Houseplants and Mental Health

I have a black thumb. For those unfamiliar with the term, it means I kill plants. You’d think, by now, that I’d see the ferns and cacti leaning away from me at the store -but, no. I see a cute pot or arrangement and think, I can grow a plant! Into my cart the poor once-green thing goes, soon to meet its demise like so many before it.

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Isn’t it cute?

My house is full of plants. This is odd, considering my admitting to how often I kill them. People come to my house, look around, and say, “Wow; you must have a green thumb!”

Hiding my black thumbs behind my back I answer, “Why, thank you;” because, as I said, I am not good at raising plants.

At this point, you may be wondering two things:

  1. Why do you have plants if you are bad at caring for them?
  2. Why the heck are we talking about plants? Isn’t this a mental health blog?

The answer is that living with mental illness is an awful lot like maintaining houseplants. Houseplants need a good start so their roots can drain while their soil retains water without drowning them. They need sunlight and regular watering. They even need calming sounds. When I skip or skimp on these things, they suffer.

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Likewise, counseling or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or great genes) helps us deal with challenges and triggers in life. Sunlight gives us Vitamin D and cheers us up. We need water so we don’t die. Calmer songs and sounds help with agitation, depression, panic attacks, and stress. When I skip or skimp on these things, I suffer.

I often tell people I struggle with depression. I tell them I have social anxieties, or generalized ones. I admit to deep, dark thoughts and difficult days.

People -even online people- are surprised. All they see are green, growing plants. They don’t see the dead branches I’ve pulled off, the dead leaves I’ve pruned, or even the millipedes I vacuumed out of the roots*. They can’t feel my sadness, isolation, and occasional thoughts of uselessness and despair.

But, knowing I have mental issues hasn’t stopped me from fighting any more than knowing I have a black thumb has stopped me from buying plants.

Why?

Because there is no perfect plant -besides the plastic ones at IKEA. Every plant has parts that die off. Every one of them has needed soil conditioners or peat moss, or re-potting.

One of my favorite houseplants is this tree, pictured below. I bought it as a tiny, grocery store discount. I’ve watered it, kept it in the sun, and graduated it to larger pots as it outgrew them. At some points, I thought it wouldn’t make it. I even thought to leave it behind when we moved houses.

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Then, I learned better potting techniques. I watered regularly, but not too much. It’s currently taller than I am, and still growing.

Furthermore, do you notice anything about its coloring? The part away from the sun is darker. There are some dead leaves nearer the middle.

Hmmmm.

Some days I want to give up. I see the discolorations in my character and assume others do as well. I think there is something wrong that needs removal or replacement.

Instead, notice how cool the contrast looks. Notice how darkness gives depth to light.

Maybe the ‘problem’ is that I need more sunshine, a better watering routine, or a calmer environment. Maybe the ‘problem’ is needing more space or nutrients. Or, maybe the ‘problem’ is there isn’t one, because everyone has problems.

And so, I will keep trying. I will keep fighting. And the growth that emerges will be the most beautiful and healthy of all.

~~~~~

*True story with a lemon tree we bought

Photo Credits:
Paula Brustur
Lauren Ferstl
And, Chelsea Owens

Running Towards Hugs.

I am making moves towards my next goal of moving back home after moving out of state a year ago. I applied and applied for jobs until I finally found something that would suit me. I felt immediate relief in signing the offer letter. I know it was the right choice. It isn’t because I fear not having a roof over my head, a lease ending, a job I am at risk of losing or anything of the sort. I just am relieved to be headed back to something familiar. I let my mental health care fall by the wayside and that it has never been so apparent that what I had been doing was working.

I moved here to remove myself from stressful situations that I was in. I was constantly guilt ridden (because of my own issues) and putting a lot of strain on myself to appease others. I know that moving doesn’t solve all your problems, but being far enough away where I couldn’t volunteer to be the fixer did. What I didn’t know is that I would be moving in with family who don’t hug, who don’t really socialize the way I am used to, and to be frank have a drinking problem. Alcohol has never really been my scene. I have always been aware enough of my own issues to know that alcohol will only worsen them. Being around it is depressing and lonely. On one side, I have a dad who indulges often and I now know why the phrase “functional alcoholic” is a very real thing. He holds a job and he isn’t angry or anything, but it sure pisses off his wife and that negativity is stifling.

I haven’t been hugged or had human contact aside from a handshake it 93 days. NINETY THREE DAYS. You don’t realize the impact such a small gesture makes until you don’t have it. I only hear I love you occasionally (aside from when I call my mom). I don’t see anyone except on the weekends even though I live with them because our hours are so different.

All of this has just piled up and then I stopped taking my medicine. Most of us have been there and thought we were okay, but we probably also had people who said “hey, you aren’t yourself” or asked if we were still taking care of ourself. That doesn’t happen here and my self care abandonment has gone unmentioned if it was noticed.

12 days until I move. I am packing up my stuff and my cat and headed to the land of love.

Take care of yourself wherever you are. Take your medicine. Go to your doctor. Hug someone you haven’t in awhile. Ask someone how they are doing. It sounds so cliche and I really just want to punch people in the stomach when I see their half hearted post about being there for anyone who needs it on facebook. I get it though. I understand the sentiment. I just hope that we can all think of how we feel and how we hide it.

Safe Space

She often contemplates

Of a distant life

One without strife

Curious of where she hide

When all is chaotic inside

She fears her safe space mimicks pandora’s box

It lies hidden beneath her surface

Unlike a treasure chest

Not meant to be discovered

For this space holds secrets

Most of which permeate

And she, unaware

Emerging,

Protected,

without a care

Not daring to question

who’s secrets live there

She abandons that space

A place

Within her, she fears

One of mystery

of forgotten years

She gazes beyond it’s contents

With aspirations of inner peace

Never to unleash

The savage beast

It’s Time I Fly

Persistent I focus on growth,

you cannot help but complain.

Much of my life, it’s been the same.

Never enough

Or the wrong time,

Too much,

too soon.

You find the most inopportune moments as if you are searching for a clue.

Mysteriously problems arise,

My fault, in your eyes.

Chastise me as your child,

In which I am.

Except I am grown.

Stifling my creativity

learning

it’s my time to go.

No pointing fingers but is it because of you my inner child refuses to grow?

Pushing her down to size with every no.

There’s this fire pleading from inside.

Tired of being shoved,

made to hide.

Grappling with confusion

your love is no illusion,

yet toxic,

chaining me to who I long to un-become.

It isn’t my will to be done.

Stepping out of my own way,

I am being shown the sun.

All the possibilities frighten any notion of me not by your side.

I deserve a sense of pride.

It’s time you let me off this ride.

Mom,

please set me free so I can learn to be me.

You accomplished fixing me the most you could.

But the time has come,

As I knew it would.

And now I go

with one foot in front of the other,

discovering myself

on this long, desolate road.

You did your best and it has come time

I do the rest.

Guided by your wisdom,

I must leave the nest.

Meant to Be

For his attention

She fight

Without his approval

Her dreams would not catch flight

Self-sabotaging rendered her insane

Poison flowed through her veins

Risking a life she could not love

Losing faith of anyone above

A father who belittled his daughter

Confusing her was the pain

She sought in others a fragile love

The one missing from within

Disposing of men

Forbidden sin

He set an example forever ingrained

Love equals pain

The rejection of his affection left her exposed

Substance she snorts up her nose

Numbing the pain

Heartbreak upon heartbreak she gain

A constant battle with her brain

A destiny to heal her heart

Finding herself falling apart

She doesn’t know where to start

Forgiveness is key

In being set free

And unlocking who she is meant to be

She

I come and go as I please.

I always have.

Usually,

I want to be missed.

But not this time,

it’s been pure bipolar bliss;

being a miss.

It isn’t easy being in this world,

only to exist.

With moods that have fits.

Yet I have found my peace

with my inner beast.

Dormant she lie asleep.

Silent Dawn

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Silent Dawn

By: Francesca Seopa

Follow me,
Oh Dear friend,
Through this ochre world.
A world where no man’s heart Beats for others.
A world where no blood will warm your bodies;
And has the personality of winter.
A world where no patience exists,
And promises aren’t for keeping.
Welcome, To the World of Stone.**

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Thank you for being with me. I look Forward to seeing you again soon. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Love,

Francesca

Feelings of Freedom

It’s been a while since I have written here on TBW blog. I haven’t had much of anything to say and nothing educational to share leaving me silent. I can’t help but wonder if anyone noticed. I am not an attention seeker by any means, it is my curiosity that wonders aimlessly. I’m sure I am not the only one who wonders such things.

The content here continues to flow at a steady rate with some profound writers adding their insight. As I peruse around the net I can’t help but notice the influx of mental health focused blogs. That is wonderful news for the mental health community. People are stepping out and speaking up about their experiences with mental illness. We can only go up from here.

Being a part of this mental movement makes me feel included, something I’ve not ever felt. Many of you do not know this but I run two blogs, a personal one and another I am trying to monetize. I didn’t realize how welcoming the mental health community of WordPress was until I ventured out into this other arena. Let’s just say they aren’t as welcoming.

It sounds like I expect to be coddled but I don’t, I only now realize the impact the mental health community has had on me. I allow myself to be vulnerable because y’all seem to accept me for me. I allow myself to be honest and raw because y’all respond with kindness. Most importantly, I am me with this community because I have been embraced.

We are a different breed of human and I am slowly beginning to acknowledge there is no other place I need to be. In other places, I don’t feel free. Instead I feel restricted and monitored, weird and uncomfortable. I want to crawl out of my skin.

That’s the thing. I’ve finally been accepted for having bipolar, OCD, and anxiety. I’ve finally been accepted for being me. That is a great yet foreign feeling. On most days I try my hardest to not feel but being a part of this community has taught me that it is ok to have feelings and more so share those feelings.

That is what brings me here today. Feelings of gratitude for each of you. Regardless of your diagnosis, I hope you too feel free in this space.

Listening

What do you do when the silent space of your mind decides it wants to be heard?

Screaming in echoed holler, I hear the vibration of words.

Muffeled and stifled

Humming in my head, reminding me I’m not dead.

I can’t decipher what is being said.

Damn crazy head!

I stay on alert waiting for the silence to strum up the courage to speak.

It isn’t silence that I fear.

I’ve sat in that year upon years.

For the chatter, I wait.

Luring it I dangle bait.

My intentions are pure, hoping the words offer a cure.

If ever a whisper,

or even a howl,

I’ll interpret it

best I know how.

Flames of Life

What is to come of a life doused in confusion?

The flammability of kerosene will destroy with one strike

Tasting the sulfur curiosity engulfs me

As do the flames of life

The power of powerlessness intrigues

Dancing flames

Uncontrollable

Unpredictable

And wavering

Imagine…what we breathe gives life to a destruction we cannot comprehend

Once ignited a challenge to win

Temperatures soar to extremes

Burning yet tempting

Freedom of the flame produces jealousy

Untameable, wild

You’ll see

Don’t stand to close to me

Life gave me no choice

But gifted me with a voice

Silently I scream

The fire and me are a team

Dancing a slow dance

Romanticising

A dangerous affair

Maintenance through air

Despair we share