allotment, Blog

January blues

If like me you use gardening as a tool to help keep your mental health under control, you might find that January can be a little bit harder than expected.

I am sure a few people reading this won’t have read my first blog post ‘Allotment therapy’ so you may not know that since march 2017 I have been suffering with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) after the birth of my daughter, and struggling on a day to day basis with my mental health. One of the only things that I find is a good therapy for me is my allotment and gardening, but I have to say this new year has been a little more tricky than I had anticipated. Compared to spring, summer and autumn of last year my ability to cope has been hard with the added lack of energy, motivation and sunlight has left me feeling pretty rubbish.

For me the hardest part about dealing with mental health issues is trying to explain to friends and family how and why I am feeling rubbish, when in reality I hardly understand it myself. One minute you are fine, positive, making plans and feeling upbeat, but that can quickly turn, this is something I find really hard to deal with as it can be so unexpected. It can be hard enough to explain mental health issues and PTSD to myself never mind others but I want to make it clear how someone facing PTSD issues can feel  and what sort of battles they face. This isn’t a sympathy plea just an insight into how it effects me and why it is so important for me to have a therapy tool like gardening and my allotment to use to help improve how I am. I honestly feel like the stigma around mental health is getting better, people are looking upon it more positively so I hope that by talking about it a little more openly it will help people to understand it all a little more clearly.

Here a few of the things that I can suffer with on a day to day basis and some of them I will suffer with only when I am having a really difficult time.

Nightmares

Intrusive memories

Flashbacks

Insomnia

Anxiety

Avoidance

A startled response

Lack of motivation

Poor self esteem

Negative self-image

Hypervigilance

Very poor concentration

Short term and long term memory loss

Physical pain

Stress

Isolation

Irritability

Frustration

Night terrors/sweats

Guilt (for me feeling like what I have been through isn’t as bad as what other people have been through so why should I feel like this)

For me PTSD isn’t suffering a traumatic time and thinking about on the odd occasion and getting upset, this is something I am battling with every day, it’s just that some days I handle it better than others. This for me is a personal experience of what PTSD is, everyone deals or suffers with it slightly differently, and I think that goes for all mental health problems.

I can find anxiety is my biggest battle, but it isn’t anxiety as you know it. Its not the anxiety where you are worrying that bad things could happen, PTSD is about what DID happen, it can be very hard to tell someone suffering with post-traumatic stress that ‘everything is going to be ok’ because for us, the things that cause our anxiety have already happened to us and we get a constant reminder that it did happen and that we are struggling to come to terms with what happened.

It has nearly been a year since my breakdown happened, and to me a  year is a huge milestone to achieve. I thought 2018 would start off really positive and be filled with joy because I have made it through the toughest year of my life, without returning to that initial dark place I started off in, but things are never that simple. I had been feeling really well, the spring and summer on the plot was divine and gave me just what I needed. October was a beautiful harvesting season filled with goodies and November wasn’t too bad either I managed a few good dry days on the plot and managed to achieve getting some big jobs started and completed. December was full of fun, having two young daughters to fill you with the Christmas spirit was enough to pass the time, I also did have a giggle for a while with my epic spud failings on the allotment, if you didn’t hear, my Christmas potato haul was huge. . . three tiny potatoes!

Well January you have been something completely unexpected. . .

January came along and sort of surprised me, I was really excited at the prospect of a new year new me scenario and a new year on my allotment plot, with lots of exciting things lined up. Seriously it couldn’t have been any more opposite if it tried. Goodbye optimism, goodbye energy, goodbye motivation and hello miserable me. My allotment can cheer me up at any time and it always seems to pull me out of any mood I have fallen into, but the mixture of bad weather, not getting to the allotment,  lack of daylight hours have been somewhat of a problem.

Now my plan was to get to the plot, do some winter jobs, potter about, do some digging, fill the raised beds, plant my raspberry canes and the rest of that huge list I have made. No no no that DID NOT happen, what did happen was every spare day, minute or hour that I could make it down to the plot we had snow, torrential rain or winds that could have possibly lifted me and my raspberry canes into the air! Resulting in me making one lousy hour trip in the whole of January to the plot to drop some things off and harvest some more kale. I also on this trip forgot to take my water bottle so I couldn’t even make a cup of tea, which in turn made the trip even more lousy than intended. Due to this horrific start to the new year and a constant fluctuation in my mood I have really struggled my way through this month. I have basically fell into a horrible dip at the start of this year where I have been through every emotion in the book and every PTSD related side effect possible. This month has been really tough, and there have been days where just getting out of bed has been a problem. luckily I have had some amazing support to push me through but I have decided that I CANNOT feel like this again next year so a plan is needed.

I want to make sure that this time next year I am prepared and ready for January, I want to make sure I have a plan in place to help me beat those January blues! I want to stay positive and motivated next year during the winter months, so if the same thing starts to happen, I have all of these things to fall back on.  Obviously most of these ideas will be gardening/allotment related, as this is what works for me the best.

Sow chilli and sweet pea seeds in the New Year

Propagate succulents over the winter time

Make bird feeders for the allotment and garden with the girls..

Read more gardening books, please reply and leave your recommendations.

Find new local garden centres to visit (they have this magic about them to cheer me up, plus most of them serve coffee and cake)

Make a scarecrow for my allotment

Save some of my harvested vegetables in the freezer so over winter i can make fresh soups, a new flavour each week, using all of my own grown ingredients.

Clean out all plant pots, Callie my eldest daughter loves washing up!

Make a detailed drawing and plan of my allotment for the ne growing season.

Make wind chimes for the allotment and garden with the kids.

Make sure I sign up for all of the catalogues available for seeds and bulbs so I can spend time picking exactly what I want.

To be able to achieve the point made above, start saving money in a jar now so I can afford my seed and bulb addiction.

Make visits again to Homebase and B&Q for some great January sale bargains.

make plant markers with the kids

Start chitting potatoes

Make sure I make a larger collection of indoor plants in my house

Build a hedgehog house

Make cd spinners to hang in fruit bushes to stop the birds eating the fruit.

Join in with the RSBP big garden bird watch next year.

Explore at least one national trust garden

Obviously if I get a free day and the weather is dry I will get to the plot even if it’s for an hour to potter about and have a cuppa I know it will always lift my mood.

Most importantly as a reminder to myself and to others that even with all the planning in the world, highs and lows in mental health occur.

For me there is no quick fix, the battle is long and unsteady, but in time I will learn to deal with it better.  I know for me my allotment is my go to therapy but I also have to remind myself that I have an incredibly supportive family and group of friends that I need to fall back on when times get hard. I find I isolate myself when things get tough (which is a common thing with PTSD) but can be one of the most damaging things to do. I hope that this year I can be a little bit more open with my family and friends when I am struggling. I sometimes find it harder saying it out loud in person than writing it down on here, as I feel like the screen gives me that little bit of protection. opening up on my blog for me is a way of healing so I will continue to be honest on here about my battles, and hope that one day the stigma surrounding mental health will disappear and we can all just speak about it more openly.

My allotment is my haven, my sanity, my love, my hobby and my go to place for reassurance that I am ok. My allotment shows me  that in winter time we should take some time to relax and recover ready to be fighting fit for spring, so will be ready to bloom for summer. I have been lucky enough to find somewhere peaceful and soothing, where my mind can switch off, relax and forget. An allotment or gardening isn’t for everyone, but if you have read my blog and maybe feel like you want to give it a try, you should give it a go. It’s not all about diving into the deep end and getting an allotment or doing a full renovation of your garden, start small with a propagator on a windowsill and see how you get on. Just growing some lettuce or herbs might give you the growing your own bug that I seem to have caught.

If you have any other ideas of things to do through the winter that help you get by during the long, dark, cold days let me know, I would love to add a few more things to my list. I am also really interested to know what you all do to stay happy.

I should be receiving my new camera soon, which means its video blog time. Let me know what you want to see for my first Vlog, maybe an allotment tour, how to sow seeds, question and answer time, or any other ideas let me know!

All my love Kirsty

 

 

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21 thoughts on “January blues”

  1. What a great blog 🙂 Well done Kirsty- i hope all that honesty and positive energy helps you move forward. if I can be of support please let me know:)).
    One thing you may like for January is i always sow a few sweet peas, some kelvedon wonder peas, a few broad beans all in pots and all in a £10 plastic covered shelf stack – from b&m bargains- tied to stop it blowing over- – always makes me feel excited at a dismal time of year – especially as i save the sweet pea and broad bean seed from the year previous. Good luck for the new season I wish you well :)))
    Steve x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your words really resonate with me Kirsty. I don’t have PTSD but I had a major bereavement in 2016. For me January 2017 was bad, pretty much as you describe here. Like you, I knew I couldn’t go through that again this year, so I made a plan (not as lengthy as yours!) and January 2018 has certainly been a lot better than last year. Hang in there Kirsty you are doing a great job xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderfully honest blog post Kirsty. Gardening/Allotmenteering has such amazing healing qualities as well as writing it’s all fabulous forms of therapy. It’s great to read your goals & I wish you every success in achieving them. Keep on smiling my lovely and I can’t wait to see your first vlog! Would love to see a tour ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi, I think January is a depressing month for everyone – it’s very long, the weather grinds you down and it’s really the one month where you can do very little on the allotment or in the garden. One of my colleagues the other day said that she thinks January really starts on Dec 27th, as soon as the main Christmas is over, which is why it feels so long.

    What works for me is accepting that its not a great month. I leave for work in the dark and I come home in the dark. My way of handling it is to accept that its a rubbish month, and I take it as an excuse to hibernate a bit and plot and plan. I read a lot of blogs – which is how I found yours – and magazines, and browse the seed sites. I don’t expect to get any major jobs done outside or put any pressure on myself to do so – and then if i do then its a bonus. I acknowledge that EVERY allotment or garden looks a bit awful in January. And then magically, about the 22nd, I realise that if I leave work at five then I can walk home before its completely dark – and suddenly, all is well with the world again.

    The one thing I’d suggest is sowing a few seeds at home and keep them on a windowsill as something to watch grow; for example chillies, that need a long season anyway, or onions or leeks. I sowed chilli Cayanetta on Dec 30th in a bean container this year and I now have 8 sturdy little plants unfurling their first true leaves. It’s nice to have lots of snowdrops and daffs and crocuses in pots near the house also, as real indicators of Spring and hope,

    If January is the longest month of the year, February always shoots by – but it’s definitely spring now. The birds are all singing again and the buds on trees are getting fatter. The worst is over!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Honest and delightful. I say still try to tackle some of those goals for next year this January. We still have until Wednesday.
    I am now the proud owner of an allotment after a 2 year wait and feeling forgotten.
    My first visit with my partner was just to stake the joint really. We met another plotter who told us how lovely and helpful everyone is. Music to my ears.
    I can sympathise with you forgetting your water, my first proper visit to actually dig – I forget the keys. Not another soul about to ask to let a ally like me in. I had a nice walk through the park though.
    Looking forward to your next blog and tweets xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another beautiful post Kirsty! Thank you for sharing. I’m feeling it too! Trying to keep busy, but the exhaustion, short days and the mud- its a washout. I’m enjoying the things I’ve forced indoors. Acorns, iris, Narcissus, paperwhites, hyacinth are all bringing me joy from indoors. Love seeing them slowing unfurl into magnificence and I don’t even have face the mud to enjoy them every day. I tried to do a few bulbs every other saturday from mid October onwards to drag out the beauty for longer. We’re almost back to joyful plot time now too! Within four weeks there will be daffodils everywhere tooting their sweet sunshiny trumpets and we’ll be busy sowing out seeds! I’m so excited to start some of the ones you sent me. Sending all the hugs. Milli x

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello Kristy,
    I believe you would definitely come out of it ( PTSD ) forever with your new allotment to keep you mentally and physically occupied. Would love to come back when you have new post on the blog. Till then…Take care and all the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great blog glad you doing ok Jan os always bad for getting anything done. Books I like monty Dons Veg garden books . Found a good old tv dvd called Victorian kitchen garden worth a look. Ps got a good tip on growing turnips

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Kirsty,
    January could be used for improving our horticultural/botany knowledge, a series of books I would recommend is the RHS Explained and Explored range which deals with, botany, genealogy and latin. A very good, well explained set of books which will improve your knowledge and understanding of horticulture. Best wishes for the year ahead on the allotment.
    Phil.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What an open and honest account .I know a bit of what you go through as my wife has Parkinson’s disease and dementia. I just wish there was something I could do to help ,one thing always leave a bottle of water at your allotment so if you forget to take some it’s not a problem , even in bad weather you dont have to work can just sit back in your shed and read or and listen to the radio forgetting is not always about getting stuck into your allotment ,it’s just doing something different to take your mind off things . I love my gardening but cant go out often enough because of the needs of the wife and if you lived close enough id say come and make use of it . I hope you recover from it soon best of luck

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Kirsty, What great openness and honesty, thank you. And what a plan for next January! One suggestion you might, or might not, like, is to look over your pictures of the allotment throughout the year, choose one and make it into a new year card. It’s good to remember the things that did actually grow when it is all dormant and grey; your card might get some responses so it is harder to retreat; and it takes away the guilt of not having got round to doing all the Christmas cards 😉 Good luck and warm wishes, Christina

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hello Kirsty,
    A book I’d recommend is The Living Jigsaw: How to Cultivate a Healthy Garden Ecology
    by Val Bourne. It’s a very interesting read and full of beautiful photos to remind you there’s
    lots to look forward to.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hello! I’ve followed you over from instagram (@cuimhnigh) and I just have to say how brave and wonderful you are for writing all this and I can’t believe how much we have in common (except I only ever really allude to my PTSD, I’m not brave enough to post about it ‘out loud’).
    I have all those same symptoms as you, but it does start to get better (except the guilt, ha).
    I’m nearly three years into it (Feb 2015 for me). I found knitting helps me a lot, especially at the beginning. You can do it in the winter, at home, when you can’t bring yourself to face the world. You can do it on public transport and sitting in hospital and you are actually doing something, creating something which is very satisfying. It’s tactile and repetitive but you still have to think about it and be in the moment now, and I found it helps with grounding/mindfulness which in turn helps slow the flashbacks down.
    It’s summer here, and stinking hot. It’s record temperatures and permanently about 50% humidity. It seems like everyone else is harvesting these huge harvests from their gardens every evening and I don’t have much of anything because I was struggling so badly in the springtime that I didn’t even plant anything out.
    I don’t have any great wisdom to share really but what you have achieved already is really impressive and please be gentle with yourself Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hello
    That’s a great list! For books, I find that reading gardening books can sometimes be a little hard going & remind me of everything I need to do or wish I had (big garden with room for an orchard please!) so I like to read ‘novels’. Minding my Peas & Cucumbers by Kay Sexton is good as is Allotted Time by Robin Shelton, who’s also dealing with depression. I’ve been trying to read The Morville Hours but can’t get into it yet!
    Alison x

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  15. Brilliant, BRILLIANT ideas. I think you have thought of everything!
    My top activities in January are:
    anything related to watching or feeding the birds. I’ve loved making little lardy seed-cakes with my step-daughter.
    Making soup – using up the gnarled old veg from the allotment and making something healthy and delicious.
    Seed catalogues and planning the garden
    Books – I have enjoyed ‘Rhapsody in Green’ by Charlotte Mendelson the most. Very funny and endearing. I thought I needed pics in a gardening book, but it turns out gardening stories are just as engaging.
    I have also written a book, called ‘The Mindful Gardener’ which is now with an agent. Hence the blog to pour my randomness thoughts and musings into. Maybe you should write a book too? I struggle with the lack of gardening action Nov- Feb, so this was the perfect distraction!

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  16. January is probably the most difficult month for a gardener. I read overdue magazines, plan new crops, order seeds. January is also the perfect time for sowing some perennials (outside as they need freezing period). You can also try growing under GROW LED bulbs at home.

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  17. A lot of gardeners struggle at this time of year to varying degrees, when its bright and frozen – I try to get out and walk somewhere with a big sky to catch some vit D. When its wet – I like to light a fire indoors, and embrace the creature comforts of the season. This is our time to rest. xx

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  18. Hi Kirsty, I’ve found you on Instagram and followed your link to your blog, so hello there! I know it’s not a way to compare but I’ve been suffering from moderate depression that started since the birth of my only daughter 7 years ago. No one detected I was suffering from Postpartum Depression at that time. I remember clearly one of the visits with the Health Visitor I mentioned that “I’m just so worried all the time that someone could die…” And she just replied “Oh it’s normal to feel a bit of baby blues, here’s a leaflet of the nearest Children Centre”… So I just thought it was normal that I was beyond exhausted every single hour of the day. But basically I though I had no right to complain or to be sad when I’ve just had a healthy baby after long battle with infertility (she’s an IVF baby). So I dragged the symptoms for years, pretended to cope, but I was in a such dark lonely place… Finally I had a breakdown just like you described and got diagnosed 2 years ago and had CBT for few weeks. I’ve been prescribed some pills, but declined. Like you, gardening is my utmost anti-depressant. Winter in general affects my mood tremendously, the lack of sunlight/daylight is the one that I find the hardest to cope. January was hard but at least this time I knew it was because of depression not because of my personality. Like many suggested here, I surrounded myself with seed catalogues, gardening magazines (even bought Garden Illustrated — what was I thinking??), food magazines, bought a new tree because Monty Don said winter is time to plant trees! (my garden is very small and turning into a jungle very soon). And then came February, light is visibly returning. I really hope you start to feel a lot better from Feb on, your plan looks good. I hope you keep posting in your blog and Instagram, it will be great to see your allotment progress. Wish you all the very best, have a good growth season. In every aspect.

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  19. Hi Kirsty, really pleased to have discovered your blog, and great pics too. So sorry you’ve been feeling rubbish. Like you, my plot is my absolute sanity saver. It’s somewhere I can just breathe. Yes, January was horrendous and the improvements since are very slow going too this year. I got a polytunnel last year and it has been a godsend for when the weather is awful. Don’t know if that’s an option for you, but it’s been massive plus for me. xx

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  20. I have suffered with PTSD all. My adult life and came across your blog whilst googling for veggie gardening ideas as I have really enjoyed growing my own this year in my back garden. I never really connected it with PTSD but it is extremely therapeutic and I have often escaped into the garden for five minutes that turned into 5 hours! I look forward to reading your blog from now on.

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