I noticed on Twitter the other day that this week is #GardensAndHealthWeek, promoted by the National Gardens Scheme. It struck a chord with me – pottering about our garden has brought me a sense of peace and calm whilst I started to navigate through severe depression and anxiety this year.
I haven’t talked too much about it, I suppose, save the odd cryptic social media post or share. In fact, it starts to form a knot in my stomach just typing these words – what will people think? Should I just slap on that well-worn mask, the one that pretends everything is fine, whilst behind I shake and tremble like a leaf in a storm?
My new chapter is takes me down an honest path, with a promise to share my story. And this has been a really, really big part of my life for a while now. It’s not all that I am. It’s not a definition of me as a person. But it’s a part of my self, and so, I share.
When I’ve been at rock bottom, contemplating that life was just too long to carry on feeling like this, forcing myself out to the greenhouse and sowing tiny, tiny seeds gave me something to care for. In floods of tears and trembling, just running my hands through dark, rich soil grounded me and calmed my racing heart.
The more I work through group therapy, CBT and the numbing fuzz of antidepressants, the more I find myself in that little 6 x 4 sanctuary, planting, planting, planting. At my worst, trips to B&Q resulted in an almost manic purchase of weary plants from the reduced section. I’d bring them home, deadhead and water them, dose them up on growmore, and sit and talk to them with a cup of tea. Seed were scattered in trays, in tubs, in pots, in the ground. It was as if my body and mind were somehow working together on this project, in tune with nature.
In the garden, lining up plants in their tubs, introducing them to their neighbours… it is a strange feeling. Like the thoughts that buzz around constantly, all those worries, they’ve disappeared somewhere for a while. Like all that matters, all I have to focus on, is the earth and the plants. I don’t really know how to explain it, apart from a funny feeling that something is pulling me to the earth. Simple actions.
I replant seedlings as they start to grow, and eat vegetables I have grown straight from the plant, with a hasty rub-down on a trouser leg, or a huff of breath to clear away most of the mud. I deadhead, spent flowers making compost. Blooms nod happy heads as I pass. I sit and talk and plant and repot. I make compost mixtures with coffee grounds and tiny stones. And I feel that little pull each and every time.
I’m struggling with the ‘should be able to’ of heavy digging due to CFS/ME (a story for another day, methinks). Every time frustration holds me tight at the neck, every time angry tears push through my eyes, the garden whispers to me to take it slowly. Sit with us, flowers smile. Breathe with our colours. Inhale scent and stories.
That little hashtag made me think of so much. How gardening can help with so many health issues. How a stroll in a local park can give time to think and nourishment to the soul. How community can thrive around plants and planting. and how, little by little, brown earth and green shoots are helping me find solidity, solidarity, and a strong base to move forwards.