For nearly two years I have come home every day and looked at the weeds alongside my front steps. Each day I wished I could weed them, but I couldn’t. Why not?
Because my mental illnesses make me so physically tired all the time. It’s hard for me to get through my regular day, let alone through nonessential chores like weeding.
And because for the past nearly two years I have been struggling with panic disorder and agoraphobia.
In late 2016 I couldn’t go to a store, restaurant, church, or crowded place without a panic attack. I went to school and work and spent the rest of the time resting.
I have almost recovered from agoraphobia, but I’m still self-conscious to the extent that it’s hard for me to open the blinds in my house, let alone stand in the front yard, where everyone outside might see me.
But tonight was different. I gathered my energy to take the trash out – an essential job I force myself to do – and I noticed that I was having a good night.
I felt a strange sensation of freedom. Usually I rush to get the trash cans, afraid that I am “exposed” and being watched. But tonight I walked calmly to the back yard and smiled at my neighbors as I got the trash.
It was a strange feeling: feeling like I could do something new. I felt free to do things I had been unable to do for a long time.
I grabbed another can from the garage and started pulling weeds, first in the back “garden” that we haven’t planted in for a few years, then along the fence, then in front.
As I ripped the weeds from the ground, I was amazed by the complex pattern of their roots. Each stubborn weed seemed so resilient. With each set of roots I pulled out, I found myself feeling more grounded and rooted.
Pulling weeds felt so primal and healthy. It felt like freedom.
Maybe I am ending the chapter of my life when I spent hours rocking in a recliner, twitching as I recovered from panic attacks.
Maybe I don’t have to be a nervous ghost anymore. Maybe I can be outside in the sunshine, living.
I spent thirty minutes weeding my front and back yard. A neighbor’s dog was barking at me. Neighbors were having a cookout. I kept weeding.
Mental illness doesn’t just mean feeling unhappy. It isn’t just a feeling. It affects your functioning.
A doctor could tell you that I am a relatively healthy young woman who is physically able to do things. But for nearly two years I have been unable to weed my yard.
Tonight I did it. It was a great victory.
My hands are raw and sore but the pain keeps telling me: I am free. I am alive.