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How Baking Saved My Life as Someone With Bipolar Disorder

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Since my diagnosis, everyone has had his or her advice on what to do.

Have you tried running?

Running? You mean a slow and horrible death? No thank you.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Have you tried going to the gym?

Fun fact, more often than not, it makes me feel bad about myself. When I exercise, my mind will not shut off about not being good enough, or thin enough, or whatever enough. It raises my anxiety more than it calms me down.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Have you tried yoga?

Oh yeah, 20 plus minutes of being alone with my thoughts… That sounds like fun!

Now, I applaud anyone who can do these things. I encourage you to try yoga, running or working out. Reading and having a weekly television show is helpful, too. Really, try anything if you think it will help.

But for me? It all too often leads to depressed, anxiety-ridden overthinking. It is not pleasant, as I am sure so many others understand.

Things I already hate (like exercise) often send me spiraling down, endorphins or not. And I love a good book, but reading about someone else’s fictional life that I will never have isn’t helpful to me either.

So, what worked for me? What brings me out of the dark haze that is bipolar depression?

Have you tried baking?

When my mom suggested it, I sort of thought she was “crazy.” Cooking? I know many people cook as a creative outlet, but that didn’t really sound fun, considering I would often make something and not want to eat it after looking at it for so long.

Several years later, as I look back, I realize she was right — as mothers often are. Cooking, though, doesn’t really do it for me. Baking, that’s where it’s at, so to speak.

Baking has become a kind of therapy for me. In the last few years, I have found myself making cupcakes or brownies when I’m upset, when I need a way to “escape” for a little bit, or when I have too many thoughts running around my head.

It’s a precise craft. Baking requires a moderate amount of concentration and preciseness. And you know what? That helps clear my mind. Measuring out ingredients, keeping in line with a specific recipe — these aspects of baking help me get through whatever kind of episode I’m having.

Some people run. Some people read. I bake.

Other than covertly saying “Have you tried baking?” I would like to offer you these words of wisdom:

Don’t be disheartened if something that works for someone else, doesn’t work for you.

Baking works for me. You can try it, or not. But really, find something that works for you and don’t dwell on if you hate something everyone else does.

Recovering from mental illness is individual to each person, not something that is “one size fits all.”

Unsplash photo via Brooke Lark.

Originally published: June 6, 2017
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