Cooking up my recovery


Some time back, I announced I was going to start cooking as a conscious way to deal with my TBI symptoms. And then I forgot about it 😉

Well, I’ve remembered my resolution intermittently over the past couple of months, and I realize that — intentionally or not, I’ve become the official cook of my household. My spouse has been having health issues that prevent them from standing and walking around much, so it’s been pretty much on me to get dinner on the table when it needs to be there. On top of that, they have been working a lot of jobs lately, so I’m the only one in the house with a predictable schedule.

So, I’ve been cooking. I don’t do fancy meals — mostly things that just need to be cut up and put in a pan and turned on low for an hour or so. Most of my work is preparation of vegetables to go in the pan — peeling and slicing and what-not. Oh, and keeping an eye on the clock, so I don’t burn it.

And I have to say, it’s actually been helping me. Not only is it good to eat food that I’ve prepared (I know what’s in it), but it’s really good for my timing and my coordination. Things like chopping or peeling used to be a real problem for me, when my spouse would say something to me, or I would be distracted by something. It’s really embarrassing to admit, but I used to just freak out, if they talked to me while I was preparing supper.  I simply could not handle more than one task at a time. I would drop things and get panicked and yell and really pitch a fit — waaaaaay out of proportion for what was going on:

my spouse said something to me while I was dicing an onion.

Heaven forbid.

Well, anyway, I’m really happy to report that that foolishness has stopped. My neuropsych has helped immensely, training me to think in terms of being able to control that kind of behavior, rather than give into it, just ’cause I’ve been injured. Plus, I’ve realized that when my spouse talks to me, I don’t have to respond immediately in that moment. They can wait a few minutes till I get done chopping. And I don’t have to cut my fingers anymore. I used to do that a lot, when people talked to me, which freaked me out (needless to say). So, I developed this complex about people talking to me when I was cutting things with a knife.

But that’s cleared. And I can chop up my food without losing it.

Woot – woot

It’s the little things, you know?

Well, anyway, I just wanted to do a quick check-in about that. Cooking, with its timing and patience and impulse control elements, is extremely good exercise for me. It helps me on so many levels. And when I’m done, I actually have something to show for my work. If I screw something up, there’s always tomorrow night. I haven’t burned the house down (though I’ve ruined a few pans by turning up the heat “for a little while” and then forgetting all about them… and then discovering something was amiss, thanks to the smoke alarm). And even when I’ve burned the food, I’ve managed to salvage it. Most of the time.

Probably the best thing about this, though, is that it makes me a productive contributor at home, in ways I can actually manage after long days at work. I don’t have much energy for much anything else, by the time all is said and done, but I do have energy to cook. And lo and behold, I often find that after cooking supper, I’ve got some energy back, which is good for my home life.

What a drag it must be, to live with someone who can’t manage to stay up past 8:30 every night… Staying up a little later gives me a few hours to check in and remind my spouse who I am, what I’m about, and keep our marriage going.

And what a drag it must have been, for those many years, when I was a terror in the kitchen, freaking out and flying into a rage over small and simple things… having temper flares and melt-downs over little things like dropping a spoon… getting all agitated, just when my spouse would talk to me… and being so unbelievably irritable, there was almost no dealing with me.

Cooking lets me focus in on what’s in front of me, do something useful and needed, and it lets me practice each night the skills I need to live beyond the kitchen — patience, executive functioning, sequencing, coordination, time management, working memory stuff, and more. It doesn’t just feed me for an evening — it can feed me for a lifetime.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

4 thoughts on “Cooking up my recovery”

  1. Chopping things is actually very good for the frontal lobe. You can consider it a rehabilitation exercise.

    Multitasking is very difficult for me too after my ABI. I know better than to even try to drive and talk on the cell phone at the same time. Not a good idea at all.

    Your spouse should learn not to bother you while you have a knife in your hand! 🙂


  2. Absolutely, Debbie – cooking IS great rehab.

    I’ve managed the chopping-interruption business with “behavior modification” techniques of training my spouse to put what they were about to tell me “on hold” if I say “Cutting!” One of the issues is, they’re quite distractable, themself, so when they get something in their head, they feel compelled to say/do it Right Away. We’re working on that one, too. 😉

    I’ve learned how to stop trying to multitask — the problems I have with impulse control have slowly but surely eased up when I’m really focused on an activity. Used to be, if I was neck-deep in a project and someone came up to me to tell me something, I’d not stop to think about what I was doing, but tried to switch gears immediately… which then often resulted in me messing up what I was working on, getting bent out of shape, yelling at whoever had approached me, and then having all sorts of drama — internal and external.

    Now I’m much better about saying, “Can you give me one sec while I finish what I’m doing?” and then switching gears in a more appropriate way.

    Progress… slow but steady progress…


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