Author: Charmaine Adrina
When I was 19 years old I experienced my first panic attack. The memory of it is so vivid, it's almost like it just happened yesterday. Complete numbness from the neck down, lightheadedness, not being able to catch a breath and feeling my heart beating out of my chest. I honestly thought I was dying. The one thing I can't remember is how much time had gone by between me sobbing on the floor as my roommate tried to console me, to suddenly having five paramedics hovering over me giving me oxygen. This happened almost twelve years ago, and today I have officially been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder.
I saw my doctor shortly after this episode, and the first thing he asked me was if I had been dealing with some kind of trauma or have had something life-changing happen to me recently. And to be honest, 19 was a great fucking year. I didn't really have much to be stressed about, I was at the peak of my partying years, had the coolest circle of friends and was going to school for something I really loved. I couldn't pinpoint what would trigger a panic attack, so I just wrote it off as a one-time thing and hoped it would never happen again. Unfortunately that was just the beginning. In my early 20's I had suppressed memories resurface and that's when the real trouble began. I would deal with even worse panic attacks that would often end in me blacking out or needing to call 911 and experience triggers that would prevent me from doing the simplest things, like taking a shower (specifically) in the morning. I felt the deepest form of shame and embarrassment over something that happened to me that was completely out of my control, and it got so bad at one point in time that I actually had to cover all the mirrors in my home so I didn't need to look at myself.
There are many things I am not comfortable speaking about publicly in terms of why I have such bad anxiety and depression, and to be honest I will likely take this trauma and those suppressed memories to my grave. It's something that I have wrestled with emotionally and mentally for over a decade and I'm at peace with it now. But what many people don't realize is that your body holds on to trauma in ways that are completely out of your control, and sometimes they don't go away. That's the reality of it and it fucking sucks. In the beginning of my experience with depression, I would often daydream about the relief of just being gone. Not that I ever contemplated suicide, but I guess I was just okay with that thought of like, "oh, if I didn't exist anymore I guess that wouldn't be so bad." I wish I could say that this was my lowest point, but truth be told, I'm currently living through my lowest.
I'm on two types of antidepressants-- Lexapro and Ativan. It's been a really tough adjustment to life on medications, but I recently got to a point where I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't meditate my way through the panic attacks. I couldn't settle for just being an "okay" partner to my husband. I couldn't spend another week in bed. I couldn't handle being short of breath for days on end. And I couldn't accept that this was just supposed to be my normal life now. So I got the help I needed and I'm glad I did.
Along with medications, plants have been my primary source of therapy. I've been a plant parent since 2013 but didn't really immerse myself into the hobby and the community until 2017. My plants have truly become an extension of me and I can't imagine doing life without them. I often call them my babies, and as corny as it sounds, they really are. It's crazy how the tiniest little growth point that I spotted the night before could be the only thing that gets me out of bed the next morning. Plants had made me so happy, that I just kept buying more and more, thinking that it would make me even happier. But a pest infestation at the peak of my anxiety served as a wake up call and helped me put my love for plants into perspective.
Quality over quantity is my mantra now. I only keep plants that I absolutely love and am more mindful of what I'm bringing home. I'm okay with the fact that my space isn't quite the indoor jungle that I wish it was, but I'm grateful that now I have the time to really appreciate every single specimen in my home and give them the attention and love they deserve. The state of my plants are usually a reflection of my mental and physical health-- and although it saddens me to see them suffer when I am suffering, we always bounce back together and it serves as a reminder that I am just as resilient as they are.
I started my plant Instagram account earlier this year and I'm so grateful to be a part of this community. As much as I love sharing plants and the knowledge I have learned over the years, I think that the connections made have been the best part. I want to use my small platform as a way to normalize talking about anxiety and depression and remove the stigma around needing to hide the fact that you are medicating. I also hope that through the love and appreciation of plants, I can share the way they help me cope on a daily basis and hopefully help others use this as a method of therapy, too.