I’m not too good at sharing personal insight into my life, so here goes. Almost 3 years ago I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, an invisible chronic pain condition. I like to tell myself it’s not a big deal, and anything I put my mind to I can accomplish with or without this condition. For the most part that statement is true. I thought a lot about why I wanted to share this about me, what it has to do with gardening, and what I hope that this post accomplishes. First, I needed to share this because this condition has shaped who I have become, it has not defined me. Second, gardening has become a great therapy while trying to sort my feelings out about all of this, and taught me that I may not be able to do things the same way that I used to, but I can still do them, just differently. Lastly, I hope that others reading this who are in pain, physically or mentally, will know that it doesn’t have to define them and they are still capable accomplishing great things, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. So let’s dig into this!
About 4 years ago this condition came on suddenly and brought numbness, pain, and the inability to move properly. It took me a while to go to the doctor, but after a bunch of googling and scaring myself, I finally started the journey to figuring out what was wrong with me. After being diagnosed (ie: doctors telling me what I wound not be able to do anymore) and reading a lot about this condition I felt incredibly sad and hopeless. At the young age of 30, I thought that I would never be able to do all of the things that I dreamed of. (Side note: Should you be diagnosed with something similar, do yourself a favor and do not read online message boards. The things people write can be truly terrifying, and most times cause unnecessary panic in your mind.) Determined to not be put on medication for this condition, I looked to increasing physical activity as a way to gain strength and increase mobility. It wasn’t easy at first, and still sometimes isn’t, but the really bad pain flare ups only happen a couple times of year, and mentally I am in a much better place!
Surprisingly, I took on two new jobs during the last 3 years, both of which were far from sedentary. In addition, I found that gardening was a really great way to up my physical activity. Between digging, shoveling soil/stone, building raised beds, weeding, mulching, and watering, etc., it was a full body workout with an awesome reward at the end, home grown food with a side of accomplishment. At first the intense physical demand from gardening seemed hard to overcome. There were a few times that instead of shoveling soil, I would put it into a medium size flower pot, carry it, dump it in the raised bed, repeat. It took forever, but I was still able to complete my task, and push through the thoughts of my body failing. This year I single handedly shoveled and moved 1/2 a ton of river rock to complete a landscaping project around the house. Of course there were times that I wanted to give up, but I am sure marathon runners feel the same way. I kept telling myself, one more bucket, just do one more, you’re almost done. And then I was, and the pay off was spectacular. Little victories, right?!
Besides the increased exercise, the gain from gardening was also largely mental. There is something to be said about getting lost in the garden. Physically working out your frustrations, while your mind sorts through all of your feelings about things. Just being by yourself quiet in nature does remarkable things for your soul. If it wasn’t for having this release and time to quietly work out the on going battles in my head about daily life, living with this illness, and how to accomplish my dreams, I can honestly say I don’t think that I would be here to write this right now.
My conclusion is that life is not always the way that you may have planned it to turn out. I do believe that everything in life that happens to you is meant to teach you something. For me, having this illness has taught me that everyone is fighting invisible battles, that your mind and body are more powerful than doctors expectations, and that sometimes you just need to go with the flow and accept the surprises that life has in store for you. Don’t lose hope, because what’s around the corner is often bigger and better than what has just passed. Dream big my friends!