“If you could channel your mental health passion into a project to share with peers, what might that look like?”
When I saw this question on the Acacia Mental Health Advocate program application, I was initially going to write something about online programming to decrease the stigma about mental health in Asian American communities. While this is important and definitely something I’m passionate about, it’s not something I feel ready to fully address and build a cohesive project around. If I could do a project, it would need to be feasible, realistic, practical, and tangible. It took me a few days where the prompt sat in the back of my mind before I thought of the idea of a book with extremely simple recipes for when people are too depressed, burnt out, or otherwise incapable to cook a full meal and resort to eating junk food or nothing at all.
This is your reminder that you are capable. You are more than your struggles. And even if you don’t feel physically able to do anything, that does not define you or indicate your self-worth. And even if it’s just making a piece of toast, you’re doing the best you can at this moment, and that is enough. You are enough.
I won’t lie, – this project has faced its fair share of ups and downs. There have been many times in the past few months where I didn’t have the energy to make food and just stared at the empty fridge feeling guilty, ashamed, and a fraud. Isn’t it ironic that I’m making a cookbook of meals to help people in depressive or burnt-out states, knowing I couldn’t even do it for myself? My negative thoughts, fears, and insecurities prevented me from working on this for the longest time. I was scared it would be too simple, people would find it useless, or that I wouldn’t be able to finish. But here she is.
This book can never be perfect because perfectionism is a myth. But it comes from a deep place in my heart and out of a personal love and desire for such a thing to exist. We all go through tremendous obstacles in our lives, and food is often neglected. I’ve gone through it every quarter, especially as the burnout stacks up and the depression seeps through the cracks in the defensive wall built of medications and therapy. And I’ve also seen my friends share the same experience. Being in college and finding the balance between being a full-time student, while also being a fully functioning, independent adult is challenging. Our mental and physical health end up as collateral in the pursuit of grades, achievements, and progress toward a future career. Bodies are not machines to be overworked, but rather, deserve to be treated with respect and tended to with care. I always forget that my body deserves sleep and proper food, but I’m lucky to have people around me who notice and remind me to love my body not just for what it gives me, but as a necessary aspect and link to my core being.
I am so grateful for the people in my life who made this possible and have been there for me. Humans need social support and connections, and I cannot imagine doing the past few quarters alone. My parents taught me to cook and stressed the importance of good food and good health. I brought these recipes, memories, and lessons from my family to my current home in Isla Vista. I am thankful for the opportunity given to me by the Acacia Counseling and Wellness Isla Vista MHA Leads Jennifer, Maggie, and Molly and the support of the entire MHA team. These are some of the strongest, most brilliant, beautiful, and loving women I know, and I consider myself blessed to have met and worked with them.