Friday, 2 August 2013

Fifty Shades Of Grey - The Depressed Cake Shop

Who doesn’t love cake? Cake brings people together, who ever ate a whole cake to themselves? No celebration would be complete without a cake. So why would anyone be interested in The Depressed Cake Shop, the pop up bakeries opening across the UK this weekend?

I, for one, think it’s a brilliant idea and am not only going along to eat some tasty treats but have volunteered to make something too. The Depressed Cake Shop is a charity project aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues and getting people talking. If this project can do anything to help quash the social stigma around mental illness, whilst eating cake, then I see that only as a good thing.

I’ve debated whether to do this, but since I think it is really important that we all start talking, I wanted to tell you a little bit about my personal story and why this is something close to my heart.

When I was just nineteen years old, my world fell apart. I became miserable, I stopped eating, lost my ability to enjoy anything, I couldn’t concentrate at all which caused me to fail my second year of university. It was like I had so many negative thoughts in my head there was no room for anything else. I started to sleep for as long as possible as being awake was so unbearable. I had no idea why I felt like this but I truly believed that I was over and would be better off dead. This was my first depressive episode.

Over the last ten years I have had depression on and off and have developed a much greater understanding of the illness. I have learnt coping strategies, one of the most effective ones being distraction. When depressed your mind is full of negative thoughts but if you can distract it with something else, a simple activity like baking then you can give your brain a rest. What could be simpler than weighing flour, whisking eggs?

A serious bought of depression two years ago really fuelled my love of baking. I realised that not only was the act of baking a great distraction but the sense of pride at having made something delicious helped lift my spirits a little. Then of course I wouldn’t eat it all to myself so I would share my cake and get another boost from seeing everyone else enjoy it too.

And I am not the only one who has had this experience, the author Marian Keyes wrote her own recipe book Saved by Cake after a bout of depression, John Whaite from the Great British Bake Off talks about it in his book Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood and even Mary Berry has said she thinks baking can help mend a broken heart.

Please don’t get me wrong, baking is not an alternative therapy and can’t “fix” depression but it has been a great help for me during difficult times.

Now, back to the Depressed Cake Shop. The idea is for anyone who wants to get involved can either set up a shop in their local area or they can bake for the shop and all of the cakes, biscuits, macarons etc will all be grey. I have been following the discussions about the shop on facebook and it's great to see is how it has brought people together.

For me by taking part I feel like I am doing something proactive and knowing there is a whole community of people who have also suffered with this horrible illness taking part too makes it feel like a positive social movement. I said at the beginning that cake is all about bringing people together and no celebration would be complete without it and this is no different, I think we can start to celebrate the fact that the social stigma around mental illness is on its way out.

You can find out more here or on Twitter #DepressedCakes.

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