The happy cook

I have worked in kitchens for almost 3 years now and slowly worked my way up through the ranks of dishwasher and general dogsbody to where i am now, a fully fledged line cook. Ive always had an interest in the creative side of food and discovering new ways to make vegetarian dishes interesting whilst at the same time delicious. Cooking has now become like my therapy in a way but for a long time there was a lot of negative energy attached to being in kitchen despite my love for it, and that is down to, in the past, the job feeling like a job, a chore, a burden rather than a passion project. I went from one bad kitchen environment to another and convinced myself i had no place there and no right to want to create a life for myself in that industry. Its stupid i know but on some level i have always believed in fate and in the past it always seemed like fate and circumstance was against me. Now, however, i have found myself at a job where i am actually excited to go to work and learn. A job where it doesnt feel like im just being dragged along for the sake of it, a job where i am actually trusted and respected enough to have a little freedom. A job where i dont have to walk on eggshells anytime i step into the kitchen. It feels like now i have eveything i wanted: friends i love, a dog i love, and a job i love. I quite like this new life.

The inbetween

Being autistic is fucking tough at the best of times but since lockdown started it has been one hellish nightmare. To make it from one day to the next i relied on routines and consistency, such as seeing friends regularly, going to certain places on certain days etc but all that was halted back in march and i’ll admit living alone, stuck in my head every day for 3 months has broken me. I did my best but i failed. I was paranoid about being forgotten, ‘if people can go that long without me in their lives what reason do they have to want me back?’ is what i asked myself on an almost daily basis. Now with things starting to go back to normal im thrown back into a world im no longer adjusted for. All my coping systems from months ago are now ineffective because i dont think i can be the same person i was before lockdown. Too much has happened and nothing seems to fit anymore, i dont seem to fit. All i feel now is incomplete and disconnected from everything around me. I have lost who i was and now i am just a walking shell waiting to be filled by the new me, but for now im just stuck in this sort of limbo inbetween the old and the new. Will i be better or will i be worse? I dont know, i dont know anything anymore.

A brave new world

I recently read the book ‘What a time to be alone’ by Chidera Eggerue on the reccomendation of a good friend and i am very glad i did. Some parts of it were inspiring, other parts were eye opening and then some were just downright uncomfortable because of how unsettling it made me feel about myself and my life as a whole. I realised that the most toxic person that has existed in my life is the same one that stares back at me in the mirror. Ive always been hard on myself for the things i cant control and for the choices i have made in the past. I always put the needs of everyone else above my own and i now see that the only thing that shows is that i wanted to avoid my own insecurities. I wasnt important enough to myself. Why should anyone else care about you if you dont even care about yourself?

I also realised that there is two separate versions of me. The me that the world sees (lets call him liam A)and the me only i know (liam B) The problem with this is that liam A is controlled and conditioned by liam b. B would never allow liam A into a situation where this deception might be uncovered because liam A does not exist. He is merely a tool i used to hide in plain sight. People might not like the real me and that is a scary thought so the longer people got to know liam A, and hopefully like him, the easier it was for liam b to stay hidden behind closed doors, too fragile to step out of the shadows. This mentality is severly damaging because now that ive become aware of this i dont know whats real anymore. I have no way of knowing if certain aspects of me are the real me or just something i manufactured in order to survive for so long. All i have now is doubt.

A part of the book talks about victim mentality and this struck a chord with me because for over 6 years i was bullied, harassed and abused by an individual. After every encounter i would blame myself because on some level i was agreeing with his actions. In my mind i deserved to be treated in such a horrendous way because of how i was different. If it hadnt been him it would have been someone else, and on many occasions it was myself.

I made myself vulnerable and the world is full of people ready to take advantage because it makes them feel good to know there is a pecking order and that theyre the ones doing the pecking. I made myself too available for people, scared to lose them if i said no but the result of this prolonged behaviour was that i ended up losing myself and became desperate for validation in any way i could find it, such as social media. I was obsessed with messages, likes, shares etc anything that meant i was being noticed. And i always checked who it was that was paying attention and making a note of who wasnt. I didnt know how to value myself because by this point i had no idea who i was so i tried to craft the perfect persona, someone who mattered to other people.

Every day i wake up and think is this the day people realise im just not worth knowing anymore. The fear of being forgotten intensified to the stage where i found myself desperate to unburden myself in the hopes of being understood, but all this lead to was regret for having ever opened up in the first place. I had given people the perfect reason to shut the door on me because surely no one wants to be around someone so dark and down. Convincing yourself that the people around you are only kind to you out of politeness and assuming that you are hated, abandoned or ignored is self sabotage. I have ruined good things by assuming the worst and its a vicious cycle that seemed unending. Its hard to ignore the voice inside your head when its not on your side, and in my case it doesnt just whisper, it screams and screeches until i pass out with worry.

Its going to be a long journey unlearning all my toxic behaviours and defences and i suspect that when im done walking this path my shoes will be worn through. But in the end, fingers crossed, I will be liam again, no hiding or extra personalities, just me. And maybe then i will be enough.

Teach me how to swim

Mental health, in my experience, is the feeling of drowning. Most people you see will throw you a life ring but then dont understand why youre still struggling even after their help. Its because every wave of sadness pushed you further into the deep, and now they can only see your face on the surface level. You can fake a smile and convince them you’re going to be okay but what they dont see from their sideline crowd is that under your mask you’re choking on your own tears.

Who do you stand with?

The system isnt broken. It was built by racists and bigots centuries ago for the purpose of keeping them on top and to hell with everyone else, they are still in control to this day. We live in a society that is structured for inequality. Its one giant pyramid scheme with the rich elite crushing everyone on the lowest layers. You cant change how you were born but we can change the world you were born into. End the tolerance of what is inhumane. Police brutality, corrupt politicians and blind obediance. Change the conversation. Change the system.

#blacklivesmatter 🖤

Lifes a dealer

Ive never liked the term label. Its such a non word and some people will write you off because to them how could you be anything other than your label? Everything is suddenly all about that. All of your actions and words and thoughts they assume is caused by the things you cant control about yourself, in their eyes you are your label and nothing more. You could label me as autistic, bisexual, depressed and a whole deal more and i will fake smile my way through those encounters. In a perfect world i would be none of those things because each one comes with its own hurdles and I can never seem to jump high enough. Some days i tell myself i can overcome whatever is dragging me down but i still fall, and then there are days where i convince myself that i will always be falling. Every fall has its eventual end. I like to think im a decent person, but deep down I know im nothing special. Im just me. This is the hand i was dealt and people like me dont win this game.