San Francisco has always been the hub of many a craze and trend, and it would seem that artisanal toast is up as the next hip thing. However, as John Gravois outlines in his brilliantly written article, the origins of trends may have strong, profound motivations. The story of toast and Guilietta Carrelli highlights the important role of both meaningful work and community in the mental health recovery process.
Toast, which the cornerstone of many American breakfasts, is also the heart of comfort food for many people. As Gravois set out to find the origin of the new metamorphosis of bready deliciousness, he stumbled upon Trouble, a small café in the outskirts of the Sunset district of San Francisco. There he met Guilietta Carrelli, a woman who created the foundations of the café on the staples of Bread, Coffee, and Coconuts: but moreover on human connection and hard work.
The profound need for all of these things and a long-undiagnosed mental illness of schizoaffective disorder were elements that led Carrelli down her path of self-employment. She spent the vast majority of her life moving from friend to friend, city to city, unable to fully connect because of the ways that her illness affect her life. What she found in San Francisco gave her a constant in her life to which to return and provided an anchor, a path to understanding herself and remembering who she is.
Carrelli’s story is available both in print here and through audio from public radio’s This American Life show.
Employment and stability are important to living a life in recovery from mental illness. Everyone needs meaning in his or her lives.
“I’m wearing the same outfit every day,” Carrelli says. “I take the same routes every day. I own Trouble Coffee so that people recognize my face—so they can help me.”
As her story shows, you need an anchor to keep you solid when life includes chaos, emotional pain, and turmoil. We may forget ourselves, but we can find our way home when we have something solid in our lives.