I am coming out of hibernation, like the frogs that have been hopping around my garden this week. False spring or not, my brain and body are convinced that it’s time to face the world again. This winter, I experienced the worst anxiety I have ever had to endure. So bad, in fact, that I resorted to drugs (the good kind) for the first time in years. The SSRIs and beta-blockers prescribed by my wonderful doctor have taken 6 weeks to get me feeling even vaguely normal. Thank you god for drugs and our wonderful NHS! (As an atheist, these words are not spoken lightly.)
At my lowest, I went days without washing, dressing, brushing my teeth, barely leaving my bed, numbing all the heart pounding, sweat-inducing anxiety attacks with a regimen of box sets and audio books. I became practically agoraphobic, stopped replying to texts from well-meaning friends, and hid under my covers, waiting for it all to pass. It was inexplicable and debilitating.
But, in a change from previous occasions when I have huddled under the black cloud of mental illness, I didn’t get sucked into the dreaded cycle of self-hate and hopelessness. Anxiety can so easily lead to depression, because you feel that you are failing, at everything, and that makes you feel worthless. This time, I was able to separate the anxiety from self-blame, and I think I am getting through it. Hurrah for the drugs, and hurrah for the benefits of years of psycho-dynamic therapy, that have helped me see this as an illness, not a character flaw.
This is a gardening blog, honest. For me, my mental illness and gardening are inextricably linked. It’s no coincidence that the anxiety knocked me so hard in January. And no coincidence that my recovery is coming with this fabulous, unseasonable February sunshine. Yes, I know it’s a terrifying symptom of climate change, but I can’t help relishing it.
Last week, my mum joined me to do a spring tidy-up in my garden. Her moral support and muscle, added to mine, helped me overcome my irrational fears and put in two solid days of hard work, clearing dead growth and pruning back shrubs, grasses and perennials. I was even brave enough to venture out alone into the public area of my front garden to weed and prepare the raised beds for new crops.
Listening to bird song, watching the Great Tits flitting about the nest box in the sycamore tree, and clearing borders while frogs hopped about, fleeing my enthusiastic hands, was as effective as my drugs have been, and has had a lasting effect. I’m feeling better, and beginning to look ahead to jobs I’d like to do in the garden, looking forward to seeing the new growth pushing up from the soil, and budding on trees and shrubs.
I’ll be posting again, about plants I love and jobs I’ll be doing in my garden, and ideas for things you can try in your garden. One experiment I’m planning is to try lion poo pellets (yes, really!) to deter cats from the veg beds. Having cleared half a stinking bucket’s worth from the raised beds last weekend, I’m desperate for an effective solution. I’ll be doing more to help wildlife in my garden, with plants and friendly habitats. And of course, growing lots of lovely fruit and veg in my mini front garden allotment.
Photos below – and of the early flowering Pulmonaria (bee magnet) above – were taken in my garden this morning, and include a sheepish selfie. Please forgive my vain use of the sunshine as a filter!