Yesterday I came home and found myself sitting by one of our raised beds weeding a garden next to my toddler. It was the most peaceful experience I have had in a long time. I was able to breathe and let go. It was also my first day of work at the mental health team I have joined. I was thrown into my new role with an ample caseload with appointments already booked for me throughout the week.
As I sat by the bed running my hands through the dirt sifting out weeds I thought of the therapeutic process in relation to the cultivation of gardens. There are a couple different kinds of weeds in my garden. There are surface weeds, that are easily removed on a routine basis and there is the beast of our garden, morning-glory. Morning glory is a vine that produces the most beautiful flowers but twists around our desired plants and chokes them out. Its root systems likely go 6 feet deep and are very difficult to remove; some say only removed by burning or raising the Ph level (making an inhospitable environment). Each year we dig deeply to remove as much as we can only to find it regrown within a couple of weeks. The only alternative to burning or killing the soil is to put a liner on the bottom of the bed which keep it at bay for sometime.
Morning glory is like severe mental health issues . Beautiful, with some purpose but utterly destroying desired functioning; prohibiting positive growth needed for nutrition and substance.
What can we do? Very rarely is it safe or even advisable to take drastic action as then you end up burning not only the weed but other positive plants. You can teach someone some weeding and digging skills which will keep them at bay; teach them to let a few weeds go and accept their beauty and sacrifice some functional needs.
Or you can put a liner on the bottom of the garden . This however requires knowledge of the garden itself: its borders and its depth and also requires a lot of digging and usually is a job for more than one person. Even with this some weeds eventually get through. This is therapy that is more intensive and even long-term, but even with this there is not guaranteed success the weeds are hearty and have existed long before the gardener arrived. All of this comes with some experimentation; and there is always the risk that weeds will grow in from outside of the garden from nearby fences. Ah the battle.
But despite this the gardening itself is a pleasurable activity: to appreciate the beauty of both the weeds and new plants- to watch with is newly planted grow and take up space that the weeds used to dominate the garden space. To have the joy of working in the soil and tending a living thing. That is the joy of the therapist.