A head full of doubts leads me to question one of my core competencies and identities.

 

This morning I wrote about how a mistake ushered me into questioning one of my core identities.  As my spouse’ s prodding, she told me to come clean and share what sent me into a tailspin.  I then revised the post to share that I made a big mistake with my seedlings, and I started to see most of them failing.

To have a gardening mistake send me into a panic attack, perhaps to some, seemed like  “small potatoes” turning this into such a big deal (pun intended).  But I can’t say this enough, a person struggling with Anxiety often has a head full of doubts.  To have those doubts creep into what you see as one of your strengths feels like an invasion into how I see myself, a loss of self, in fact.

Many caring friends sent me messages of love and compassion.  I truly appreciate that and each and every one of you who sent love.  But I think I failed to completely describe what I was going through.  

I fancy myself a very good gardener.  This mistake that I made was irreversible.  Therefore, the beginning of my gardening season became a failure.  A panic attack, and the demon of Anxiety, brought me down a path of feeling not like a good gardener, but a FAILED GARDENER.

As I was panicking, many reinforcing bad thoughts attacked many things that are important to me:

• First, being a gardener is core to who I am.  Not a day goes by, any day of the year, when I don’t think about gardening.  I’m either starting seedlings, planting outside, taking care of plants, harvesting, preserving, planning for the next year’s garden, or simply looking out my bedroom window at snow-covered raised beds as I dream of the beauty yet to come.  To begin the year with a big mistake requiring a start over would disappoint anyone.  During this morning’s panic attack, I (irrationally) saw myself as failing at one of my core roles … completely.

• Second, gardening is core to my mental health.  If it’s spring, summer, or fall, and l am feeling nervous, anxious, or panicky, I head out to the garden and observe beauty.  If not headed off to work, I head into the garden plot, touch and smell the plants, get dirt underneath my fingernails as I weed, or (even better) harvest some of the produce.  Again, during this morning’s panic attack, I (irrationally) projected a failed season.

• Third, I am an heirloom gardener; I like choosing the ancient or recently-bred open-pollinated varieties I like best, rather than having to take whatever an organic gardening store has to offer.  To see the beauty of nature in a Dark Galaxy Tomato or the pollinator-attracting Torch Sunflower is to witness something awe-inspiring.  Panicking, I feared losing out on part of what I love each season. 

• Fourth, gardening is part of what I do to fix our broken planet.  I build healthy soil.  I feed pollinators safe and healthy food.  And I travel less than 40 feet from my kitchen to get some of one night’s dinner, as opposed to buying something that has traveled, using much polluting fuel, hundreds or thousands of miles to make it to my plate.

• And, fifth (and I’ll stop here), I love sharing photos of my garden.  About one-third of my garden this year was going to be occupied by the plants I’ve started in my basement.  To have failed on this, hurt me … and, again, had me questioning one of my core identities.

My mental health med-doctor once told me, “We all (i.e. those saddled with Anxiety) feel like frauds.”  And this morning’s discovered failure brought me to that dark place.  “Michael, you are not who you think you are.  You are a failure.”

Since then, I’ve had the wise counsel of my wife, Rebecca.  I’ve worked out to tire the muscles that were physically carrying the painful toll of a panic attack.  And, while working out, thought about Rebecca and how grateful I am for her — putting one’s mind in a place of gratitude is a huge reliever of Anxiety.

Oh well, thanks, dear readers, for you kind words as well as your Facebook “Likes” and “Loves.”  You’ve also helped place my mind in a place of gratitude.

Onward!

 

8 Comments

  1. Brenna P 5 April 2020 at 2:34 pm

    I am so glad you found something that helps reduce and at least partially relieves your anxiety, and the pain coming from it. So many who struggle haven’t figured out this “happy, peaceful, stress-relieving functional activity” that helps them.

     
    • Michael Dahl 5 April 2020 at 8:50 pm

      Yes, Brenna. Gardening is so therapeutic

       
  2. Lee 6 April 2020 at 12:46 am

    I’ll add the advice I read here on your blog some time ago… if one of your gardener friends came to you with this problem of failed seedlings, what would you tell them? Would you consider them a failed gardener?

     
    • Michael Dahl 6 April 2020 at 2:19 am

      Oh yeah! Using my own words to help me. Thanks, Lee.

       
  3. Tom S. 6 April 2020 at 9:22 am

    Michael, thinking about you this morning one word comes to mind: “perspective”. “…I fancy myself a very good gardener. This mistake that I made was irreversible. Therefore, the beginning of my gardening season became a failure. A panic attack, and the demon of Anxiety, brought me down a path of feeling not like a good gardener, but a FAILED GARDENER.

    As I was panicking, many reinforcing bad thoughts attacked many things that are important to me:

    • First, being a gardener is core to who I am. Not a day goes by, any day of the year, when I don’t think about gardening. I’m either starting seedlings, planting outside, taking care of plants, harvesting, preserving, planning for the next year’s garden, or simply looking out my bedroom window at snow-covered raised beds as I dream of the beauty yet to come. To begin the year with a big mistake requiring a start over would disappoint anyone. During this morning’s panic attack, I (irrationally) saw myself as failing at one of my core roles … completely.”

    I’m a pretty good golfer, not a gardener. At times I’ve had a dream of playing on the PGA tour. Over the years, I’ve had to learn to keep my love of golf in perspective. Jack Nicklaus, maybe the greatest golfer of all time, used to say that golf “is just a game.” He had the right idea. Keeping things in perspective and finding balance in one’s life; tough to do but we can do it, one day or one minute at a time. Thanks for listening.

     
  4. Tom S. 6 April 2020 at 4:12 pm

    One more thought. My wife often will ask me if I had fun on the golf course. Isn’t that what golf, (and gardening) is all about?

     
  5. Tom S. 17 April 2020 at 9:29 am

    Yesterday, I was reminded that it’s ok to fail. I think kids now are taught that failure is ok–that you can learn more from failure than from your successes. I wish I’d learned that as a kid.

     
    • Michael Dahl 17 April 2020 at 10:07 am

      I very much agree, Tom!

       

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