Anxiety can’t be cured by houseplants

I have struggled recently with bouts of anxiety so intense that they render me speechless. On more than one occasion in the last month or so, I’ve found myself hiding in bed. I remember as a child using this technique when I was sad or angry or confused. The feeling of a heavy blanket’s weight on top of me or the reassuring smell of laundered linens made the things I was feeling (or the reasons I was feeling them) feel further away.

I’m an avoidance queen, if that wasn’t already obvious. I’ve talked here on the blog in the past about how I use my houseplant hobby as a distraction from the more stressful side of life. I find it a relaxing distraction to potter around, touching leaves, checking soil, inspecting for pests. Finding pests is less relaxing, but that’s another blog post.

There are a lot of contributing factors to my anxiety. I don’t mean this to suggest that my life is particularly hard (although listening to me complain some days might make you think that it was) I work 40 hours five days a week at a job that pays me enough to live a comfortable life. I am married to a husband who loves me and who I love deeply and my relationship with my best friend is the strongest its ever been. However, when has an anxiety disorder ever made any logical sense? Half the things I feel anxious about are problems I’ve invented, or are existing problems that I have exaggerated or mutated into something much different and larger than they really are.

Usually I can stick my nose into a hobby— houseplants being the most recent— and distract myself from thinking about the thing I’m being anxious about. Lately though, I haven’t been able to move, let alone care for another living thing. Little tasks such as checking soil and touching leaves weren’t just difficult— they were impossible.

This isn’t a constant state. It will usually last a day at the most. For now.

I’m being pessimistic here, but that’s become the new normal, this time of year.

Things get a lot worse when it comes to mental health during the winter. I had hoped having a front room filled with green would combat that, and I think to a small degree it has. Nothing fills me with joy quite like getting up with the sun on a day off (usually I’m already at work by the time the sun makes an appearance at this time of year) and seeing its golden rays dancing on green leaves.

I have to reconcile the fact that something that makes me happy will not cure the anxiety. But it does still make me happy. Those things have to stay separate so I don’t stop finding joy in tending to my plants because the act of it does not solve my sadness and fear the other 80% of the time.

I am sorry this entry is a little bit melancholy, but I’ll try to end it on a positive note for both you, readers, and myself.

Some plant related things that have made me smile this week:

• My watermelon peperomia has given me inflorescences for the first time

• New growth on my struggling stromanthe sanguine

• More progress on my amaryllis bulb

• Leaves turning and perking up after the first very sunny day we have had in a while

• A coworker gave me a tradescantia that was struggling at her house to see if I could save it (it’s probably too far gone, but at least she thought of me)

• I ran into an old high school teacher at a nursery in town while hunting for new plants and had a nice catch up

Honestly I’m feeling a little lighter already. If, like me, the seasonal blues have you down, take five minutes right now and make a little list like this in your mind. Our plants may not be able to cure us of our anxiety disorders or seasonal depression, but if we let them, they can make us smile for a minute or two, and reflecting on those moments when you’re at your lowest can make a difference, even if it’s only small.

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