#wearenot9to5 Megan Chan

#wearenot9to5 is a series of mental health experiences from people in the F&B industry to fight the stigma & shame. Mental health affects us all.

Megan Chan @chanovoxo

My name is Megan Chan and I am a line cook located in Markham, Ontario. I have personally struggled with mental health in the past and I am still struggling with it today. I have and struggle with anxiety and depression. I knew that whatever career I would choose, my mental health would affect it. Some might say that being in the restaurant industry would be the worse for someone who is suffering with mental illness but this is the career that I have chosen and I continue to strive everyday for greatness.

In an environment where I am working under a great deal of pressure, I have seen different sides of my anxiety that I have never seen before. Three years ago, when I first started in the kitchen, my anxiety was the worst it had been in a while. Everyday I was pushed to the point where I questioned myself whether this path was the best for me. After every shift, I would go through everything that happened during the shift and question if I did enough. The voices would soon takeover and they would convince me that I was not good enough to be in the kitchen. If not just being a line cook was hard enough, I was often the only female in the male dominated kitchen and the pressure was building up for me to do well. The anxiety started making me worry about whether I was even good enough to be in the kitchen soon lead me to depression and was soon diagnosed.

For a while I was jumping from one job to another thinking that it was the environment that lead me to these thoughts. The voices convinced me enough that I even gave up cooking for a while and decided to take a receptionist job. Although I was in a completely different environment, the anxiety and depression was still there and I was still not happy at where I was. I soon realized that it wasn't the environment that affected my outlook on life but it was my own mind causing me to feel this way. This was the turning point for me to take control of my mental health and I quickly found myself back in the kitchen and cooking.

A pattern that I have found in the restaurant industry, specifically the kitchen, is that many people do not like to talk about mental health. They tend stray away from the topic and instead like to tell people to "suck it up" or "deal with it". This is hard for me to hear especially for someone who does suffer from anxiety and depression and understand how much one suffers from such illness. The attitude of other line cooks have changed and I notice my co-workers being a little more vocal about the topic but it still hard for them to talk about it. There's a certain "image" that cooks want to maintain.

My hope for the future of line cooks and cooks in general is that we are able to share more about our personal experiences with mental health and encourage each other to seek help before it's too late.

Anxiety and depression at times have taken over my life and often I feel like they control what I do on a daily basis. Over the years, I have tried to control it but I make sure I don't beat myself over a bad day. The more I learn about it the more I learn how to make sure they don't control me. I strive to be my most authentic self.

I hope sharing my experience with mental health will reach someone else who is also suffering. I just want to make sure that you know that you are not alone and this does not make you not "normal". You are not alone. To anyone reading this and is suffering, I know that right now things feel like nothing is ever going to be okay, but they will. It is okay to feel this way. Just remember to always smile and remind yourself that, in time, everything will be okay.