CPTSD, Perfectionism and Control: From Merely Surviving to Making Homemade Fries (+Recipe)

Recently, I was asked what those of us who suffer from childhood trauma do in our downtime. It made me pause. Well, there isn’t any downtime, was my immediate thought. Because when you suffer from trauma, it takes every second of every day just to survive.


I lived in a fight-or-flight state for over 23 years, and thinking back, it’s hard to believe I managed to do anything during that time. The time when I was dissociating around the clock. Merely surviving. Now, two years into my trauma recovery, I know how to safely bring myself back from a fight-or-flight state. I'm learning how to stay grounded. And how to avoid dissociating. Leaving time in my day to explore things that feed my mind and my body.


And I finally get to do things that nurture my soul. Like cooking.


I love food. Woman, food is good. It’s colorful. It's sensory engaging. It's nourishing. And cooking while listening to music has become a sacred practice at the end of my workday. Something I wasn’t able to do when I was living in a fight-or-flight state. I’d try, but I didn’t have the mental or physical energy. I’d often have to stop half-way through. Or it wouldn’t come out right, so I wouldn’t eat it. I'd throw it away. Or I’d get so frustrated by my inability to think well enough to cook that I’d have a meltdown. Since learning how to heal, however, I’m not only getting through making a meal, I’m enjoying it too.


As I was making my husband and myself some homemade fries the other night, I noticed I breathed in the smell while they cooked. I stopped to admire the amber color they were changing into. I took a slice of avocado and lapped up the olive oil and salt leftover in the bowl I'd tossed them in. And I relished in the delights of cooking and eating.


Then it hit me: I relished in the moment. I took it in. I appreciated it. And I naturally used my senses to engage with it. Because I finally I have the luxury of the time and presence to appreciate it.


I guess you could say cooking is now a hobby for me, and in the decades I lived in a fight-or-flight response, I didn’t have hobbies. Not only because I didn't have any downtime, but also because of something else I recently realized. It was the pressure for everything to be perfect that would so often stop me. Overwhelm me. Make me have a meltdown. It's why I discarded imperfect meals in the past. Was unable to eat if it didn't come out right. Would talk myself out of trying something different or new altogether.


But perfectionism isn’t a blessing like a hobby is. It’s a curse.


After I made our fries and moved them to a plate to serve with our burgers for dinner, I noticed that the pan I’d cooked them on was a mess. Because I’d let oil from previous uses sit on it for longer than it should have. A dirty pan I'd just cooked our food on. Something that, in the past, would have led me to thinking the fries are now dirty. Tainted. Which would have led me to throwing them away.


But this time, I noticed I didn’t care. At all. And in realizing I didn't care, I felt free. Crushing that evil twinge to make it perfect. To forgo our dinner and instead spend my time frantically scrubbing the pan. Trying to make something perfect that doesn’t need to be. Trying to control it. And in the joy of letting it go, I was able to enjoy dinner with my husband. And each one of those beautiful fries.


My observation of this was a reminder of just how easy it is to fall back into old patterns. With just one little indulgence of that old need and everything could have fallen apart. As it did so many times in the past. But what I’m learning during my recovery is that the magic takes place when we don't give into to those unhealthy urges. When we embrace the imperfections. When we can find joy in the little things. When we realize we can try new things. And that we can, in fact, change. But in order to do so, we have to say to ourselves that enough is enough.


We have to reclaim our lives.


In those glorious moments when we do, we see can ourselves more clearly than we’d ever thought possible. And everything is filled with joy. We realize we don’t need anything from anyone else in order to be okay — because we know it is within us to live within us. And even if we only get moments of that feeling — of that connection to self — we get it. And once you get it, everything is a piece of cake. Or a damn good fry.


May you always find your way out of the darkness and relish in all that you do. Now go make some fries (see recipe below).



You Won’t Miss the Fried, Fries

Need:

6 Yukon Gold potatoes (washed and scrubbed)

Olive oil (2-4 Tbsp depending on amount)

Sea salt (1-2 shakes)

Cutting board

Knife

Spatula

Non-stick oven pan

Large bowl for tossing


Time:

10 minutes for prep

25-30 minutes for baking (or longer, depending on how well done you like your fries)


Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Cut potatoes into the size you want your fries (I find that for these, the thicker the cut, the better).

  3. Toss the fries in olive oil and sea salt. You don't want to soak the fries, but they should be well-coated.

  4. Put fries on non-stick oven pan (I like to spray the pan with a little olive oil first).

  5. Bake for 15 minutes then, using the spatula, flip the fries.

  6. Bake for another 10-15 minutes (or longer, depending on how well done you like your fries).

  7. Serve and eat with a smile on your face :)

While I don't know how to calculate nutrition information, I do know that golden potatoes are good for the root chakra (first chakra) and solar plexus (third chakra) and that olive oil aids in the flow of neurotransmitters.