What is it like gardening as a way of coping with Depression and Anxiety? What does it feel like? It’s both euphoric and devastating. There is nothing like the pleasure of watching a seed sprout, being there as it flowers and then bares fruit. The food tastes better. It’s more fulfilling, and more filling. However, when things don’t go well, or don’t go as planned, the sadness is amplified. What most people would call a “bummer” becomes devastating.
You would have thought for a moment today that my best friend had died. When I uncovered the first tomato plant and it looked like it had not fared much better than the one that was uncovered I nearly cried. I told myself it was because I had not strung Christmas lights over that plant to keep it warm. I managed to keep it together. At a glance, the second area I uncovered was only slightly better. The basil had black leaves, the tomato was wilted but ok, but a tiny tomato plants was the only plant still looking healthy. I uncovered the key hole garden. I saw only wilted plants, dark with freezer burn. It was everywhere I looked. I was choking back tears. In truth the “burnt leaves” are protecting the rest of the plant. Sacrificing the outer limbs to protect the whole plant.
All of this came after a tough day at work. Though there was nothing that most people would necessarily see as difficult, for me it is always the underlying concepts that I struggle the most with – the things most people don’t even see. I’m always worrying about the future, and I obsessively “read between the lines”. I worry about everybody other than myself. The sight of what seemed like a failing garden was almost more than I was prepared to handle for one day.
Shortly after my walk through the garden, Sarina and Lili came home from shopping. Sarina started pointing out how great everything looked underneath. When I looked at it all again, I was able to see the beauty underneath, exactly as she was describing. This brought a smile to my face, and I was glad to know that all my hard work hadn’t been wiped out in a few night’s freezing temperatures. My wife always knows what to say to make me feel better, and bring me back from my perpetual ledge.
Lili talked about the gifts she bought her babysitter (my boss’s daughter) and their family. She was so thoughtful. This made me super proud of her; she’s 6 years old, and is normally only excited about what she’s getting, like all kids her age. We’ve been trying to teach her that Christmas is about giving, and about family; I think she finally got it.
So what’s it like to have depression? It’s like Chicken Little – the sky is falling. I let a cloak fall around me in an attempt to shield myself from the darkness. Yet, this action in itself is what brings the darkness, the sadness, and the pain. In order to beat the depression, you need to know what will pull you out of it; what will be your saving grace, to bring balance back into your life? Sarina reminded me all of our success within the garden. Once again she laughed and smiled as she showcased the garden. Laughter is contagious. So I laughed and then held on to the person who understands me the best, and realized it was all going to be alright. We hugged and I felt safe and worthy. I’m so glad she was able to see through my faults and love me anyway.