Hey peeps, and welcome to another Project Unicorn blog. I’ve been struggling for several weeks now with my anxiety and depression, and I’ve felt completely buried under this cloud of mind fog and confusion. I haven’t felt inspired and all I’ve wanted to do is curl up in a fluffy blanket and go hide in a cave somewhere (preferably with access to Skyrim and Game of Thrones).
But that’s not going to make me feel better, is it? Happiness isn’t a destination and it doesn’t just happen on its own. Happiness is working at it every single day. I always think of my mind like a garden. As you might have guessed by now, I’m a ridiculously metaphorical person. The world I see around me is full of stories and everything is something else. It can be amazing and makes for a very interesting way of telling a story, though it can sometimes leave people looking at me with that ‘what exactly was she talking about?’ expression.
So, yes, my mind is a garden. Right now I’m stepping outside into my garden for the first time in weeks and I’m looking around with a mixture of dismay and determination at all of the weeds and vines choking my flowers of happiness.
You see, my happiness is a bunch of tulips and some sunflowers, some pretty roses and lavender… and a bunch of other flowers that look and smell great even if I don’t know what they’re called. I’m a metaphorical gardener, not a real one! I see a real life bug outside and I squeal and run back into the safety of my house (whilst trying not to squish the darn thing on my way inside).
Anyway. In my mind-garden, my little chibi-cartoon self is pulling on her sparkly gardening gloves and rolling up her sleeves ready to tackle the choking weeds of self-doubt and the vines of sadness. It’s not that these weeds don’t have a place, it’s just that the vines belong in the greenhouse of grief (which thankfully doesn’t need to be opened very often) and the weeds are from the anxiety meadows over the fence. They keep coming back into my little garden even though I keep pruning them back.
Because, peeps, self-doubt keeps coming back. If you’re susceptible to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or self-doubt, any of these things, it takes constant work to keep your head above the water and keep those weeds out of your sunny little garden.
So, let’s begin. The first weed of self-doubt is a writing one. This is a large weed with a very deep root and lots of stalks. Each stalk is a question that Steve the Demon Monkey uses to poke me with, bruising my little unicorn butt and making me stumble and fall. Am I a good writer? Will I ever actually finish my novel? Will anyone really like it?
These doubts seed other doubts and before you know it, the sunflower of writing is overwhelmed with this dark grey mess of stinging barbs and pointy thorns and I can barely choke out a sentence to keep the flower from withering.
So, I take my sparkly gardening gloves and I start pulling back those thorns. It hurts and I’m very scared. I’m scared right now, writing this blog with the knowledge that it will go out onto the internet and be read by other people. What if you hate it? What if you don’t care at all?
But then I remember that I don’t write because I want to make money, I don’t write because I want to please other people or have them think well of me. I write for me.
And all of a sudden the weeds come away and my sunflower reaches up to the sky again. I think ‘yes, I can do this.’ And I look around at the possibility of everything I could achieve. I like my writing style, I like my characters. Someone else out there in this vast world will probably like them, too. And if not? That’s okay. Because, when I really get down to it, I’m writing my book for me. I’m writing this blog for me. I just happen to want to share it with other people in the hopes that it can make you laugh and maybe help a little bit, too.
Now. I brush my hands off and mud sprinkles over my rainbow wellies. This kind of gardening is so much better than real life gardening. In my real life right now it’s raining. In my mind garden it’s sunny, the sky is blue and there are fluffy white clouds drifting overhead. I can hear a robin singing and sparrows chirruping. If I imagine hard enough, there are also some cows mooing.
Ah, sweet English countryside.
I digress. I haven’t written in a while. The last few blogs I started I gave up on halfway through. This is fun!
Now for the money vine. That one is choking my tree of inspiration. It’s sort of like a pear tree only the fruit is all gold and glowy. The money vine, however, does not have leaves made of money but bills. It oozes a sticky sap called ‘gnawing worry’ that seeps into the trunk of my inspiration tree and stunts its growth. The little tree is all gnarled and bent over, wispy leaves withered and dry, no fruit hanging from its branches even though it should blossom all year round.
Money worry is often the blocker to creation and success. Whilst financial stability and a degree of material possession can be a good incentive – like saving up for that really cool Friesian horse that you really want because it just looks so absolutely gorgeous with its long floofy mane and tail and it would be so much fun to ride and you could enjoy the clip-clop of its big hooves as you rode it down the street… – too much thinking about money and possessions quickly turns into fear. Fear that you don’t have enough stuff, that you won’t be able to pay your bills, that you’ll never have enough money to live the life you want…
The money-worry vine is very closely related to the ivy of self-comparison. It’s a slow-growing mind plant that can, in the right place and with the proper pruning, be a useful form of motivation. Competitiveness comes from a well-maintained self-comparison ivy. When we want to do better than someone else because it is closely tied with a strong belief in ourselves and watered with words of confidence, it can be a useful plant and very strong. But left unchecked and choking the life out of the flowers self-esteem? That’s no use to anyone.
Whenever I worry about money, my train of thought inevitably slides along to negative comparison. I look at other people, colleagues at work, people on TV and even strangers in the street, and I wonder how it is that they’re so much better than me. They seem to have their life together, they know themselves and they’re just cool. My wife is cool. She always seems to self-controlled and calm, even though she says she’s actually very anxious.
A nettle catches me as I chop away at the ivy and vines. Ah, good old weight nettles. One of my biggest fears and my biggest source of self-comparison. I feel like I have to compensate for my weight, for being fat, because to be overweight is to be a failure.
To be me is a failure. Strip away the nettles, the vines, the ivy… all of it and there it is. The root of it all that just won’t come out no matter how deep I dig.
You’re not worth it.
That message got put inside a very long time ago and it’s the reason I have this struggle with the weeds in my garden.
I take a step back and brush off my hands again. My little wheelbarrow is full of weeds. I don’t need them. They don’t belong here. What am I going to do about this root? It seems bigger than before. It’s grown back.
Well, I’m not a unicorn for nothing. I have magic inside me. It comes from a place of love. It’s a diamond, strong and shiny, and it fills me warmth. When I feel like giving up, it’s what whispers at me to try again.
So I kneel beside the root and I feel sorry for it, because it came from a very unhappy plant in the mind garden of a very unhappy person.
And then I sprinkle unicorn dust on it. Because I AM worth it. I’m great, just the way I am. I’m amazing because I’m me and I’m alive and that’s amazing.
I know my unicorn dust won’t kill the root but it shrinks it and makes it retreat back under the fence, out of my mind garden again. The sun is shining for me again, burning away the fog of depression. I look around my garden, at the trees and flowers with space to grow again, and I’m happy.
I can do this. I can do anything.
WE can do anything.
Stay amazing, my fellow unicorns. I’m sure I’ll see you soon!!!