Hi, I’m Anna. I’m a 23 year old Primary Education graduate and warm, engaging, vibrant, smiley, intuitive and bubbly. In my spare time I love to hula hoop, cook, go on long walks, do yoga, enjoy my friend’s company over coffee and walk barefoot in grass!
However, I have my lows, too. I am only human! Behind the scenes, I have struggled with anxiety and depression.
Life can be difficult, but I am in a much better mind state than I used to be a few years ago.
I was extremely low. I reacted to situations so differently than how I normally would I began to question who I was, and dislike who I had become. I was losing friends and I completely lost all sense of self-love. I ate whatever was quickest to make, I found comfort in refined sugary treats and would stay in bed all day if I could. I felt so utterly helpless, trapped, useless, slow, foggy and hollow.
I managed to pick myself out of this over time. The first change in me came about through hula hooping more often (yes, you read that right!). This gave me some sort of control over a part of myself. I began to hoop more often, for longer times a day. The window of time in which I was hooping was a window in which I knew exactly who I was, what I was doing and nothing else. Life was simple when I was hula hooping.
I began to build strength through this, and with this strength came motivation to find ways to make myself better. I have been brought up by a herbalist who always taught me that the answers to most problems lie in plants and herbs. So I looked at the food I was eating: processed, refined, packaged, fatty food and made small tweaks and changes each day. I researched natural anti-depressants and based my cooking around them. A few months later, I was becoming myself again. I was eating fruit for breakfast, vegetable soups for lunch and colorful dinners full of beans, grains, vegetables and good fats. But the biggest change I noticed came from inside. I felt huge changes in my mood when I didn’t eat so well. My anxiety was more present, I was irritable, I would feel more lethargic. When I was eating well, I felt good inside – refreshed, calmer and balanced.
Things were looking well for me and my mental health. Until September 2014, I got a call telling me my brother had died.
I cannot begin to explain to you the pain that this has, and still, causes. I am left with a hollow ache in my chest and throat. I can swallow this more easily now, but I am left with two ghosts: how much I loved my brother, and how much I miss him. Most of all, how sorry I am that I could not have made it better for him when he was in pain like I managed to for myself.
Along my grief journey I have learnt that I am an activist griever. The months leading up to my brother’s passing have been completely picked apart, I have tried to find meaning behind his choice to die and I have tried to pinpoint what could have affected it. A few months after the news I started building a campaign to get men to talk about their mental health. I had it all planned out: the campaign would encourage young men to actively seek help from their loved ones instead of bottling it up, and it would encourage young men to stop seeing vulnerability as weakness, as a means to ‘man up’.
But it fell through. I could no longer sustain the planning of this campaign all on my own and I became exhausted and dropped it. When you are grieving, everything is overwhelming. For me, walking to and from town to do my food shop would flatten me, and I would have to rest the next day to make up for it. It is like carrying an elephant around with you. Grief is heavy, it is sore, it aches, it is lazy.
Almost a year later, I am a little stronger. I can do a food shop on a busy Saturday, I can go for long walks again, I can be present in social situations, I can work a long day, I can go for days, sometimes weeks without collapsing and crying. But I have found a special solace in my cooking. I channel my grief, loss and hurt into it. For me, creating good food is my way of nurturing, consoling and looking after myself. I am surrounded by an incredible support network, but I know inside that I grow stronger through myself, not anyone else.
Recently, an idea hit me. What if I put together my love for pure, nourishing, healthy, plant based food and my activist grieving? What if I use my ingrained herbalism knowledge, my nutritional therapy self-study, and my personal experience to create a safe place for people struggling with their mental health to visit and access easy recipes that will allow them to look after themselves?
So here it is: Food for Thought, a plant based recipe blog for people suffering with their mental health, or for those simply in need of healthy inspiration. Each recipe you see on this blog contains not only a plethora of good-for-you ingredients, in all kinds of ways, but my heart and soul too.
I hope to be able to help all of you find a way to nourish yourself in one way or another through eating and drinking well.
Max, my brother, my best friend, this blog is for you and is in memory of you.