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The perfect project for my self-loathing mind

Today I walked out into my front garden and picked some of the fresh peas that were growing there. It’s not a unique event; gardeners up and down the country are doing exactly the same thing at this time of year. For me, however, it was a moment brimming with pride. Sat on the rather ad-hoc path I’d made out of mismatched flagstones and bricks, I ate most of the peas straight from their pods and recalled what my garden had looked like at the start of the year.

This year has been one dominated by depression. I have been unable to work and for long periods of time barely able to function. I’ve always wanted more space to grow vegetables and a friend suggested that now would be a good time to turn my front garden into an allotment. Certainty of disaster, small chance of success…just the kind of project a self-loathing mind enjoys. What was I waiting for?

During the winter months, when the season so accurately reflected my internal weather I could only manage to work on my garden for a few minutes each day. Equally exhausted by the efforts of digging and getting past my front door I would then return inside to resume my daily struggle, curled up on the sofa and once again withdrawn from the world. There were many days when I cursed myself for starting such an undertaking but the fear of being left with half a muddy lawn on show to the neighbourhood kept me on task. Those few minutes each day started to add up and by March the lawn had been removed, soil dug over and the path laid. I now have over twenty different types of fruits and vegetables growing.

Whilst reflecting on this today I realised that I’d completed what I set out to do by focusing on the here and now. Each day I had to focus on nothing more than removing another square of turf, rather than worrying about the future or allowing myself be drawn into past regrets. Watching the plants grow and change with the seasons has served to remind me that just as they are impermanent, so is the dark, selfish, lonely place I dwell in when my mood is at its lowest. However firmly I believe that my mood will never lift and I will always be stuck in my own emotional purgatory, now I only have to look outside to be reminded that nothing remains the same forever.

I am in no doubt that gardening has significantly contributed to my recovery. It has provided me with exercise, fresh food to nourish my body and a sense of pride that I never again thought I’d experience. I once believed that depression had stolen my dreams. Now I see that my dreams are slowly stealing my depression. Hold onto your dreams. Just take one minute or however long you can give. What can you do today that will keep your dreams alive?

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