Nature Therapy and Me and BPD

I’ve been quiet since I started this blog. I’m not sure why, considering when I started it I was so excited to share what has been going on, and I literally have a note on my phone full of ideas for blog posts, written the same day I created the blog page.

Then I had a bit of a crash. This happens a lot in my recovery, and seems to be happening more frequently recently. Mood swings are extreme, and sometimes debilitating. I think a lot of that is because the recovery ‘bar’ is constantly being raised for me. In November 2018, when I came out of hospital, every little win was a massive victory: the first time I slept through the night without terror or anxiety, the first time I drove my car again, the first time I cooked a meal. Those were all a cause for celebration and a middle finger to the symptoms of BPD, anxiety and depression that I’d lived with intensely for 6 months. Well, I’ve done all those things today and I still had what I class as a bad hour or so earlier. I had a meltdown on Tom, I freaked out because I felt disconnected from myself (that’s depersonalisation –  a fun BPD symptom I will write about when I feel a bit more able), I cried and I wailed that I was back at square one. The truth is, I’m not sure that’s ever possible. I will never feel the same way I did this time last year, because I have a different frame of reference, and because I am a year older/wiser/several hundred glasses of wine further down the line. ANYWAY. That was a bit of a ramble, when what I wanted to talk about is something that currently helps me on pretty much a day-to-day basis, especially when I am in a recovery dip like this… nature as therapy.

I proper love nature. Like, have always loved it. When I was seven, I watched The Animals of Farthing Wood and decided that when I grew up I was going to be a fox. Our house is littered with fox paraphernalia, I own a decent pair of binoculars, and I like tramping around keeping lists of birds and animals I have seen. I can draw most of them, too. 

My family all enjoy bird-watching and walking in nice, green, open places. And this is something that I have been building into my recovery plan. Since the start of the year, I have been keeping a list of birds I have seen in 2019, I have been taking photos of trees, of animals, of birds, of flowers. I have walked and walked and walked, sometimes not even noticing what I’m passing, but just trying to focus on the feel of my feet on the ground and the sun on my head, while I battle the whirl of irrational thoughts in my befuddled head. I’ve learnt names of birds and insects I never knew existed (Hairy Dragonfly, anyone?), and have squirrelled (pun TOTALLY intended) away facts and trivia that most people would probably think sad (did you know that the family of birds that crows, ravens and magpies belong to is called corvid?). 

On a day-to-day basis, these things don’t necessarily make me feel better straight away. They are the things I build up brick by brick, experiences I add to what Matt Haig refers to as the bank of good days. They are the days my recovery has been built on since hospital, and I know they will continue to be as I move forward. Trying to connect with something bigger than yourself sounds like a real cliché with mental health, but it does seriously work. When you learn a dragonfly spends years as a lava and then only lives a few weeks as a beautiful, flitting spark it really makes you realise you and your weird thoughts aren’t the only things in the world. The world is way bigger than me, and that both terrifies and amazes me in equal measure.

Plus it helps if you have people around you who will drag you out and make you look at things, add birds to your list, learn random stuff about nature and go ‘ooooooh’ when you see a new bird of prey. I have those people: they are my parents. They walk beside me when I’m quiet, they celebrate with me when I see something new, and they humour me when my attempts at macro photography don’t turn out quite right. How lucky am I?

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