We all have challenges in life, with various levels of difficulty. I truly believe that no one suffers alone and that at least one other person is going through what you are. That is why I am doing what I am doing. I want to share what I have experienced with others so that they will know they are not alone.
Who am I? I am a professional cook who has dealt with anxiety my whole life. From a tiny baby with clenched fists to an adult who had difficulty coping with unexpected change, anxiety was ever present. It wasn’t until many years later when the anxiety threatened my career that I began a journey to figure out what I was dealing with and how to remove it from my life.
In May 2013, I had the chance to begin my dream career when I was hired on as a line cook while I was still in school. Approximately a year and a half went by problem free when the kitchen at work under went renovations, thus we had to work in a drastically different and modified space. This is when my anxiety really started to make itself known and have a negative impact on where I wanted my career to go.
I began to question every decision that I had to make, that I previously did without pause. I would throw food out because of the slightest “issue”, I would send dishes back through the dishwasher that were already clean, I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened at work even to the point where I was unable to sleep and in order to try to placate that anxious mind I would send texts to my co-workers around 3 am just to make sure they would check on whatever my mind was telling me I did or saw that it felt was wrong. I would even question the actions of others I worked with, many of whom had more experience than I did and whose opinions in the kitchen I trusted.
While these were the outward, more obvious signs of my anxiety, far worse were the thoughts that on almost a constant basis were going on in my head and the reasons behind the actions. The main thought that lead to most of my actions was the fear of getting a customer sick, despite my training, instincts and what I was constantly told by my more experienced colleagues and bosses. I struggled to sleep, which just made matters worse as my brain would go over the entire day and look at what “went wrong” and over analyse everything. I’ve lost count of how many times I had to try and reassure myself that everything was okay and to trust what I knew to be true, not my anxious thoughts. It has been the scariest, most difficult time and I constantly felt vulnerable, despite not always showing it on the outside, thinking I was not “good enough”. It’s a constant struggle. I had to try to bring my brain back to the year and a half before when my career was on the right track.
I knew at this point I needed to seek help. I had seen the benefits of naturopathic medicine both in other areas of my own life as well as in the lives of those I love. So that is where I began my journey to healing. I started out by seeing my hometown naturopath and she worked with me by examining different areas of the body that were out of alignment and were creating both the physical symptoms as well as the obsessive thoughts. We were off to a promising start.
A few months after the initial realisation of the impact of my anxiety was having on me, I was offered and officially accepted a new job at a restaurant that was opening in a few weeks. I was going to be part of a brand new restaurant and be able to gain valuable experience. I was so excited and hoped moving into a new environment, outside of where the initial anxiety attacks took place, would help heal me. I knew I had to be honest with my bosses as to what had been happening the past few months. I was fortunate that I had worked for them before so they knew that the anxiety wasn’t who I was and that I was working on healing and living with as little anxiety as possible. They agreed to work with me and told me to let them know if there was anything they could do to help me on my healing journey.
That is perhaps one of the biggest lessons I have learned so far when it comes to dealing with anxiety. Be as open and honest as possible with those around you, especially if it is having a detrimental effect at work. It is important to show that you recognize what is happening and you are trying to improve and get healthy. It also helps that other people understand, as much as they can, what is going on in your head, that you aren`t doing certain things to be difficult but you are actually fighting one of the scariest battles there is – your own anxious mind.
I have made tremendous strides and I try to focus on the following every time anxious thoughts pop into my head: how far I have come, the positive steps I have taken and the fact that this is my journey, and while other people are a part of it, ultimately they are not the ones having to live with these thoughts or having to deal with the struggle of overcoming them. Remembering my goals, passions and who I am gives me the courage to face each day and to know anxiety will not hold me back.