TW: Suicide, mental health
Yesterday I explained that I am engaged in a battle to the death over who at my workplace can make the best cake. I will tell you the results of that epic showdown, but first I want to talk a bit about RUOK Day.
Did you know that 8 Australians take their own lives every single day? Even higher numbers than that make attempts. Rates of suicide are higher amongst men.
This is particularly relevant to people suffering from endometriosis, and chronic illness in general. Why? Because there are three main factors that make it more likely that someone will commit suicide: social isolation, feeling like a burden, and the means to follow through. I’ve talked before about how easy it can be to become socially isolated when struggling through a flare-up, and that feeling like a burden is one of the many mental side-effects of physical pain. With the amount of strong painkillers many of us have access to, means to follow through completes the endometriosis-suicide trifecta. We are an at-risk group and today really brought that home to me.
RUOK Day focuses less on people at risk of suicide, though, and more on the rest of society and what ordinary Australians can do to help their friends, colleagues or loved ones through the power of asking a simple question, “Are you ok?” It teaches listening without judgement, helping the person struggling to seek appropriate help, and continuing to check in with them (in my view the most important step of all). It’s never going to be an easy conversation to have – it may be embarrassing and overly intimate for both parties, but they are right when they say it can save lives. I encourage everyone to head over to their website, watch some of the informative videos they have on how their system works, and put it into practice. Use this day as a chance to check in with friends and family. That simple act of connection may pull someone back from the brink. It may pull you back. I’ve written before about the importance of maintaining social connection even when you feel like you can’t. Take a step to do that right now. Ask yourself, “Are you ok?” If you aren’t, speak to someone.
On a lighter note, my workplace wisely decreed that the path to mental health is built on cake. Ironically, I had to fight my way through crippling knee pain (my knees were swollen and aching from referred back pain) to make my cake, I literally lost sleep over it, I would have skipped dinner if not for my husband, and I shed real tears. Not my proudest mental health moment. However, the cake was a success!
I was attempting to recreate Anthea of Rainbow Nourishment’s glorious Golden Gaytime cake. For those outside Australia going “um…what?” the Golden Gaytime is a popular and delicious ice-cream that is sadly not vegan. I based my recipe partially on Anthea’s ice-cream bites of the same flavour, and improvised a whole lot. I topped it with a bunch of things from her beautiful e-book, “Nourishing Treats”, including date-tahini-caramel swirls, hazelnut chocolate dough, and vegan Ferrero Rochers. I also made some banana popsicles but the cake was so full of treats that it didn’t need it (and they also were just really unfortunately and inappropriately shaped). On the plus side, they are safely in my freezer where I can eat them all.
Although it lacks the professional finish of Anthea’s cake, I was pretty proud of how it came out.
I was up against some very stiff competition, though. There were six cakes in all.
Offering number one was this banana raspberry creation, vaguely reminiscent of an aeroplane. This cute little number was a runner-up (ranked in the bottom three) and won a box of cake mix.
Offering number two was this plate of delicious-looking white chocolate and macadamia cookies, which deserve special mention as the baker was sick with a sinus infection and still loved his colleagues and the promotion of healthy minds enough to bring in biscuits for us. Despite his efforts, these biscuits also landed as a runner-up and also won some cake mix.
Offering number three I found unbelievably odd. This cake actually looked very much like a cheeseburger. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good (vegan) cheeseburger, but there is something about seeing one in cake form that just does my head in. However, it is very clever and landed a neat third place.
Offering number four was this decadent gluten-free chocolate-raspberry cake, which was apparently full of whiskey. This was the one I was most sad about not being able to eat because it looked so good (mine was the only vegan cake so I couldn’t taste-test any of the others). To my surprise this cake also only made it into the runner-up position – I think maybe not enough people tried it as it was on the smaller side.
Finally, my main competition, made by my work bestie and towering over its competitors: the gravity-defying Malteser cake. It is with a heavy heart that I admit that this cake beat mine to take out the main prize of a silicon muffin tray and loaf tin, and I walked away with second (a very nice glass tray). Admittedly it was an excellent cake and the win was not undeserved.
All in all, I was very happy to come second. I had some stiff competition and although mine looked incredibly decadent, it wasn’t particularly sweet. Barring the chocolate, it had no refined sugar and relied on date and a small amount of maple syrup in the Ferrero Rochers for sweetness. However, I think the lack of sweetness may have worked in my favourite – it was cold and relatively refreshing and I think would have stood out because of that. It also managed to be quite rich, thanks to being 90% coconut cream, and had all sorts of textures thanks to the crunchy base, nutty crumble, stiff chocolate and smooth creamy layers.
So, what’s the take-away from today? Eat cake, but don’t hurt yourself to make it. Perhaps more importantly, look after your mental health, and look out for your friends.