Warning: Potentially triggering and detailed content in this post. I tried to insert a “read more” tag after the “And yet…” subtitle, but please do not read past there if you feel uncomfortable
I love cooking. As a child, one of the ways I got personal attention and approval was through the cooking process. There was a wealth of knowledge handed down to me as I sat or stood in the kitchen with my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and yes parents learning basic food preparation and storage skills.
When I think of the smells in my grandparents’ kitchen, I feel safe.
When I think of standing on a chair stirring sauce in a pot with my uncle, I feel loved.
When I try to remember how to “properly” marinate meat to get the tender, melt-in-your mouth feel, my mind draws a blank.
When I try to chop common vegetables like carrots, celery, onions, or broccoli, my hands start to shake.
Last week I remembered being raped. It came while I slept. And I woke up after physically reliving the experience. But neither I nor any of my alters could make the experience stop. For five days, I felt like the person who started recovery 13 years ago in 2004. Lethargic, depressed, shamed, angry, upset, frustrated, sad, in pain, confused, disoriented, and partially dissociated.
Something happened on the inside during those blurry five days. Work helped. Reading helped. Binge watching Bones from season 1 helped. Looking up and confirming little bits of memory fragments about Chinese cooking and marinating techniques online helped. Sleeping was most beneficial. All of these strategies helped me reflect on my experience.
I expected to feel like myself on Monday.
I felt worse. My body hurt more. Felt like a head cold or sinus infection was back. And I couldn’t focus on anything. So grateful I had Monday off.
Tuesday I had a Chinese medicine treatment. Again, the practitioner confirmed my physical experiences – the pain, the body memories, the symptoms – and tried a different treatment that both eased my pain and helped me remember the rape dream with clarity. And with that memory, a flood of happy, comforting memories about cooking.
And today in therapy…
I was finally able to share details about my thoughts, feelings, fears, and experience with rape, sex, sexual feelings, physiological responses, and so on.
Talking with her helped me decide to try making a favorite meal – one my paternal grandfather taught me – that my uncle, my grandfather, and I all liked before I started the intense anorexia and started restricting food – of beef stew with onions, carrots, celery, and cabbage.
The MINDFULNESS Aspect:
- Grocery shopping – choose store; choose meat (lamb or beef); choose vegetable type and quantity; go through the recipe and my pantry; find the rest of the ingredients; pick up a dessert/reward for later; pay for groceries
- At home – unpack and put away produce first, then dry goods; find the cutting board; check the knife and vegetable peeler
- In the kitchen – take out fresh ingredients; peel and chop vegetables; clean up scraps as I go; mix vegetables in bowl; put aside; add dried spices to another bowl; add wet ingredients; mix to combine; slowly add in and coat the beef
- Put everything in the refrigerator until tomorrow
Sometimes going back to basics can be a good thing. For each step in my Mindful Cooking Process, I used my senses to focus on the texture, smell, taste, color, and shape of each ingredient and tool. For the first time in a long time, meal preparation felt fun. I stayed grounded, present, and focused the whole time.
In spite of the physical toll remembering takes on me, I am grateful for the other memories that come back too. And I am grateful to have a safe person to share these memories with. A safe person who can help me navigate through the confusing sexual feelings and physiological sensations that scare all of us.
What is the connection? Cooking equals safety + comfort.
A scary memory + A comforting meal = self-care
What helps you?
Thanks for reading