Gardening for Idiots

I may have mentioned, once or twice either here or on various social media, that our new house has a garden. Actually, two gardens, the one being a proper garden out the back with flowers and whatnot, and the other being a square of very nice grass outside our front window. The latter is fairly low-maintenance, even for us. We’ve cut the grass and picked up the few bits of rubbish that blow in and that’s about it. A tiny rant – do people really still just throw crisp packets on the ground when they’re empty?? Oh well. At some point in the future I plan to put in some pretty, bright and fragrant flowers along one edge but I’ll leave that till I’m more confident.

The real beast is the back garden. It has *gulp* real flowers in. And plants, and trees and stuff. And I’m not renowned for my green fingers (aka I’m the Bluebeard of Horticulture). It’s a lovely garden, a nice big bit of grass, a patio area (where my in-laws very kindly gave us an early Christmas present of a table and chairs set, and it promptly rained non-stop for the following fortnight), a shed and two rockery areas, and therein lies my problem.

The rockery areas are partly proper plant and mostly weed. My father in law dosed them up with weedkiller the day we moved in so I could weed them, and I’ve been putting it off and off and off. Procrastination is, after all, my middle name. I’m scared of pulling up something that’s not a weed but an ultra-rare, incredibly expensive plant that is the world’s last hope of recovery or the cure for cancer or something. There’s a little voice reminding me of my arachnophobia, and don’t spiders live in gardens? Not to mention the far more important jobs to do in the house. Yes. Absolutely.

Anyway, today I finally donned gardening gloves and attacked one of the rockery beds. Well, part of it. One little corner. It’s not quite as pathetic as it sounds, because my goodness there were some weeds in it. And you wouldn’t believe how thick and strong the roots are. Although actually, unless you’re as new to gardening as I am, you probably did this and got the t-shirt many moons ago.

It was very satisfying actually. I’ve heard this before, how therapeutic gardening is but to be honest I tended to add on to that (mentally) “for old people”. Baking too. I’ve just caught the baking bug and high on my wishlist is Saved by Baking by Marian Keyes. Isn’t it odd how when we feel like our souls are bruised we go back to traditional, down to earth past times such as baking and gardening to heal ourselves? I never yet heard of anyone beating depression by checking stocks and shares on the internet, but I could be wrong.

So, there’s a small patch of earth weed-free and turned over to reveal lovely dark, crumbly soil ready for some *double gulp* plants. To inaccurately quote Mary from The Secret Garden, ‘a little piece of earth’. And we know what tending that little piece of earth did for her, don’t we? (if not, your education is severely lacking. Please rectify immediately. This includes you, beloved husband).

Stay tuned for more Gardening for Idiots, coming up soon…

Lighting the Darkness: my story of depression

I’ve been debating with myself whether to blog about this for a while now. I’ve touched on it in a couple of posts, most recently Why I sold my iPhone but wasn’t sure whether to be more open. But a series of small incidents have convinced me it won’t do any harm, and might even do some good. I have been spurred on by Glamour magazine’s mental health campaign; I highly recommend you have a read.

I have been struggling with depression, certainly since last summer but I think that was rather the height of something that had been building for a few years. Over the past thirteen years or so I’ve had my share of life traumas, life events, whatever you want to describe them as, and to top it all my last pregnancy with my little girl made me very, very ill.

I’ve never been suicidal but pretty much every other symptom of depression you can name, I had. Have. The worst of it all, other than feeling ridiculously down and teary at the oddest moments, is the complete disconnection. Disconnection from time, people, activities. I have lost time – I looked back at the beginning of March and actually could not remember what happened during most of February. I’ve closed myself away from the friendships I made on twitter and in SCBWI. Not on purpose, I just wasn’t able to connect. I haven’t written, properly, in weeks. Maybe months. I’ve done the odd diary entry (“Today I did… Today we went…”) and the odd blog entry, but actual writing? The kind I long to do, where I take words and turn them into stories? The kind I used to think I could do? Nada. Nowt. Nothing. I look at my pen and notepad and files and can’t actually bring myself to pick them up. I know many people get a therapeutic kind of release through writing; I wish I could.

I’ve just started reading again. That’s when I know I’m going downhill again – when I can’t read. I mean, I can read, I can look at a word and understand what it means, but I don’t connect – there’s that word again – them together into the big picture, the whole book. Often I just don’t even pick up a book, and then when I come out of it I get greedy and get tons from the library or drool over Waterstones’ shelves.

And then there’s the physical symptoms. Which tend, I think, to get discounted or at least not given the respect they deserve. For me, it’s my legs. I suffer from plantar fasciitis anyway, which leads to excruciating pain in my left heel, but I also get pain in my knees, my ankles, up and down my calves. Tiredness, too. I’ve been tested for diabetes, iron (which is now fine) and my thyroid levels have been checked, but they’re pretty well monitored anyway as I’ve been hypothyroid since birth. I’ve come gradually to realise that it’s my depression. I know I have small children, but there’s lack-of-sleep-tired (which I am well-acquainted with!) and there’s something-is-wrong-tired, and I know the difference.

So what am I doing about it? Well, this. I’m talking, or trying to. I’m talking to my long-suffering husband. I’m talking to my GP who is going to strongly encourage me to talk to a counsellor. I’m blogging, in case anyone else is thinking they might be suffering from something similar. I’m inspired by Sally Brampton’s book Shoot the Damn Dog where she is brutally frank about her suicidal depression, and by this article which I read this morning. And by Glamour’s campaign here, which I mentioned above. I’m trying to think about what I want out of life, what would make me happy, and how I get it.

And I’m asking people not to give up on me. I will make those connections again, I will write again and I will be myself again. I will.