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Learning to Grow - Plants, Bipolar and Me

Published on July 29th 2019
A close up of a flower
There were two things I knew from a young age; one was that I was somehow different from others around me; the second was that I had a fascination with plants. From the roses in my grandparents English garden to the tropical plants in my Dad's home country of Mauritius; my love of plants started as a child and has grown with me over the years.
It wasn't until I was older that I learned more about each of these things and how both would impact my life. In my early twenties, my mental health suddenly took a turn for the worse and I became ill with depression; everything that I had known in my life was put on hold and I felt empty and isolated.
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It was during this period that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2. My diagnosis helped me to realise that the extreme uncontrollable emotions I'd been experiencing all these years were normal, just a different kind of normal. This is when I discovered how something as simple as growing a plant from seed could help to change everything. Whilst chopping a tomato one evening, I noticed some seeds left over and thought, why not try and grow a couple on my window sill? As I watched the seedlings grow, it gave me a sense of purpose and I realised that when nurtured, everything can grow, including myself.
Despite this new-found realisation, it can be hard to cope at times. There is the constant threat of slipping into a hypomanic or depressive episode; and with so many pressures on the NHS with regards to mental health; getting the right help can take time. So one of the things I've found most helpful in reducing stress is to use my connection and love of gardening as a form of therapy. Gardening offers me the opportunity to use my creativity to change my negative, racing and intrusive thoughts into more positive, calm and productive ones.
The garden space I've created at home is my place to practice mindfulness and meditation. By taking the moments when everything feels too much and reconnecting with nature; from the feel of grass under my feet to the gentle hum of bees; it brings me positivity and instantly lifts my mood.
Like plants, we all prefer different conditions, not just to grow, but to thrive. When planting a seed, you provide it with water, light, food, but sometimes it doesn't quite thrive, so you have to adjust your thinking. The same is true with my mental health; I take regular medication, keep to a routine and try different therapies, testing what works and what doesn't. In the end, it's about finding a balance and what’s right for you. Through my garden, I am starting to find this balance, and even if every so often you have to start over, as in life, the cycle continues and new growth begins.
By sharing my own struggles and triumphs, which some may be able to relate to, I hope to show that something as simple as planting a seed, may just help others who are also struggling and hopefully remind them, that they're not alone.

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