Existential Crisis #4372

Ah, once again I find myself questioning everything. It’s been a mad old time, hasn’t it? It feels like I’ve been back at work forever, and my months of furlough seem like a distant memory. Like it happened to someone else and I simply heard the story being told.

Lockdown for me was wonderful. Once we could get shopping delivered and I didn’t have to leave the house at all, I stopped paying attention to the news and happily pretended that everything was fine. I came to terms with my fat body, I had grand plans and ideas, I had so much energy… I was on top of the world!

Once I’d been back at work for a while, I started feeling something like my miserable old insecure self. It would be easy to say it was the harsh return to reality that caused this mood crash, but I don’t think it was that. I stumbled across the term ‘hypomania’ online one day and started doing some (somewhat uncomfortable) research, and the end result is that I believe I had some sort of manic episode.

For weeks I felt absolutely euphoric. I had increased self-esteem, had more energy, needed less sleep and felt generally untouchable. These things all sound like positives, but along with that came other excesses, like food consumption, alcohol consumption and spending. I spent all of my savings (and then some) despite the fact that before Covid one of my goals was to have savings put aside for emergencies. Then I decide to go and spunk it all during one of the most uncertain periods of my life?

Now I’m feeling more ‘me’ again, I can look back and see that I don’t recognise the person I was during that period, and it comes with an enormous portion of freshly-served guilt. I was a better person when I was like that, and I thought I’d permanently changed for the better.

I know I have depression, but I’m not sure if this apparent mania is something that I ‘have’ or something that just ‘happened’ to me, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. Have you ever tried to get the appropriate treatment for anything mental health-related? If you’ve ever been succesful let me know, because right now I think it’s a myth that it ever happens.

When I was having telephone therapy sessions, I was discharged because my ‘numbers were too high’. Each session you are asked a series of questions, such as, on a scale of 0-10, 0 being terrible, how great do you feel? And there’s me saying ‘I FEEL BRILLIANT! I’M A 23 ON THAT SCALE RIGHT NOW!!!!’. After all of my questions were answered, the numbers indicated that I didn’t need treatment and that was that. One apparently good week and you don’t need help any more!

I think talking to a doctor about all this would be a fruitless exercise, so I’ll just keep an eye out for it in future. Apparently apart from certain medications, which I don’t think my symptoms are serious enough to warrant, the treatment seems to be to try not to get too carried away when you feel it coming on. The problem is, it felt great. If I’m honest, before I started thinking properly about the repercussions, I was already willing another episode to come. It’s like drugs or booze though. It feels great in the moment but in the long term? Yeah, not so much. Best to try and stay level so I don’t get the subsequent crash.

Although I thought I’d handed backs my membership card to Overthinkers Anonymous for good, I’ve had to go crawling back with my tail between my legs as I lay awake trying to unpick which parts of how I feel is because of work, a global pandemic, a potential undiagnosed mental illness, general stress, tiredness, hormones, childhood trauma, poor diet or god-only-knows what else. Sometimes getting the words out of my head and into a blog post is the only thing that helps, so here I am after not writing for an absolute age.

When I last wrote, I talked about being happy in my own skin. Now I feel like a total fraud because I’m absolutely going to be getting back on the diet wagon as soon as we have a functional kitchen. Is it true that me feeling good about myself was a symptom of an illness? Or is it being back in society that’s making me feel shit? No one, least of all me, knows the answer to that, but what I do know is that nothing fits and the coldest winter months are going to be hell if I can’t fit into my work thermals. Even though I bought more out of my own pocket that are five sizes bigger. They are getting too small as well and I’m starting to feel desperate.

The last few weeks especially have been insane. My mum ended up in hospital for the week (she’s on the mend now thankfully) then once she was out the council came to tell us we’re having a new kitchen fitted. The works are now going into their second week and everything is up in the air. I’m hoping once that’s done we can all feel a bit more settled again. Until then we’ll just plod along.

I haven’t had much energy for gardening since I got back at work, and now I’m starting to face the reality of how much I can do whilst holding down a fulltime job, my plans for the garden next year have changed accordingly. In my head I’m starting to plan how to get maximum impact with minimum effort, and I have all winter to figure it out.

Since the weather has cooled down the tomatoes survived despite me forgetting to water them, and they just keep coming and coming. The tomato season is almost up, but it was well worth growing all of those plants. As far as tomatoes go, I’ll be doing the same again next year.

Remember the squash that Newton took a nibble of? Amazingly that’s still going strong and it’s even starting to get a tinge of orange. I’m going to go mad on squash varieties next year, they have been a joy to grow.

I must take a new photo tomorrow as the colour has changed since then, but I thought you’d appreciate the dog-proof squash cage!

I have many more updates to share, but since I’m feeling better having put my thoughts on to the page, I reckon some sleep is in order.

Thanks for reading, people of the internets.

Hayley x

The Garden of Birdly Delights

The sparrows like to eat my Swiss rainbow chard so much, in the end I decided to leave out their own special supply. It did have beautifully lush green leaves and colourful stalks, but now it’s just… stalks.

Chard is a cut-and-come-again veg, but I think I’m going to have to hide it for a bit to give it a fighting chance of coming again at all. At this rate though, we’re going to have the healthiest sparrows in the land.

It was only a few days ago that the chard still had leaves…

While I had my telephoto zoom lens out, catching them in the act no less, instead of having lunch some of the flock decided it was bath time. I’ve seen this behaviour before but until now I didn’t have my camera handy.

One juvenile starling will start having a good ole splash about, then everyone wants a bit of the action.

Our garden birds are healthy and clean.

Going back to chard, last week I was able to really start munching on my own produce. I started growing chard simply because it’s easy and generally problem free (unless you have clean eating sparrows), but I didn’t have any particular desire to eat it. But eat it I did, and it’s rather nice. A similar taste to spinach.

I also tried my first bit of homegrown kale, which wasn’t much (it’s very popular with the caterpillars) but was absolutely delicious. I’ll really try to ramp up my supply next year as it’s something I generally eat a lot of.

On this occasion I very narrowly avoided eating the worlds’ smallest omelette.

Last week’s most exciting development though was the potatoes! I have no idea when I actually planted a few old potatoes that were growing eyes in the cupboard, so I had no idea when they would be ready to harvest. Not much to do rather than dig around and have a look, then. This is what I found.

I haven’t a clue what variety they are, because I hadn’t decided to label anything at the time. More recently I started labelling and dating everything, so I shouldn’t have the same problem in future.

A friend pointed out they look like they came straight from a Tesco bag, which was surprisingly on the money.

If I remember rightly I did indeed get this hessian bag from Tesco’s.

They were really tasty taters, despite me taking my eye off the pan and boiling them to within an inch of their lives. This week I will plant Charlotte potatoes that should be ready to harvest around Christmas.

Despite having a great start (this shows them from the beginning of April to last week) my squash seems to have stalled. I’ve had buds for ages but no flowers, so I’m thinking they grew too much foliage instead of the energy going into fruiting.

I’ll be patient and see what transpires though – at the end of the day they were grown from seeds I took from a squash I ate, so I’m not losing anything if they all fail. In any case, I just love them as a plant. Check out this gorgeous tendril in the evening light.

Best of all though, oh yes definitely best of all… this week MY TOMATOES HAVE TOMATOES!!!

I started noticing them yesterday and I could not be happier. I planted them much later than is advised, so I was happy enough just to get flowers. To see the fruit though! I had a count up and I have a total of 46 tomato plants that have flowered, so even if I only get one tomato from each plant, that alone would be ace. As things stand, it’s a good job I bloody love tomatoes!

Again, I’m not sure about the varieties. I think I grew five different kinds, 2 from bought seeds and 3 kinds that came from supermarket tomatoes. It’ll be lots of fun finding out, whilst in the meantime every week I buy different tomatoes to eat and put aside some seeds for next year. Until I get my first harvest that is.

Although I’ve already learned so much about gardening, now I’m learning to be patient. It’s not something I’ve had much success with in the past, however yesterday I sowed some seeds that are going to really put me to the test.

They’re Japanese maple (acer) seeds, and first of all you have to soak them for 24 hours. Normally even that would put me off.

Anyway, stage one is complete. Next, they go in the fridge for 2-4 months, to make them think it’s been winter. It might work, it might not. If not, back in the fridge they go.

It could be a full TWO YEARS before they germinate. Please, don’t hold your breath for updates on this one!

Whilst I could go on about the garden indefinitely , there’s stuff to be done. Including gardening stuff.

Who would have guessed?

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Monty Says

It’s been a surprisingly busy week for me so far. Back in October I had an assessment and was referred to see a therapist through the NHS. I was told to expect about a 3 month wait but it would more likely be sooner as they would try to offer me a cancellation. I got a letter when they accidentally discharged me last year because I ‘hadn’t replied to their messages’ (there were none) then didn’t hear another peep until Tuesday afternoon.

I was offered my first telephone appointment the very next morning. The idea of therapy seems awkward and emotionally taxing to me, which I guess it is, and I very nearly told them I didn’t need them anymore. Which would have been an outright lie. So I did a very adult thing and accepted the appointment. At least I had less than 24 hours to sit and stew over it.

I didn’t have very high hopes, but my first session was surprisingly helpful. I looked into getting a private therapist not so long ago and the advice is to shop around until you find one that clicks with you, but I have been lucky enough to get one I think I like and can open up to. Because services are so in demand I’m pretty sure if I didn’t like this person there’d be very little opportunity to try someone else.

After that I was feeling brave so phoned the doctors to try and sort out my prescription. I tried getting it delivered to me so I wouldn’t have to go to the actual chemist, but the only pharmacy still taking on new clients for delivery were Well who are notoriously incompetent. I thought I’d try the doctor’s first, but when the receptionist put me on hold to speak to someone else, she forgot I was on hold for twenty minutes. She answered the phone as if I was a new caller and was very confused, but eventually I got my answer – we don’t know, speak to the pharmacy. I tried calling them, couldn’t get through, so went back to the normal way of requesting a prescription. Which was also impossible because they wouldn’t let me get a repeat of the higher dose I’m now on.

Then, I get an email from Well saying my GP approved my prescription and now I have to pay. So I paid and I’ll hope for the best… Who even knows what I’ll get and when, but as long as I get enough to tide me over while I get everything sorted that’s the main thing. I’m sure it’ll all work out.

Yesterday morning I got a delivery – a bench with storage for the garden. The storage is a happy bonus, I mainly wanted the bench so me and the old dear (mother) can spend some time together in the garden. Turns out she knows a lot about plants ‘n’ stuff too, but I had to be quite stern with her this week.

I started watching Gardener’s World, and it’s bloody brilliant. As such I demanded to know why she hadn’t made me watch it before but she claims it isn’t her fault. It’s highly irresponsible parenting if you ask me.

Anyway, since I first started watching most of my sentences have started with ‘Monty says…’, because Monty Don is one of the presenters and he’s awesome. Even just watching the show is so relaxing, and it ties in with everything I’ve been thinking about lately – slowing down, noticing things more, making a home for nature, the positive effect nature has on mental health…

I actually got a bit choked up at one point, but then I was laughing again at a guy who is working towards being self-sustaining. He grows a certain plant specifically to wipe his butt with, and although that episode was aired last year it’s rather on point what with current events, don’t you think? We don’t need loo roll, we need more plants!

My own personal plant journey is going really well. My sunflower seeds should have been sown in 2017 at the latest, and although I planted about twenty only two have sprouted so far. I think because they were so old the outer casing of the seeds got stuck on so the first one to pop out is a bit deformed. It’s getting there though.

I reckon by next week most of them will be ready to be planted outside, which is a bit scary because I don’t want anything to die. On the plus side I must have a good 100 saplings so something’s bound to survive. I hope.

Pea will be pleased in any case. She’s not so keen on all these new things in her room.

I also bought a chilli plant as a gift for someone but never got around to passing it on, so I kept it for myself (terrible, I know) and it just started showing some green yesterday.

When the chillies grow they are supposed to look like penises, but whether they will or not remains to be seen.

Whether or not I’m doing any specific jobs, I’ve been out in the garden taking pictures almost every day. The sunshine is glorious and there’s something new peeping its petals out every time I look.

I wish you could experience how glorious that rose smells.

Just a week or two ago I found out that a bee fly is a thing (a fly that looks like a bee) then yesterday I only went and saw one! What’s more, it landed on some blossom right near me and stayed for ages. I was able to get a nice clear shot.

Everything is still scary and so much is wrong with the world, yet I’ve never, ever been as grateful for what I already have as I am now. I hope I manage to keep hold of this feeling for the rest of my life.

Now it’s time to get on with my next job of the day – starting work on this little corner. I can’t wait to show you what the plans are for this little area!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x