Gardening as a Metaphor for Life

I know I’m not the first person to make this observation, but lately I’m obsessed with my plants and I think I figured out why. Plants are a microcosm of sorts, life on a tiny scale. Plants come in all different colors and shapes, some do well in heat and some prefer cooler climates. Some flower and produce fruit, others are just there to look good. Each spring I get so excited to start the year’s garden here at the urban farmstead and true to form, I’m already started on purchasing plants.

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I never had a green thumb growing up, in fact I hated the idea of getting all dirty and encountering bugs. I still don’t like bugs, but I finally discovered my inner gardener. It started with my old apartment, where I had a window box with some mums that started growing like wildfire. Then when I moved, I planted flower beds along the house, some plants didn’t make it but I discovered I really enjoyed watching them grow and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Fast forward to last summer, my first summer in the urban farmstead and I grew my own tomatoes, peppers and flowers too. I learned a lot about what not to do as far as container gardening goes and I am better prepared to grow my own veggies and just enjoy the process a lot more.

As I was researching what plants would be best in my climate (a ridiculous habit I picked up from my ex fiancee who would research everything for weeks before we ever did anything), I reflected on how raising plants is like living life. Too much of anything can hinder the plants, too little will stifle them. Timing is important and so is making sure the plants are suited to the soil and container. Things of any nature cannot grow if it’s not the right situation. Paying too little attention or too much attention can actually kill a plant, and sometimes things beyond our control cause the plant to die.

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Besides teaching me patience and dedication, gardening has helped me realize I’m more self sufficient than I realize. It also helps me realize I have the ability to influence my living situation if only on a small scale. It’s a great hobby to calm me down when I’m feeling manic, taking that time to just literally stop and smell the flowers is great.

Do you have a green thumb or is there another hobby you participate in? Please share in the comments!

 

DIY Compost Pail!

I’m back with a DIY to share with you! I’m always looking for tips on how to grow my plants more successfully. I only have a balcony to grow them on, so I try to use my space and effort wisely. In researching when to plant, I looked a bit into fertilizing and realized I have the resources to compost here in my kitchen. Only trouble was my space limitation. My condo/urban farmstead is roomy as far as living space, but not so much for gardening and I’m not allowed to do any kind of extreme renovation without approval from the housing committee. So I looked into what I can reasonably do, at minimum cost and effort.

My solution to fertilizing is to compost, it saves me money and it’s more ecologically sound. If you Google compost pails, you will find all kinds of containers in all varieties. I wasn’t about to spend upwards of $50 for what is essentially a slop pail, so I decided to make my own. I used a vacuum seal coffee container I had previously painted.

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I had painted the container with the intent of using it for dry pantry storage, but it was a different kind from ones I’d revamped in the past and wasn’t as large as I would like for storage. But it’s shorter stature and round shape made it ideal for becoming a compost pail. I got out my drill and purchased a carbon filter intended for installing on a cat litter box (a whopping $1.40) to use as a filter on the lid.

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I drilled four small holes into the lid and then flipped the lid over and attached the filter I had cut in half

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The filter helps to stop the compost from stinking up your house. I’ve already got the pail on my countertop ready to go. If you’re wondering what exactly you can put in your compost pail or how to compost, I found this website helpful. I am looking forward to adding the compost to my veggies and flowers later this spring and hopefully having a better turn out for my plants!

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Addiction

It’s early morning right now, quiet and calm. I am not scheduled to work this weekend and was busy most of the day catching up on housework. I’m finally feeling better after having been sick the last several days, so you would think I’d be relishing the time to relax and reflect in a quiet and peaceful environment. Work (in a hospital emergency room) is constant noise and activity, motion and lights, smells and sights and stress. You barely have time to finish one task before another one rears its head. You definitely have to have a certain personality or constitution to do this kind of work. I go home most days mentally and physically exhausted.

Sounds like a place you’d be crazy to miss, that you’d be running out of the door as soon as your shift was over, doesn’t it? There’s a label given in health care to people who crave the craziness- trauma junkies. So as I sit in my peaceful home, I am restless and I realize it is because I miss being at the hospital, I miss the flurry of activity. If you’ve seen the movie The Hurt Locker, Jeremy Renner’s character experiences something similar with being addicted to dangerous military activities. It’s as though I can no longer separate myself from who I am at work. You know how people say they give “110% at work”? Yeah, I give 120%.

Is it the bipolar that makes me this way? It’s been shown that people with bipolar and other mental illnesses have a greater tendency towards addiction. Or is it just that I have found the place I truly belong as far as work goes?I prefer to think it’s the latter, but it’s an interesting topic to ponder here in the silence.

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photo credit Mitchell Hawkins

Fluffy Affection

I’ve been ridiculously sick all week, which is why I haven’t been posting too much. I came down with some sort of kidney infection that I fortunately got treated before it got too bad, but man it was rough. I finally have my appetite back and no more throwing up (Thank God) but it was a tough few days. As I sweated/threw up/cried/slept, I had someone taking care of me:

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Fluffernutter (AKA Fluff) stayed by my side, slept near me and gave me lots of kisses. I really was surprised by how attuned to my illness she was. They say animals can sense your stress and anxiety levels and I’ll say Fluff definitely knew what was going on. It warmed my heart to hear her meow and feel her snuggle up to me.

Glad to report I’m feeling about 60% better and hoping to get going on a new DIY to share with you all. Also looking forward to bringing you a guest post from a fellow mental health blogger!! Take care and enjoy your weekend!!

The Baby Step Tango

A few steps forward, then a few steps back. That’s how it seems to go for me lately. My most recent psychiatrist visit was good and we agreed to more time between appointments provided I continued to feel good and then the anxiety set in. It’s not crippling anxiety but it’s bothersome for sure. I believe the anxiety is stemming from not being able to differentiate between myself and my mental illness. I was an undiagnosed, untreated bipolar sufferer for 30+ years. I honestly don’t know what “normal” is. From obsessive and self defeating thoughts to uncontrolled rage and spending, I’m not exactly a role model of normalcy.

In medicine we talk about a “baseline” for a person, or how they behave when they’re feeling ok. I’ve been spending the last several months on medicines that regulate my mixed up brain chemicals, trying to figure out my own baseline. I’ve been messed up for so long, I’m not sure I would know what “normal” would be if it hit me right between the eyes. But I keep hoping I’ll at least start to feel better for an extended period of time. My mother often points out to me when I’m feeling especially jacked up that no one is really normal, it’s just an idea.

I also find I am hung up on the diagnosis and my personality traits. As in, is procrastinating just something I do or do I do it because of the bipolar? I know “normal” people procrastinate all the time but I’ve got an entire room of unfinished projects not to mention half finished drafts for the blog. There’s darker parts that I worry about too, like my anger and dangerous behaviors I have engaged in. I’ve noticed since I started my medicines it’s a lot better and I know that anger is something everyone is supposed to feel (Let me add on if you are as angry/behaving  as I was before medicines or engaging in destructive/angry behaviors like I was you need to look at that more closely. It could be a sign of something deeper than just anger). I’m happy to say with my medicines and self care, my dangerous/risky behaviors are cut down substantially- no more speeding or reckless driving, no more drinking while on medications, no more looking for a fight because I don’t know what to do with my restlessness or feelings of inadequacy, no more self harm.

In a sense, being treated for a mental illness that was unchecked for so long is like learning how to do everything and how to be all over again. It’s daunting and tiring but the hope of a more peaceful, satisfying life keeps me going. I’ve made some improvement and have also had some backsliding, but I keep getting up every time I fall. I also realize that in learning to live my life all over again, I also get to dictate how it will be, for the most part. It’s especially empowering to know that I am not a victim of my mental illness, that I can live successfully even with bipolar.

I’d like to wrap up this post by saying that if you are feeling down or noticing symptoms like unreasonable anger, destructive behaviors or depression, please seek professional help. This is a list of symptoms associated with mental illnesses, but I must emphasize: Do NOT check out WebMd or Google and try to self diagnose! Contact a licensed professional if you are concerned!! NAMI.org is a great resource with links to care providers in your area.  Also check with your employer regarding no-cost therapy sessions that may be available to you. There is no shame in admitting you need help!

Fragile

I’ve been lagging on posting. The last week at work was tumultuous at best. A co worker had a massive stroke and is now on a ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit and it definitely shook me. Working in emergency medicine is exciting and exhausting at once. It’s easy for me to be kind and in control when it’s a stranger, but it’s a different ball game when the patient is someone I care about.

My good buddy Doc had to go in for emergency surgery this week and now he’s always on my mind. There was a day in emergency last week when we basically got our butts kicked from every imaginable direction. Full arrest, strokes, heart attacks, car accidents, you name it, we saw it. This is standard in emergency medicine, but some days are certainly harder to get through than others. Decompressing is an absolute necessity on days like that and the last few days have found me being very kind to myself and eating a lot of chocolate.

In addition to all this is the roller coaster that is my relationship with The Paramour. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that two broken people cannot have a healthy relationship. I am aware I truly need to walk away from him, but I find that so hard to do.  Every time I resolve to forget him and leave him behind, he finds a way back into my head.  It’s always a bit stunning to realize that this time around, I’m the more emotionally secure one. My medication, routine schedule and efforts to take better care of myself are paying off, but I definitely need to make a change in the aspect of this relationship.

Normally all this tumult would have me swinging into mania, but I’ve been able to stay pretty level. Obviously with things like my coworker having a stroke and Doc needing surgery, I felt sad and distressed but taking the time to recognize these feelings and doing things to counter them really helped. I’m happy to say Doc’s surgery went well and he’s in his usual good spirits but I sure do miss having him at work to help me out.

Times like this past week always cause me to have some deep conversations with God, garnering strength to keep going. I try to get some sense of understanding of why things happen and just trust that God has put me where I need to be.  Sometimes on hectic days, just taking the time to be still and hear God’s voice is enough.