#wearenot9to5 Ariel Coplan

#wearenot9to5 is a series of mental health & addiction stories from people in the F&B industry to fight the stigma & shame.

Ariel Coplan @snackforthought

My name is Ariel Coplan.  I’m a cook. I own a restaurant called Thoroughbred Food and Drink.  I’ve been cooking for about 15 years. Most of my career has been in fine dining restaurants.  

I think everyone in life struggles with mental health at one point or another.  I’ve definitely gone through my shit.   I’m a serious workaholic. For most of my career I have prioritized working over friends, family and even my life.  I’ve done numerous shifts from 9am on Saturday until 6pm on Sunday.  I used to think this was earning your stripes, I was dumb.   After doing shifts like that 5 times over a course of months I ended up in the hospital with something called Myocarditis.  Basically sometimes when you get sick instead of attacking your body it turns and attacks your heart.    

The worst part, is that I worked through being sick with this without thinking, twice.  I only went to the hospital when I desperately needed to. It felt like I was having a heart attack in the middle of the night.  When I got into the hospital they told me my heart was functioning at 40% of what it should be & I was in the hospital with it for 3 weeks.  

It was fucked & a big eye opener. Being hard headed though I took it as a sign that I shouldn’t work those hours for anyone except myself.  As soon as I got out I began looking for my own restaurant. It wasn’t long before I found one and I immediately started doing long hours again.  After two years of owning the restaurant I realized how much my personal life sucked. I had no real connections outside of work, I was, quite frankly, too busy.  My friends were used to not seeing me and I had a real stroke of depression with this realization. I had worked my whole career a sadistic amount towards owning a restaurant- and now what? 

When I was younger I dreamed of owning several restaurants, but I stopped feeling that way.  I began working on my journey to get into a better place. As this shift was happening I changed my cooks to a 4-day a week roster and I noticed what a difference it made.  I began looking for other things in life to make a difference.  Slowly and surely I got there more and more. To this day I still have to force myself not to work sometimes or at least take a day off if I need it.  My guilt always kicks in and makes me feel like I need to be doing something but I’ve come to accept that you don’t always need to be working. I’ve tried hard to form other hobbies outside of work.   My whole career, my only hobby, was cooking.   I make sure to talk to my employees about work-life balance but this needs to come from within yourself, you are your own master.    

If I could tell my apprentice self something it would be that there is a way to be successful without killing yourself.   Be positive, stay focused, and always be open to learn.  Make sure your priorities aren’t just focused around work.