On Monday, I wrote that a severe depression last November and December was exacerbated by my inability to want to write, which is how I made my living for two decades. And I said that the only thing worse than being depressed, was being depressed and feeling that I was unable to pursue the career path I'd worked so hard to achieve.
After coming out of that depression in January (It didn't end for another three months, but the severity slowly receded), I went back into therapy after a 20-year hiatus. And in April I signed up to take a gardening class at UCLA Extension.
From the beginning, I was hooked. Not only has working in the soil outdoors made me feel better for the last few years, but I genuinely liked the people in my class, and I loved my teacher. What I realized from the beginning was that it was fun to be with people who shared my interest in gardening. There were truly a quirky group.
Most of them were pursuing this as a second career or a retirement career. And, they came from a wide array of backgrounds and occupations. There was an entertainment attorney, a banker, a mechanical engineer, a professor of textiles, the executive director of a non-profit breast cancer organization, and so many more.
Because we gardened together for half the class, we developed an unusual camaraderie. While learning about plant materials is a left brained activity, the gardening itself is a right brained activity. And, I have learned that when I'm depressed, I'm far better off doing right brained activities.
What I didn't know when I took that first class was that I would decide to immerse myself in the field, and go for the Certificate in Gardening and Horticulture, which means taking a total of 9 classes. What I didn't realize was that this entire endeavor would not only open a new world to me, but provide me with a focus during periods when I don't feel like writing.
What I learned from this experience and from therapy, is that it is critically important for me to feel focused when I'm depressed. It's bad enough to feel down, and despairing, but it's worse to think there's nothing I can do that affords me the same pleasure and satisfaction that writing does.
Now that I have this avocation that I enjoy so much, I realize I can face the "dark months" with a new enthusiasm and joi di vivre. How great is this?
What is your focus when you're depressed? How do you cope with feeling like you've lost your purpose?