I fear I may be developing an addiction. Another one. Okay, I’m being flippant with my use of the word ‘addiction’, but as per the dictionary’s take on things, technically, the label is correct. My name is Laurie and I find it hard to pass a garden centre, in May, when there’s (any, tiny hint of) sunshine. And far from working to get past this ‘fancy’ of mine, I indulge it. Potted geraniums €4 each, tempting… 3 for €10… SOLD! (I also like a bargain – who doesn’t?) Do I have an amazing garden? Alas, no. We have some moss-grass creating the effect of a lawn, some wilty shrubs wrestling a pretty spectacular selection of weeds for sunlight and a few run-away herbs. But I have dreams, big dreams for my future garden. Once those pesky babies can finally hold a hoe and tackle a trowel, we’ll be out every day getting productive horticultural-type stuff done. I like to play a happy daydream in my head of how, together, we’ll transform our plot into an amazing explosion of miracle-grow-like proportions and colour, revealing it to family and friends in a style akin to the unveiling of the Secret Garden to stern Uncle Archibald. People will be overcome, cry tears of happiness. Aaahhhhhh… Until then, a few pots outside the back door – a couple of window boxes if I get myself organised – will suffice and feed the fix required to quell the need to seed.
You see, for me, a little gardening can be quite therapeutic. Out in the fresh air, focussed on a manual task, creating and achieving something… it’s hard to beat, and it works wonders for the mind – well, my mind anyway. Not that my mind isn’t AOK. Of course it is! Never been better. Isn’t it? Aren’t you? Well, to be honest, all this talk of anxiety is making me, well, anxious. I mean, how can we tell when we’re just sad (not depressed) or a bit tired (not chronically fatigued) or a hormonal mammy (not suffering from post/pre/anti-natal depression)?
It can feel like we’re being constantly bombarded with talk of mental health and mental health issues – online on the radio, the TV, in the newspaper… But I had built up some kind of weird immunity to all this talk’s core message. I would always listen with more intent when radio show guests talked about their personal struggles with mental health and watch, with interest, as current affairs programme panelists discussed their encounters with psychotherapy. But it was only after reading a magazine column recently about the writer’s own experience of OCD that I actually thought, for the first time, – ‘Oh! She’s ordinary. Why her? Why not me?’. Lightbulb moment! For some reason, no matter how many times I heard the slogan ‘It’s OK not to feel OK’, I still, deep down, felt it applied to someone else – some other human being who is ever so slightly different from me. They have different problems, you see, and good for them, getting themselves all sorted out – well done you! But it won’t be me – I don’t have the time. I can’t get sick. It’s OK for others to expose their vulnerability, but not me. I feel fine.
It dawned on me, quite literally then and there while reading that short, personal piece, that the issue of mental health does effect everybody, even me – not just those who have gotten to the stage of getting a diagnosis and treatment. This isn’t an ‘all or nothing’ situation where you’re either mentally well or not, the levels of mood and emotion are many and you are never not on the spectrum. The truth is, we won’t necessarily know when something’s gone from manageable to not. We’re not doctors, we’re not impartial, we’re stuck in the middle of it all… and life is messy, sometimes overwhelming and more times sadly underwhelming. And that’s just on an average Tuesday.
Luckily, I usually lurk around the ‘doing grand’ to ‘doing better than grand’ section of the grid. And I do appreciate my inbuilt resilience which usually helps me get through what life throws at me day-to-day. So far, so good. But I’m taking it less for granted, thanks to all this talk of mental health. Every day some part of this national discussion, somewhere, will resonate with someone else and hey presto – another soul might be more inclined to take a little extra care of their mental health. That is extremely worthy.
When my mind gets a bit crowded, disappearing to fill a few pots can help empty out the clutter. Super. But if the pots cease to hit the spot, if I fill them with colour and life but the process doesn’t restore the amount of colour and life required to get my mind to somewhat of an acceptable balance, I hope I’ll be taking the next step. I hope I’ll be putting my hand up and asking for help. I hope I will be that brave.
At least I finally realise it could be me.
This blog post has appeared on: huffingtonpost.co.uk