In a candlelit bathroom, I found myself curled up in my bathtub in the midst of an unusually long panic attack. This was the second panic attack I had encountered in two weeks. To be completely frank, I was ok with whatever was going to happen to me. My brain had tricked me into believing the worst about myself. Delusional thoughts and self-hatred were blaring in my head and I couldn’t take it anymore.
Questions of my worth, my direction, and even my purpose in life were at the forefront of it all:
What am I doing here?
How could this be happening again?
What kind of example are you setting for your kids?
COVID-19 has not been an easy season for anyone if we are being completely honest with ourselves. Whether you’ve dealt with mental health in the past or have been experiencing them for the first time, the feelings can be debilitating. One moment you feel that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel; the next day it feels like the tunnel has been closed off and you’re stuck in pitch black.
My battle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and postpartum depression are all seasons I’ve had to battle for years. Some of these things I could previously address with grounding techniques or I’d call someone to get help. I prided myself on knowing just what to do to fix my problems. With one bubble bath, one solo trip to Target, a night out with my best girlfriends, a couple of date nights with my husband… these were sure-fire ways to help combat my depressive episodes.
Then a global pandemic hit and all bets were off.
No textbooks could prepare you for how to mentally prepare for this.
I have struggled with panic attacks in my past, but what I had been experiencing at the beginning of 2020 was like none other I had been through before. I could tell from the moment I’d wake up in the morning if I would be dealing with an episode. It got to the point at night that I would get anxious because I was terrified of what I would face the next day. For weeks, I’d have to hide in my bathroom, lock the door, sit on the floor, and take ten minutes to completely let myself feel every emotion. I wanted to find good throughout my days, but all my brain could focus on was the insecurities, hurt, and “what if” scenarios that would play on
an endless loop in my brain. Make. It. STOP.
It took months to figure out my triggers, pinpoint my emotions, step back, and see a full picture of what I was dealing with. One way I found grounding was caring for house plants and their needs. I did my research and looked up easy plants I couldn’t kill even if I tried. After a couple of weeks of caring for these new beauties, I realized something I never would have thought about before: I can treat my plants with the same love and attention I can give to myself during uncertain times.
Mental health pairs beautifully with tending to creation. In the beginning stages, it’s important to have the basic tools in order to have a successful crop. Water. Healthy soil. Pest prevention. Weed management. Sunlight. Without these important factors, our harvest would not have proper care and probably wouldn’t be thriving. You simply cannot skip ahead and expect to get the results you are hoping for. When I first started this venture into house plants, I had no idea you needed to completely soak the soil until you saw water drip to the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. I had always been told that it’s important to water your plants, but I had no clue to what extent you needed to allow the water to reach all the way to its roots. We need to give ourselves the same attention to detail when it comes to self-care and getting to the root of it all. If we aren’t treating the root of our problems, we are only reaching surface-level issues. Sometimes that can look like booking the counseling appointment you’ve been putting off. It can also be talking to your doctor about starting medication and finding what would work best for you. It could also mean having a meaningful, human connection you desperately need. It is not selfish to say you need help.
In seasons, we aren’t exactly sure what our futures entail, but it’s important to realize our results won’t happen overnight. For most plants, you won’t see new growth or actual change for weeks or even months. The hardest (and sometimes the most painful) thing we have to do is wait. Waiting often feels unfair. Especially in seasons where we are encountering our mental health struggles, it’s very difficult to look on the brighter side of things.
I found that looking at these seasons as a time to sow our seeds is a beautiful illustration of what we hope for in our future. We can start new or better habits in hopes that our mindset is on a better track. It can even look like beginning therapy and showing up to your first appointment not knowing what your sessions will teach you about yourself. We can often find
some seeds we’ve sown show up differently than expected, and that can be what we need in our season!
Flowers can have different variations, colors, growing patterns, and scents. I’m thankful creation has a way of showing its beauty through the work of just being itself and not caring what the world tells it to be.
Lastly, I’ve found uncovering this appreciation for creation is my favorite part: the harvest. Harvest season is where we see the fruits of our labor. It’s where you can reap the benefits from your dedication to sticking to the hard work of caring for yourself.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s made us realize we need to care for ourselves in ways we couldn’t have if we didn’t stop and stay still. Think about it: all the times you show up for therapy appointments, take your vitamins and medications, practice your meditations, pray, or participate in hobbies bringing joy into your life - these are the things bringing you closer to your harvest.
To get to the harvest, we must put in the work: get our hands dirty, prepare the soil, give life to our crop, plant the seeds, and wait. The harvest is worth the fight.
Floral design by Becky Ruby-Wojtowicz.
Written by Katie Thrush (pictured). Photography by Karmen Johnson.