Once upon a time…

…an award-winning coeliac cook had to give up her beloved coffee shop. I did so grudgingly, because I had staff, loyal customers, and a wider base of people who had known my cakes, pasties and pies and loved both the products themselves, and the fact that everything in the shop was safe for them to eat. I felt a responsibility to my little corner of the gluten-free community, and telling people we were going to close brought me to tears on more than one occasion. Still does, because we only closed on Sunday.

Between Brexit reducing the number of chefs available to work (and replace me in the kitchen so we could take the next steps we’d been planning so long), and my own increasing disability from disc problems, arthritis and fibromyalgia, every day hurt me a little more, cost me more sleep, drove me to more pain-killers. Worse, it took away from the time I spent with my husband and son on a daily basis, either through being too unwell to be truly present in our interactions, or too busy in the kitchen trying to keep up with the demands of the shop. I had no energy left and my sense of humour grew darker on such rare occasions as it still deigned to appear.

Picture of a grey cake, carved and decorate a princess dressed all in grey, with a darker grey apron, covering her face with her hands as she cries. It's a self portrait in cake by the author, Melanie Denyer
My self-portrait in cake, the weeping princess, created for the Depressed Cake Shop, August 2013.
Picture credit: the awesome Umbreen Hafeez.

There could have been a really messy end to this story, and – who knows? – it’s still a possibility. I hosted the first London Depressed Cake Shop in my little Brick Lane coffee shop, Suzzle¬†(later Black Cat Bakery) way back in August 2013, when I was in the process of being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

BPD is not the kind of condition that responds well to change, or to endings, or to just about anything. It’s a rollercoaster for both the patient and their family and friends. In my case, I was lucky enough to have had 18 months of Mentalisation Based Therapy (MBT) and to have continued practising its precepts ever since. I still met the diagnostic criteria for BPD when I finished treatment, and I still have my moments now, but I am heading towards a point where I would no longer qualify for that diagnosis, which is why we were even able to think about what happens next.

And what happens next? That’s a work in progress, and that’s what this blog is about.