Of all the reading I have done about mental health (trust me, it’s a lot! I’m working on compiling a list) one book deserves credit as THE most helpful mental health advice I have ever discovered. Before I tell you the title and authors, let me give you the gist of their advice.
“A wave of intense sadness soaked through me. I felt completely alone. I sat quietly for a minute or two gathering myself, unable to move, letting the storm pass…knowing that I was not well, knowing that this was not good, knowing that if I let go, I might never put the pieces back together again.
I drove home, a grown man sobbing on the motorway, and got back to the empty house. I rang Sarah and from the other side of the country she lovingly talked me down, like a flight controller bringing a flaming plane safely in to land.
Something breaks. Something shatters, and it takes a long while to put it all together again.” (pages 61-62)
This is startlingly similar to my own breakdown five years ago. I feel like there are many quiet people out there who have experienced this also.
“Above all, it is exhausting. Everything is an effort…
I hardly sleep. There is a blessed two or three hours of oblivion when I go to sleep before waking at 1 or 2am and tossing and turning till 5, when I often give up sleep as a bad job…
I do not do any of the things that matter, any of the things that would help. Letters, emails, phone calls remain unanswered…
Nothing is tidied or put away. I wear the same clothes every day. I eat too much yet cannot be bothered to cook or shop properly. Concentration for more than five minutes at a time is practically impossible. Everything slides away.” (pages 57-58)
Other than a simple difference of sleep disturbance patterns, I will be awake to 1 or 2 or 3 am, sleep for a couple hours, awaken by 5 or 6 (some nights sleep evades me completely), this is me as well.
“Gardening combines all the beneficial qualities of sunlight, weather, activity and a sense of purpose. It is the ideal activity to heal mind hurt.” (page 55)
Like one of the authors of the book from which these quotes were taken, Monty Don, I have found gardening to offer tremendous benefits to my mental health recovery. I can’t drag my ass to the gym when I’m suffering, but I can go outside for a cup of tea in the garden. Fresh air and sunshine backed by birdsong lift my spirits every time. Just a little. Enough that I start to look at a tree that might need a little pruning or a patch of lawn that could be replaced by flowers. And slowly, without a plan, I start in. Sometimes hours pass and at days end something worthwhile has been done.
Once you allow yourself to enjoy gardening, you come to love the plants and even on your most difficult day you drag yourself outside to water them, lest they die. You move your body. The sun works its magic, stimulating the production of Vitamin D and helping your body regulate serotonin.
I have much, much more to say on the topic of gardening and mental health. There is a book draft in progress (a ‘shitty first draft’), but my purpose in writing this blog is to recommend another book. I have no connection to the authors or the publisher and I don’t have affiliate anything.
That said, read this book: The Jewel Garden: A Story of Despair and Redemption by Monty and Sarah Don. It is under 200 pages and costs $10 CND.
If you aren’t sure you want to read a book right now (maybe you have a stack of unread books like me), I strongly recommend watching the BBC show hosted by Monty Don: Gardeners World. He has a gentle manner and is always accompanied by his dogs Nigel and Nellie.
Now that I have outed myself as a gardening groupie, I think I’ll take my dog, Cassie, and go enjoy my day out in the garden.
Happy Mother’s Day!