On either side of my driveway crocuses and snowdrops have started to appear. They have forced their way through the decomposing leaves. Bursts of colour against the damp brown matting.
I take a rake and gently pull it across the flowerbed, easing my way through the flowers carefully, trying not to knock off the delicate blooms. The flowers I expose are top heavy, their stems are white, translucent, anemic. Many of them flop forward, unable to support their own weight. I fear my zeal might have shortened their already brief life.
I recognise myself here.
I have been re-learning how to live in a way that enables me to be well, to enjoy my days and weeks without the constant threat of sliding under. Figuring out what I need to do to make sure I don’t fall foul of the beast that is anxiety… again.
I have pushed through. I have worked my way into a new place, out of the dark. And now I am here in the sunlight. I feel disoriented, sun-blinded, unstable.
I fear my legs will not continue to hold me as I venture forward.
I am top heavy with new ideas, new habits, new ways to be.
This new life I am discovering has involved a complete overhaul of my priorities, how I spend my time, who I spend time with, how I treat my body.
Everything has had to change.
And change at such a rapid rate (okay so I’ve been on this path for over seven years – but that is pretty quick to change your whole life) can leave you vulnerable, exposed, it can tire you out.
To ensure I grow in a way that promotes strength and enables longevity I have put some things in place to protect me. To act as a safety net while I am venturing forward.
Constant activity was one of the pillars of my old way of life. Busyness was seen as a status symbol and any rest was treated as an unnecessary luxury.
I need rest now.
Rest to enable me to remember how to live in this new way, and rest as part of the new life.
Rest in the rhythm and routine of my days and weeks.
I look at my diary and schedule in time for nothing, for having a bath or watching trashy tv, for playing board games and walking by the river. Rest and renewal is an essential part of growth and forward motion. And I have learnt it only happens when I schedule it.
Surrounding myself with grace-speakers.
I make sure I spend time every week with people who will remind me of the new things I have learnt. People who will prompt me to let myself off the hook, to have compassion towards myself, to cultivate a life of present attention, not future obsession. These ideas are still new to me. I can easily begin to lose them in the hustle of the everyday.
I have made new friends, and new ways to be with old friends, to ensure I am surrounded by people who will remind me my worth is not determined by my productivity or achievement, people who won’t let me forget the truths I have learnt the hard way.
Remembering rule number 6.
As decreed by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander* rule number 6 is: Don’t take yourself so goddamn seriously.
Blimey, all this talk of mental health and self-compassion can get a bit serious. Learning to laugh at myself is important, no – vital. (Ask my husband).
In the process of changing my life and learning how to live again, I am going to make mistakes. This is a fact.
I am going to do too much and burn out, and I am going to go to the other extreme and find I have become a little too hooked on soap operas. I am going to say the wrong thing. I am going to take two steps forward and three steps back. I am going to make a fool of myself.
But it’s all good.
No one ever learnt anything new with an unbroken record of success. It takes failure and mistakes too.
Not taking yourself too seriously is a necessity when you spend your days talking about mental wellbeing and depression-busting strategies.
(My children are very good at making sure I don’t forget this!)
*From The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander, an excellent read.
This article is from the first issue of iola magazine.
Elli Johnson has been blogging at thehippochronicles.com for over 4 years. She writes about mental health, creativity, beauty and the chaos of family life. She is a professional child wrangler, (over)thinker, and tea drinker.
Elli lives in Liverpool with the river Mersey at the bottom of the road.
To find her newest and most exciting work, check out: patreon.com/thehippochronicles