I don’t talk about it much, but I have anxiety. I’ve mentioned it here and there, but mostly I've kept it to myself/the entire internet. I’ve lived with debilitating anxiety since I was nine, but wasn’t formally diagnosed until I was twenty. Since then, I’ve continued to treat my disorder with a combination of medication, therapy, and, most recently, a fuckton of weed.
I’m always looking for—and open to—new ways of coping. I already have an extensive list of what works and what doesn’t, but, unlike my predilection for eating at chain restaurants while traveling (the logic here is that you know what to expect, leaving virtually no room for disappointment; also, I am garbage), I am always willing to try something new. Or, in this case, old.
Right before I was born, my parents and my older brother moved from their small apartment in Yardville, New Jersey into the current house in which my mom and dad still reside. What the house lacks in size, the yard more than makes up for, which was what won over my parents in the end; they wanted their children to have a large yard to play in. And, while I did spend a fair amount of time playing in that yard, my favorite thing to do was actually to dig up wild daffodils from the surrounding woods in the springtime, and replant them in the yard, like, “YOU ARE MY FRIENDS NOW.”
This continued well into early adolescence, until I became a teenager and became preoccupied with making the act of listening to “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap my entire personality. Cut to: twelve years later.
There was a time, a few years ago, when I would go back home every weekend. My friends in New York would try to make plans with me, but they all eventually gave up since my response was always the same: “Sorry, can’t, going home!” My anxiety felt endless, for a number of different reasons: I had been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and I was struggling to manage it; my chronic health issues were worsening; and, to top it all off, my living situation had become toxic as a result of a less-than-desirable roommate. I was looking to escape.
During one of those trips home, I noticed an area near the patio that looked as sad as I felt. My mom had planted coreopsis, a summer perennial, in the corner, but the rest was just dirt: it was prime real estate. I ordered some daffodil bulbs online—sorry, but my days prancing through the woods are long gone. I know what’s out there! (Lyme, the Blair Witch, Lady Gaga practicing the Abramovic Method, etc.)—and decided to make a project of it, just to have something to occupy my mind (and hands) on the trips home.
After adding two dozen Dutch Master daffodils—the timeless classic of daffodils—to my cart, I decided to also zhuzh up the other garden in my parents’ yard that hadn’t been touched since my prepubescence. I ended up ordering $ [redacted] worth of daffodils, in all different shapes and colors, because practicing self-control is hack!!!!!!!!!
When they finally arrived a few months later, that fall, it was time to plant them so that they could bloom in the spring. I made sure to buy the right type of soil, fertilizer, and mulch beforehand, so the only thing I had to do next was start digging. Even preparing the space provided respite from the harmful ruminations that plagued my mind at the time by giving me something to focus on. The repetitive motion of digging up the earth and layering it with gardening soil and fertilizer—making sure that everything was at the right depth and covered evenly—gave me a sense of purpose and achievement.
When the time came to plant the bulbs I had ordered, I took my time getting my hands dirty—literally. It’s been reported that soil contains natural antidepressant properties, so I had to restrain myself from putting an entire bag of Miracle-Gro right up my ass. (Saving that for my OnlyFans debut.) Once I had decided which varieties I wanted to plant where, I started putting them in the ground.
By keeping my hands busy, I was able to focus my thoughts. It was almost like I was funneling the chaos from my mind directly into the earth, which is, in some ways, the great neutralizer. It is, after all, where we all go when we leave the chat permanently! It was a way for me to nurture something that would grow and eventually bloom, and by channeling most of my energy into the bulbs and their placement in the earth, and then sprinkling fertilizer in between and topping it off with a layer of mulch to retain moisture, I was able to achieve a sense of calm that I had desperately sought.
And the reward wasn’t just beautiful flowers, which, not to toot my own horn, but:
I also got to watch something grow from my pain. It reminded me that beauty is resilient; it can grow almost anywhere. And if I have the power to facilitate the growth of that beauty, maybe I also have the ability to blossom despite what threatens to make me wilt. Now, I am dangerously close to spewing something foul that you would see embroidered on a pillow at Marshalls, so I’m going to stop while I’m ahead on this front.
Gardening is a hobby that I am thankful to have found, especially since its benefits extend far beyond the garden. I get the same satisfaction from tending to the plants in my apartment: watering them, pruning them, repotting them. It’s an exercise in mindfulness that few other activities lend me. And it’s one I hope to continue to practice when I have a yard of my own one day.
In the meantime, it’s enough to know that these jolly yellow goofs are never far off—and always come back.