Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wellness Activities and Hope (Part 2)

The moment I felt slightly more energized, I began removing a Boston ivy vine from a stucco wall of my husband's art studio. Outdoor wellness activities usually make me feel better. I think it's the combination of being outside, physically working, and doing a repetitive task, which puts me into a Zen-like rhythm.

While none of the photos I'm showing are mine (they are courtesy of HGTV), the one above is exactly what the vine looked like. And the photo on the right of Paul James, master gardener, shows the way I was dressed, although my face looked more like the one in The Scream by Edvard Munch.

When I'm feeling well, I like doing manual labor. During this depression I didn't enjoy myself at all, although it beat the alternative, which was moping around indoors. So, every day for two months, I worked on this project. What the pictures don't show are the terrible roots that were underneath the soil.

And removing the roots actually was somewhat pleasurable (a relative term). Of course, Horticultural therapy is a well-known healing method, unlike Home Improvement Therapy, which is something I may have invented.

The most tedious, and the best healing task of all because it required so much concentration, was removing all the little adhesive disks at the end of the tendrils, which aren't easy to see in the photograph.

I had to use an electric drill with a wire brush attachment and a Spackle knife because they're so difficult to scrape off. And this took about three weeks since the vine had also grown under the eves of the roof in the front of the studio. Finally, I had to Spackle the stucco, and paint it as well as the wood.

The reason I tell you this is twofold: 1) It was truly an enormous accomplishment for me, since I was otherwise unable to feel like I was getting anything done. During a depression, my brain cells die by the thousands, and there's so much I can't do. So, I look for projects I can do.

2) The very act of awakening each day and knowing I have a tangible goal is part of my healing process. There are other wellness activities I do when I'm well, and I'll continue to write about them. But the key for me is to figure out what I can do when I'm depressed in order to feel productive.

Over time, I have learned that even completing the smallest task can provide hope when I feel so sick I can barely function. While I'm no Helen Keller, she certainly was an inspiration.

"I thank God for my handicaps for through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God."

If that means I was meant to be a manual laborer, so be it!


Gianna said...

this is an awesome tale and an awesome accomplishment!! To do such work when feeling so bad it really great...and it shows you have a great will which is vital to recovery!!

I'm quite impressed!

Wellness Writer said...

I'm so glad you're impressed. If we lived closer to each other, you could come up with a home improvement project for your new house, sit outside, hand me tools, and watch me do it (smiling face). That way, it would be a joint project of sorts.


Mariposa said...

Very well said Susan! I'm also going back to making my manic moments were longer and I believe I am sliding down this week...and one of the many ways I can pull myself up is doing things I enjoy...though they may be something more manual to me at this moment than enjoyable ones.

I was also reading the first part of this post...I couldn't agree more to what you're saying there.

And, I don't think you look like that people who have compassion to plants always look wholesome...right?! ;)

I'm glad you like the songs in my site...they're my favorites...and yes, my music taste is just different from my generation.

Thanks for this lovely post...

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Mariposa,
Bonsai! Wow. I'm impressed. Yes, I agree that people who love plants can't look that bad! And your choice of music just shows how much we have in common!

You're welcome for the post! It's good to be back and feeling better each day!


marja said...

Wow! I wouldn't be able to do a day of that kind of work, even if I were well! I'm just not that patient. Isn't it something how each of us is so different? What you truly have is perseverance, Susan. Good for you!

And that Helen Keller quote. I love it and used it in my first book, Riding the Roller Coaster. It's so true for those of us who live with mood disorders too, isn't it? I too have found myself, my work, and my God through my disorder.

Love, marja

Paula Joy said...

I am just thankful that you have found something to give you HOPE. Without hope, things seems so pointless.

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

Helen Keller

Wellness Writer said...

Yes, I am patient. But, during a depression, that quality increases 50-fold. Maybe it's because I don't enjoy reading, playing music, writing, or doing a lot of the more intellectual and cerebral activities. Who knows?

I forgot you used that quote in your book, which I still think is one of the most uplifting and helpful bipolar books.


Wellness Writer said...

Paula Joy,
You're right. Without hope, there's nothing to live for. And I always find it interesting--in a terrible sort of way--that I am so very hopeful when I'm well, but lose that quality when I'm severely depressed.

But (and some others) were so sweet and kind when I was depressed...that it helped!


Wendalyn Love said...

You are inspiring me! I am living vicariously through your wellness activities and am reminded of some of my own and just thinking about it makes me feel good! After I finish my posts on what the grandchildren are teaching me I was planning to talk about what I have learned through depression. You are inspiring me....

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendalyn,
I couldn't be more delighted. Your posts on your grandchildren make me feel so good. It's been a long time since I've been around small children, and they're some of my favorite people!

In terms of my wellness activities, I'm really pleased they inspire you. Two years ago I started blogging for exactly that reason. I just couldn't find sites where people discussed what they do to feel better rather than focusing on their sadness and despair.

I'll be interested in reading your posts!