I started Cook Yourself Happier to promote happy and healthy cooking for mental health.  I decided aged 10 I wanted to be a chef, much to the amusement of some of my family who told me they still didn't know what they wanted to do as adults! 

I'd grown up baking with my Gran and Mum, and every birthday and Christmas I was lucky enough to get a different cook book. Throughout school whenever the career adviser would ask if I wanted to apply to University I explained I wanted to train as a chef.  Once I'd finished school at 18 I applied to The Edinburgh School of Food and Wine and to my amazement I was accepted on to the diploma course.  

Not long after I had decided I'd like to be a chef, I think I was 11 years old, I became very shy and withdrawn.  I had always been quiet but I felt as if I was standing outside a window and looking in on other people having fun, getting on with their lives, and chatting easily without being worried about what other people might think or say to them.  This feeling got progressively stronger right up until I left school and started my cookery course.  I was incredibly anxious at the thought of moving to Edinburgh and being away from home for the first time.  The course ran Monday to Friday and there was 6 of us diploma students and other pupils who would come and go for shorter courses.  Even though I was terrified at the start of the course because I didn't know anyone and I was still desperately shy with no confidence I loved what I was learning.  The passion and enthusiasm of one tutor in particular was an inspiration to carry on.  As part of our course we had to give a talk and cookery demonstration to the other pupils and tutors, I chose to make shortbread.  20 years later and I still smile when I remember how nervous I was and my friend reassured me and reminded me to try and not look at my feet and mumble.

I've struggled with mental illness all my life.  For years I convinced myself that my spells of depression, acute anxiety, complete lack of self esteem and confidence were part of me and there was nothing I could do to change myself or even feel better.  When I was 24 my Mum made me an emergency appointment with a psychiatrist because I had been struggling so much and I was in an abyss.  I explained how I had months and months of being depressed, sometimes it would last for 6 months at a time and then periods of feeling on top of the world.  He said he thought I had bipolar disorder and prescribed a high dose of mood stabiliser and anti anxiety/depressant medication.  To my shame I didn't believe the diagnosis he had given me was correct so I didn't read or research bipolar.  I convinced myself it was still spells of prolonged depression that would eventually pass. 

I took the medication religiously for 10 years until I saw a Locum GP who took me off my medication because he said I had been well for 10 years so obviously didn't need it anymore.  To say I crashed is an understatement.  From late 2014 to March 2016 I had to endure months of torture because I had been taken off the medication that had kept me stable for 10 years.  The elephant in the room that I had ignored for those 10 years and all of my life had now gone on an unstoppable rampage.  Without the support of my truly amazing partner, Simon,  his parents, my Mum and friends I would not be here today.  Like all illnesses in life it's impossible to describe them to someone who has been lucky enough not to have been affected by it in any way, I found this out with members of my family who didn't want to know or help me. 

My Mum and Simon found another psychiatrist in 2015 and she not only helped me accept I did have bipolar but she told me "There is no cure but we can manage it" The relief of confirmation it was bipolar and new medication changed my life.  It was Russian Roulette for six months while the consultant prescribed two medications at a time until she found the most effective.  My "light" came back on in April 2016.  Just after Christmas of the same year I had my idea for Cook Yourself Happier.  Simon had given me a book for Christmas but he had been worried if I would take it the wrong way.  Quite the opposite because I loved it!  "It's all absolutely fine life is complicated so I've drawn it instead" by Ruby Elliot.  I thought I could do something similar to explain how cooking has helped me.