noodles or trudging to the shop in my pyjamas for a bag of salted popcorn, that is to say, not cooking at all. I slept rather than eat properly; my stomach felt hungry but my head couldn’t get itself into gear enough to make the connection between that and getting out of bed and going to the kitchen. It’s a vicious circle, too little food means not enough energy, not enough energy means too much sleep, too much sleep means enhanced feelings of wasting your life, being worthless. Eating just felt…effortful.
At the end of November I decided to do an online food shop so at least if I did feel like eating, I wouldn’t have to leave the house to get supplies. I bought, on a whim, a big bag of potatoes. It stayed a big bag of potatoes for some time. A big bag of green-tinged, pock-marked potatoes by the time January rolled around. My appetite had been improving but I wasn’t enjoying the cooking or the eating; it felt like a necessary evil to be honest. My flatmate said something about making a load of chips just to get rid of the gnarly taters but I felt bad, they’d been sat there for nearly two months and I thought they deserved a better fate than boring old chips. Yes, I felt guilty for the potatoes, what of it? Also, I still wasn’t up to much on the eating front and that’s when it hit me. I could make soup. Leek and potato soup. All by my own self. I’d never made a soup before and I found I was feeling quite excited at the prospect. Could it be I was regaining my joy for food? I pushed that thought to the ‘perhaps I might get better’ box in my head, I didn’t want to hold on to it too hard in case I didn’t make the soup, in case I just left the potatoes to rot whilst I rotted away in bed, hungry. The idea of getting better is frightening. Like a siren, calling you to a land of pleasure; what happens if you get dashed upon the rocks?
I made the soup. I found the actual process to be soothing. There was a logic and routine to it, things which had been largely missing from my life for so long but also it was creative, taking these knobbly old tatties and tuning them into a warming, comforting, not too much effort to eat food blanket. I felt ridiculously proud of myself.
I started to tentatively re-engage with food. The next week I made stilton and broccoli soup. A couple of weeks later, smoked bacon and lentil (this one was not such a success, too greasy) and then yesterday I made a Thai-style prawn and noodle soup. In between soups I’ve cooked a roast dinner, a stew, a couple of pasta dishes more complicated than just opening a jar of pesto. And I’m starting to not only enjoy the process of cooking food again, but the eating of it too. I have started to see the point of it again. Thanks to soup.