Baking was therapy for my anxiety and depression

By Caitriona  McMahon  @Caitriona_Mac

I was diagnosed with acute anxiety and depression a few years ago – and although currently I’m much better, it is a matter of taking each day as it comes.

When it first hit me I was left spinning sort of like a deer in the headlights. I had no idea what was or was not the best thing for me to do.

Motivation was at an all time low when I visited the local psychiatric hospital for the first time. As with every medical appointment screening forms had to be filled out and assessments made.

All while I wanted to hide behind a table, as I honestly did not know what to expect given I had heard so many varying stories about patient treatment plans.

During that particular appointment the nurse asked about my daily routine, which to be fair was nonexistent at the time.

Getting out of bed was a chore in itself. That said I had taken a shine to browsing baking recipes and pictures online.

What the nurse said next shocked me, as she asked had I heard of a book called Saved by cake by author Marian Keyes.

The name of the book struck me as it left her lips. Could this Marian Keyes have been going through something similar?

Saved by Cake 2

There and then the nurse wrote out a note with the book details. Within a few days, now granted I was searching like a blood hound, I had tracked the book down and opened the first page.

And so the book began with…

“Medically speaking, there is no such thing as a nervous breakdown. Which is very annoying to discover when you’re right in the middle of one” – Marian Keyes

I was hooked from that very paragraph. Her wit and honesty was palpable instantly. So I read on to discover Marian like me had been diagnosed with depression.

After trying all the various therapies, she discovered while baking for a friend’s party, the only thing that helped her, was in fact, baking.

Caitriona was at the bottom but Kayla helped her find her way back
Caitriona was at the bottom but baking became part of her therapy to recovery

The routine act simplified her thoughts and created a spaces of clarity. The book includes various recipes too, which saw me whipping my apron out and figuring, why not give this theory a try.

I couldn’t believe what happened next as I finished up in the kitchen.  Marian Keyes was right.

Watching the flour, sugar and salt leave my fingertips and transform into something so special was reassuring.

To be honest, it took a while to accept I was capable of making such lovely cakes. After the first, followed a sense of fulfilment.

A spoon of hope, courage and optimism was in the mix along with the other ingredients of flour and salt.  And an extra special dash of courage grew within me as I happily baked away.

As new recipes appeared online, I found myself driven by a hunger for more and more challenges, such as high heel cupcakes and pigs bath brownies. Such sweet delicacies became a daily source of excitement for me.

Caitriona's cakes have been very experimental as her skills progress
Caitriona’s cakes have been very experimental as her skills progress

This gift Marian had shared was for me and it created a virtual recipe for success, pulling me away from the negative feelings I’d been suffering.

Now it was not all roses. Many a fight was had with fondant.  Perhaps it should be renamed ‘’Fon-don’t’.

For anyone who has worked with it, will know fondant can be a nightmare to handle if temperatures are not right.

But all baking was trial and error and in the case of attempting macaroons more error.

I have grown to love baking.  Anyone can take something so simple, using just flour and salt and turn their mixture into a showstopper – even a wedding cake.

Many of us have visions we believe in. Now I want to tell others, to do just like me, and to never give up.

What’s meant to be will always be. Sometimes the oven maybe a little hot and the edges burn but the next time you will know to reduce the heat or place the cake in a different part of the oven.

The same goes for life. The most successful people on this planet started from scratch. They looked into the ingredients bowl of life and saw a showstopper not finishing until it became a reality.

If you bake as a form of therapy, please share the images with us on the Ireland Today Facebook or Twitter @irelandtoday_

Caitriona is co-founder of the Community Crisis Response Team in Limerick, a dedicated voluntary group who visit people who are suicidal and get them help.  #amazing



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