Saturday, November 12, 2016

Anthurium no. 1095 "Carolina Pineforest"

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I'm experimenting with a coping strategy.1 I ran into it at MetaFilter. I asked the person who posted it via private message whether they wanted to be named specifically, whether they wanted it quoted directly or paraphrased, etc., and they said use it however, it's not even mine.2 So.

It's not exactly a "follow these steps and be saved" kind of strategy. It's not even a "here's how to turn everything back around after a setback" strategy. It's more "here is what you can do when you feel like you can't do anything, as a way of (maybe) building some momentum that will (eventually) enable you to (begin to) turn things around."

Oh yeah, there's also an Anthurium seedling to evaluate. You'll forgive me if it doesn't seem especially important. Though a tiny part of me is pleased with the color. Haven't had an actual white seedling before, only very light pinks.

Improve things. This is not necessarily grandiose like "clean everything in the entire house" or "start a national movement to change public opinion," though I suppose if you feel up to something like that then go ahead. It's more like, clean the bowl that's sitting in the kitchen sink. Make your bed. Do that minor format tweak to your blog that you've been meaning to do for the last six months. You don't have to make it perfect, you don't even have to finish. Just make something better than it was. If dusting all four shelves of the bookshelf seems like too much, tell yourself that doing just one of them is fine. (It is fine.) A lot of self-care sort of winds up in this category, too: remember that you will need to eat things sometimes even if you don't feel hungry,3 that you'll need to rest even if you can't actually sleep, that you still need to take your meds if you can't imagine feeling any more miserable without them, and so forth.

Appreciate things. Again, this need not be "get dressed and drive to the nearest state park so you can walk along the beach and become inspired by the beauty of nature / vastness of the night sky / calming sound of the waves." All you have to do is find something about the world that is pleasant, and take a moment to acknowledge that. Are your holiday cacti blooming? Well, that's something. Do you have a pair of scissors lying around with handles that are a pretty shade of blue? Well, blue is a nice color; let's take a second to focus on that. Do you live with someone who has a nice laugh? Did that home-improvement project from six months ago turn out well? Are you capable of doing an internet search for "cute kitten video?" Can you wear that t-shirt that fits you just right today (even if you can't get it together to shower; even if the shirt isn't clean)? Is the room at a comfortable temperature? Doesn't that bookshelf (or that one shelf on the bookshelf) look nicer now that you've dusted it? Etc.

This is a leaf.

Connect with other people. You don't have to run for office, march in the streets, or volunteer at the food bank if you aren't up to doing those things, but you know somebody who would sympathize with you. Or there's someone out there who needs your sympathy. Or just spend time with your roommate / spouse / relatives4 / pets. (Pro tip: pets are also good for Appreciating.) I've found this one the hardest, because when it comes right down to it, I'm not actually in regular contact with very many people, and a good chunk of the people I am in contact with . . . wouldn't be good people to talk to, for this particular situation.

Protect something or someone. Make a donation to a charity that does work you respect. Get out the old rubbing alcohol and wipe down that cactus that has mealybugs again. When that coworker starts disrespecting that other coworker in your presence, maybe say something this time, or make up any excuse to get the victim out of the situation ("hey, X, can you show me how to change the copier toner again? It's not working for me."). Give your dog his heartworm medicine. Call your kid's school principal and tell him what you think about the lack of an anti-bullying program in the school.

If everything I've just said still feels like it's more than you can handle right now, and/or if you're having thoughts of suicide,5 you may be suffering from acute depression. I can't make you do anything, obviously, but I would encourage you to seek help. If you are in immediate suicidal crisis and in the U.S., you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; they will connect you with a crisis center in your area that provides immediate, confidential emotional support, and can help you get other resources you need after that.

If you're not in an immediate crisis, but still want help and don't know where to start, the National Helpline (1-800-662-4357) run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can refer you to someone in your area who can help with mental or substance abuse problems. The Helpline does not provide immediate emergency counseling over the phone like the NSPL does, though.

The leaves are on a plant.

If you're somehow not feeling paralyzed and hopeless, and you're not in immediate crisis . . . um, that's awesome for you, I guess.

And that's kinda all I've got. Posting was going to be erratic and not very interesting anyway, for mysterious reasons I may or may not ever explain to you, plus the plants are displeasing me lately so I'm not super motivated to write about them, and now . . . well, now, I've got all this scissor-looking-at to do. So, you know, set your expectations really low as far as frequency and quality in the near future.


1 Any co-occurrence with historically significant events is coincidental. In fact, I don't even know what you're talking about.
2 It's apparently adapted/borrowed from two books by Steven Stosny, Love Without Hurt and Living and Loving After Betrayal.
3 I lost 6 pounds (2.7 kg) in the 72 hours between Tuesday morning and Friday morning. I make myself eat, because I know I need to, but I don't enjoy it, and afterward I always kind of wish I hadn't. Still alive, though, so . . . so far, so good, I guess.
4 Not valid for all families, obviously.
5 I will cop to the occasional fleeting "well, all things considered, I guess death might not be so terrible." I don't think this counts as having actual suicidal impulses, since I'm not actually contemplating ways to make that happen, just looking for a silver aluminum cadmium lining in the event that it happens against my will. It is, obviously, debatable whether this qualifies as mentally healthy, but I feel like I'm doing okay compared to a lot of people, and I'm not actually in any imminent danger, also unlike a lot of people, so.


Robin of SoCal said...

Thank you for your words of comfort. I really enjoy your posts and your silence this week has been palpable. I first came across your blog a couple of months ago while searching for information on umbrella trees. I live in a coastal community in Southern California where our tree grows tall outdoors. Because of this, I nearly didn't click the link to your site in the search results. It was, after all, a "houseplant" blog. So very glad I took the chance. I learned so much from you that day regarding both the natural and invasive history of my plant. I spent much of the rest of my afternoon reading through several of your posts unrelated to my initial query. The extensive research you put into each post is beyond impressive and very much appreciated! Your Infrequently Asked Questions section is thoroughly delightful as well. I will patiently await any future posts you write, if you so choose, and will eagerly read through each, ever hopeful that you will continue to share your thoughts, research and creative energy for those of us who need it more than ever.
Thank you,

Ivynettle said...

And now it's me sitting here trying to figure out what to say...

This seems like a good strategy to me, and I'll need to keep it in mind for when depression inevitably comes knocking again. (It surprises me that it hasn't yet.)

For the part about connecting to people - I know we're not close, but if you need someone to talk to, I'm here. I feel so helpless in the face of all this, but this is something I can offer, at least.

Sort of connected to this, in the tangled messy way my thoughts are this week, I've been thinking lately about how you were the first gay person I knew, and how that changed my perspective, because before reading your blog, gay people felt like an afterthought, something mentioned in passing in a story or two, but not something that would ever feel relevant to my real life. So, thank you for that.

And lastly, if you want them, *hugs*

Nic said...

I am trying to do those things... <3

Anonymous said...

What a nice read to start the day and a good inspiration for dark winter evenings. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I visit your site from time to time to get good information on certain houseplants. Your Nov. 12 post about "coping" was not only a nice surprise but extremely helpful to me. It gives me concrete ideas for trying to overcome my current feelings of despair and fear. Thank you!!

Austin, TX

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting this. we are hurting right now, and we need to be here for each other. i volunteer for the NSPL and i'm so glad to see people sharing the number.

Lawrence, KS

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I love your blog! I am and will always be a plant newbie, having discovered them a few summers ago, when I came across rose-shaped succulents on Ocracoke Island & thought I might be able to keep one alive. (I have since developed a full-blown love of succulents, but still manage to kill most other plants.). Anyhoo...I have chronic depression/anxiety that ebbs & flows, & wanted to let you know that I often read your blog when I'm feeling down. I love reading about the plants, as well as your forays into other subjects. Your blog serves as a goid distraction for me, when all I can manage is to turn on the computer and read. So, thank you. I hope you're feeling better.


Anonymous said...

Caring about you from sunny Sydney....for us gay people Christmas sucks. I find some of the Buddhist ideas about impermanence: everything changes all the time (including my unhappiness or whatever...), and the power of meditation, very helpful indeed.Simple meditation: resting this unhappy mind again and again on the gentle rise and fall of the breath, or on an object (eg looking at a flower, but without following any ideas of "it is beautiful", "it has mould" etc etc, just simply looking, and coming back again and again to the simply looking, without following any of the thoughts. I learned this at university 40 years ago and now, at 61, it is still the best thing I ever learned.
Also I think for a lot of gay people, relationships are very difficult and keep falling apart...until we reach the years of wisdom (yes, I know, laugh laugh) - but honestly. I know so many who endured catastrophe after catastrophe until later in life, when somehow someone, somewhere, got it for us.
Wish I could send you a real hug.

grrrlgeek said...

You don't have to approve this if you don't want to, since it's a year and a half later. Your posts about plant toxicity brought me here. Since then, I've read pretty much all your posts in chronological order. I dreaded when I got near November because I knew the shitstorm was coming. Know that you are not alone.

If you want to keep abreast of any politics at all, I suggest It is a nasty, vile little snark mob (the site description), and helps me digest the news if I feel I need to. Also, unlike other "news" sites, they aren't afraid to use adult vocabulary, which I really enjoy. Sometimes, when I really feel like beating my head against the wall, I just read the daily "wonkagenda" and "nice times" posts. The wonketariat is a group or caring, supportive fuckers. I think you'd really like it there.

Also, this was a timely post for me to read. I have bipolar disorder II (mostly depression, infrequent hypomania, some anxiety). Recently, I lost my job, and have been basically couch bound for weeks (hence having time to read your entire blog). When I even think about leaving the house, I have an anxiety episode. I've only really gotten out of the house to see my psychiatrist. Sometimes I just want to say, fuck this, I fail at life, why am I even here. The coping mechanisms you've posted here remind me of what I need to be doing to pull myself out of this, things I had forgotten about.

tl;dr: You are not alone, there are lots of us out here. Thanks for this post, I really needed it right now.

~Sandy grrrlgeek at comcast dot com