Not feeling at my best today… A bit negative, but still a little bit creative so that’s something I suppose… Here’s hoping for a more positive mood tomorrow! 🙂
Sometimes my mood can feel quite buoyant, but at other times not so much.
Sometimes I can bob around quite happily on an easy-going flat-calm sea of life but at other times I know I struggle to stay afloat in an ever-undulating ocean of atmospheric depression, limbs flailing in desperation as I fight to survive wave after wave of stormy waters, sinking slowly into the depths, drowning in despair.
All I can do when I hit such rough seas is keep swimming, and hope the storm passes soon enough…
I’ve spent a good few hours of every day this week outside in the garden, just pottering about, pondering and planning. I’ve been feeling really low lately after recently having been made redundant when the department store I worked for finally closed down for good due to ongoing financial difficulties exacerbated by continuing Covid restrictions.
So in order to try to keep any lurking depression at bay I’m spending some quality time clearing away the last of the winter debris and detritus in my garden, letting nature soothe me and start to heal my hurt, just thinking things through and letting my troubled mind wander, deciding as I go along where my garden plans might take me this year…
When we first moved in to this house in the autumn of 2019 we inherited a mature South-West facing front garden and North-East facing back garden that had previously belonged to an elderly man who had clearly loved gardening and had spent a great deal of time looking after his plants. But it seemed that as time passed he had also clearly grown too old to notice the slow decay of his pride and joy, or to care for it all properly by himself.
Family had kept it ticking over and tidy for him, stopping it from looking completely neglected and preventing it from becoming too obviously overgrown, but they had not loved it in the same intensive way he had in the past. On the surface and with only a cursory glance all looked fine. But behind the scenes the garden too was starting to feel its age, infrastructure crumbling around the edges, losing its integrity a little like a fading bloom. Recognisable still as the garden he loved, but no longer so robust.
The garden had been laid out to suit his personal planting preferences – formal rose-beds set around a rectangular lawn in the front garden, and in the back garden there were two sagging greenhouses for propagating bedding plants, a rickety old wooden potting shed, and a modern metal shed for storing garden implements. The pale ghosts of myriad circular marks on the patio and pathways showed a predilection for plants kept in large pots as well as in the flower beds edging the central grassy area.
Ornate painted but rusting hanging basked brackets adorned every possible surface. Four fruit trees of varying ages and sizes took up quite a lot of space, but there was no sign of any vegetable plot. There was a rhododendron bush and a large overgrown flowering cherry tree, a camellia, a fuchsia and a couple of unidentified bushes – at that point I still wasn’t sure what they might be. And oddly out of place, one large ten-foot-tall stark tree stump standing sentry to the no-longer-functional-but-full compost heap hiding in the back corner.
Moving in as we did at the end of the growing season, I decided just to tidy things up but basically keep everything as it was for the first full year, to see what the earth had hidden within, waiting for the garden to give up her seasonal secrets month after month. Throughout the winter everything inevitably lay dormant and dull, but sure enough by spring there were snowdrops and crocus and daffodils and tulips.
In the summer deep red peonies appeared along with yellow poppies and wild strawberries, lilies and honesty and golden rod. The roses bloomed and barren bushes became azalea and forsythia. Where clear empty dirt flower beds awaited their usual offering of annual bedding plants I instead added herb bushes – lavender and rosemary – and also a few heather plants to fill the blank space.
By late autumn we were back where we started, so again I cleared up for winter, with far more of an idea emerging as to how to begin to transform the garden to become fully our space, discarding what is not ‘us’ while still keeping as much of the original as we could. Winter passed cold and wet, and here we are in spring again. I’d carefully watched the position of the sun over the garden for that first whole year, to see where areas of dominant light and shade suggested one thing over another, and we’ve made some big decisions.
At least one of the greenhouses has to go altogether – perhaps both, as they are old and frighteningly fragile and we have young grandchildren who love to play in our garden. The old wooden potting shed is rotting away beyond remedy, the roof has clearly been leaking for years, and realistically the whole structure needs to be replaced with something dry and useful. We’re going to re-site the potential new replacement elsewhere, as the footprint of the current shed sits slap bang on the sunniest spot in the garden.
Plant-wise, we’ve sadly reached the conclusion that all four fruit trees will have to go. The two really old gnarled and twisted specimens, one plum and one greengage, are both too stressed and diseased with too much deadwood to be safe. Both trees have lost major branches since we moved in, crashing down into the garden with no warning – one see-sawing precariously across the garden wall, one breaking a pane of glass in the greenhouse below, having just missed hitting me on the way down.
Both large trees also badly overshadow the back garden space in too much of an overbearing fashion to be allowed to remain – making the most of the available natural light is so important to me. And the two small my-height apple trees, giving minimal inedible fruit, are just in the way, stuck into the middle of the grass like a poorly-played game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Not surprisingly the old tree stump needs to go. I’ve dug up the Goldenrod, as it was far too invasive and was choking the azalea bushes, and have tried to re-site some of the peonies, so we’ll see if that works.
I’ve always been a country girl at heart so really love having a garden again, and have always felt comfortably at home spending time outside, but I’m not a labour-intensive kind of traditional gardener. Ideally I like to work with and encourage nature rather than try to completely control and contain it in too orderly a fashion. I far prefer taming the random wildness of it all rather than planting stuff out in regimented rows like a formally set dinner table.
I like to do my bit to help out, but basically let nature have her way with a bit of guidance from me, creating an easy space for birds and bees and insects and people and plants to live together in harmony. Basically I garden to let me have a lovely outdoor space to relax in, not for the pure pleasure of the activity itself – I definitely prefer the enjoyment of the end product to the actual process of gardening, although to be honest I do enjoy the familiarity of routine tasks too.
So right now I’m off outside again with a cup of tea to sit on my garden bench in the spring sunshine, picturing in my mind’s eye how it will all look once we make all the changes we’re planning. As we haven’t got very far doing up the house yet, either, inside or outside, this vision may take some time to become reality, but I’m sure we’ll get there in the end – we usually do! 🙂
Amazingly, considering the complete shit-show that has been 2020, I’m exiting the year in a much better place emotionally than I entered it. I mean obviously it’s been stressful and fearful, with month after month of how-long-is-a-piece-of-string extended rules and restrictions ebbing and flowing and effectively keeping us isolated and apart, especially from those we love. And yet somehow I feel that now I’ve got used to this insecure, narrowed, smaller way of living, I find overall it suits me more than it grates on me.
In many ways, internally, life has continued as normal for me. Granted, the external stuff has altered beyond all recognition but the way I feel about it all has not. I’ve struggled for years with ongoing depression, but to be honest that feels much the same to go through whatever the trigger for each difficult episode. Anxiety always gnaws away at me anyway, with or without Covid raising its ugly protein-spiked head, leaving me feeling flaky and fragile more often than not. A lot of the time I just pretend to be OK until eventually I am OK – basically I fake it until I make it.
But this year I’m finding I don’t have to pretend so much any more. External life has slowed down enough, has shrunk enough to fit my personal skin far more comfortably these days. I’m able to truly belong in life in a way I have never felt before. Expectations of excessive extraversion have evaporated, quiet contemplation close to home is the new order, and all is turned on its head as I find my previous weaknesses have become my new strengths. In this topsy-turvy life of lockdowns and limitations, to my surprise I no longer feel quite so flaky.
Of course I’d love to be able to see my family as I choose, and yes it would be nice to be able to go out for dinner now and again, but in 2020 it seems it’s the quiet home birds rather than the usual go-getter party animals who have at last come into their own during this pandemic year. Rather than me always running to try to catch up with the rest of the world, everyone has necessarily slowed down to my pace, and that feels amazingly liberating. My internal reality now rubs along in perfect tandem to my external reality to the extent that those feelings of flakiness have finally fallen away.
I know things won’t stay the same into the future, that as a society we do need to return to some kind of capitalist normality in order to continue to survive as before, but nevertheless there are some things I won’t forget about this year – what is known cannot be unknown, and that experiential knowledge gives me a personal power and a deep-rooted belief in myself that for me willl hopefully over-ride the flakiness factor forever…
No idea where I’m going with this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday post with the prompt word of ‘trick’ other than steering well clear of all things Halloween.
I also have no idea why we Brits use the rather derogatory slang term ‘trick cyclist’ to refer to a Psychiatrist, but we do! I could always look it up on the internet but where’s the fun in that? Anyway, suffice to say I’ve seen a couple of Trick Cyclists in my time and both have been perfectly non-tricky. Nice guys (not being sexist here – both Psychiatrists whose care I have been under were actually male) who clearly acted and advised with concern and my best interests at heart. Definitely much appreciated.
Sadly I can’t say the same for all the Psychotherapists I’ve seen though – the last one clearly had a narrow agenda all of her own and on our last meeting where I sat silent for the entire hour with tears running down my face in sheer frustration because everything I had said previously had been twisted to suit her preferred pathway of thought, I decided enough was enough and I wasn’t ever going back. It still smarts when I think of it, years later, to have felt so disempowered and disenfranchised and tied up in tight knots by someone who was supposed to be helping me loosen and unravel my long-term mental health issues.
Trying to stabilise and level out my own psychological problems does sometimes feel like a bit of a balancing act though – here I am right now feeling caught in the spotlight of my very own personal circus ring, the rest of the world looking on as I struggle to stay upright and show that I really can do this life thing, watching me fly my freak flag high and keep my multiple plates spinning while constantly adjusting my balance on my rickety old unicycle. A collective sharp intake of breath from the front row as the world watches me fall, then exhales in relief as I pick myself up, dust myself off and get straight back on again.
So these days I am basically my own trick cyclist, allowing everyone else to be able to mutter gratefully under their breath ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’ as they leave the tent reassured that thankfully I have finally found the ability to keep my own show on the road and my melancholic monkey-mind under some semblance of control – for now at least… 🙂
What distracts you from blogging? Apart from family or work what factors or forces prevent you from creating content?
Very timely question from Dr Tanya at Salted Caramel this week. What distracts me most from blogging – and from eveything else that counts as fun in life for that matter – is the infinite black hole of recurring depression.
Chronic depression is (and always has been) without doubt the single most difficult life issue for me, and after the last couple of seriously down weeks where focusing all my efforts on still going to work and otherwise maintaining the basics of life as a priority (cooking, eating, cleaning, keeping the household ticking over, etc.) was the absolute best I could do, I’m beginning to feel it’s time I picked up where I left off and got back to creating some semblance of blogging normality around here.
So I’m going to make a concerted effort to try to join in with some of my usual prompts and challenges over the next couple of days and see how I get on… wish me luck! 🙂
My miserable grey days continue unabated…
For now my inner world is still feeling far too dark and tearful for comfort, but I do try to find life’s fragrant roses amongst the world’s abundant thorns wherever I can to remind myself never to lose hope that better days are always possible…
Ironically yesterday was the 2020 World Mental Health Day and I meant to post something poignant to mark the occasion, but sadly my non-motivated despressive mood means I didn’t quite get there after all…
Life lived closed down on autopilot can only take me so far…
Think it’s time that my blog took a rest
Gave me breathing space, that would be best
Just a short blogging break
For my sanity’s sake
Till I’m not feeling quite so depressed…
Reflecting on my life experience always tells me a lot of things. Right now it tells me not to worry too much when I have a down day or two, or three or four or even more, because I know that this too shall pass – and sure enough, so far it always has done. Thankfully this miserable depression I struggle with never lasts for too long these days, and even when it does linger more than I would like I understand enough of life to know that now is not forever.
Understanding my life experience allows me just to sit tight and breathe my way through the dismal down days, to distract myself by looking for the inherent beauty in the natural world around me. On closer inspection even the simplest of red flowers in my conservatory where I sit shows such beautiful dark rivulets delicately threading the back of its throat, its finely-veined petals gently flushed with the deepest pink shading as if its life-blood also pumps through a vibrant beating heart. I listen intently until I almost hear its heartbeat mirror my own, and I feel strangely comforted.
Nothing in life is ever as simple as it seems, things are rarely starkly black or white, good or bad, and nuance colours us in a variety of shades with each hue bringing its own specific spectrum of understanding to our lives. I feel blue at times and I see red at other times, I have dark moods and bright moments and very occasionally find myself bathed in glorious rainbows of hopefulness. But however much I stumble or falter along the way in times of darkness, I always know I’m travelling along the right road and my still-beating heart, fragile as a flower, tells me I’m doing just fine… 🙂
We’ve just had Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020) and I’m very aware that my mental health is not great just now.
My motivation for doing anything much, in tandem with my melancholy mood, has been pretty low lately. I’ve been pushing myself to do ‘fun’ things to try to force myself out of it, bringing temporary relief at times but overall I feel I’m failing miserably at keeping my head above water. So while the weather is nice today I’m simply spending time pottering about aimlessly in the garden, letting go of the stranglehold grip on my own feelings and just letting the colours and smells and sounds of nature work their magic on me.
We had a lot of rain over the last week so all the flowers are looking bright and plump and the foliage is a really rich green; everything looks sated and content. I notice the old roses I cut back so drastically before the winter are finally starting to bud, and I’m relieved to see the large fuchsia bush by the gate I also hard-pruned almost to the ground is filling out nicely. Not having killed off either the fuchsia or the roses the first year we live here is certainly a good reason to bring a soft smile to my face.
As well as the ‘frequent flyer’ wood pigeons, seagulls and crows never far from sight we also have several blackbirds visiting regularly, the drab brown understated females as well as the striking black males with their orange beaks. And for the past couple of days I’ve also seen a few delicately-tinted blue tits flitting about hither and thither, pale yellow breasts and soft blue backs catching the sunlight as they dart about. Learning anew to recognise some of the childhood birds I now see regularly again makes me smile a little, too.
So in a week where I’ve been struggling to smile much at all without frantically forcing it through sheer willpower and definace against the lingering lure of depression, today I’m finding surprising solace in my garden by simply letting myself be – allowing myself to feel down when I feel down, and in turn feeling powerfully rewarded by the magic of nature’s own remedy helping to brighten my day.