The older I become, the more I enter my wandering around the garden señora era. My favorite place in my city is the botanical garden. I could spend hours there. Sadly responsibilities take priority most days, so I settle on my own garden for my fix. One day I’ll have a cottage garden, but for now I dig in pots and small garden beds on my porch and backyard.

As someone who lives with anxiety and depression, the peace that I find when gardening is magical. There’s something about caring for these delicate plants that helps me release the negative energy that sometimes suffocates me. Caring for these delicate roots are a reminder that with water, sunshine and patience I can grow past my own mental illnesses. 

With the lightest touches and slightest snips, I can see my plant grow and feel my body releasing the tension from the base of my neck to my shoulders. I need to shift my focus towards my hands and pruners as I hold delicate leaves. It leads me away from intrusive thoughts and calms my racing mind. It steadies my hands so I don’t make unnecessary cuts or damage. It teaches me that growth doesn’t lead to a perfect bloom.

There is no need to chase perfection when working with plants because you have very little control over humidity or sunshine. You learn to accept that you try your best and that beauty can still come to life – even if it’s not what you expected. Sometimes surviving is a win and whatever happens after that can lead to even more growth.

When watching a plant grow, you don’t see it grow. You begin to understand what looks like healthy growth or what looks like disease, but you don’t see it grow moment by moment. Like with mental illness, you know it’s always there, but you don’t always feel it. Some days you’re at peace and content, but other days leave you feeling tired and sore even though all you’ve done is sleep. During those long days, it’s important to have something to channel your energy (even if there’s very little of it left) into something else other than the thoughts that rob you of your joy. It’s important to remind yourself that growth is still possible even if you can’t see it.

As important as counseling and therapy sessions are, gardening can help those tools for those of us struggling with mental health. Whether you have a sprawling backyard or a small balcony, there’s always room to cultivate a little piece of paradise. So, grab your trowel, put on your gardening gloves, and let nature be your guide on the journey to blooming through any mental health struggles that you face. Happy gardening, amigas.