Caught in the Brambles

Wild berry foraging…I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a mental health afternoon…

And in fact, it struck me during my harvest, that there is much to be gained in terms of mental and emotional wellness, by spending an afternoon steeped in the wisdom of the berry bramble. 

The meadows are quiet.  The birds sing their songs and the breeze rustles the leaves.  Here, it is still.  And I am left, unencumbered by the convolutions of the world, to dive deep into the existential abyss of my mind.  As any good nature nerd would, I absorb life’s lessons from the prickly teachers surrounding me.  

In the bramble, life is straightforward… simple.  The berry bramble has no shame in what it is.  Even though the plants have large thorns, a characteristic some may deem unsavory, they never hide them from the world.  They don’t pretend to be something they are not.  In fact, they confidently bare their prickly nature for all to see.  We don’t fault the berry plant for its’ unrefined ways.  We simply accept that thorns are a part of its make up.  

So why then, do we fault ourselves for our thorns, our prickly parts, the ways that we survive the attacks of our world?  Why can’t we accept the less desirabale attributes of ourselves? Why don’t we embrace our prickly parts and imperfections as essential parts of our being, instead of hiding them away in shame?

On the road to wholeness, to growing in the truth of who we are, it is tempting to show the world only our strengths and our victories.  We conceal those parts of ourselves that are still in progress, the sharper edges that resemble inhospitable thorns.  

I’ve recently received several messages and comments from other women saying that they ‘wish they could be where I’m at,’ or that they ‘admire how I’m able to stay positive.’ While these comments deeply validate my hopes for the mission behind Oliver’s Odyssey, they also make me question whether or not I am sharing enough of my thorns with the world. 

The last thing I want to do on this journey of self-discovery is misrepresent myself to those who I hope to reach.  Revealing only the most polished and shiny parts of ourselves breeds comparison and a desire for something that doesn’t even truly exist.  

In the midst of the thorny bramble today I asked myself these questions:

Are you sharing your deepest and darkest fears, your most vulnerable places and your darkest days as openly as you’re sharing your brightest ones?  Or are you photo shopping your reality, no different than the world of phoniness which you speak against?  Have you, yet, grown past the self-defeating belief that your worth depends upon your victories alone?  Do you still hide away the prickliest aspects of your being?

As you can probably imagine, I came to the realization that I still have plenty of room to grow in this area.

So, here’s my vulnerablitity for the day, my raw truth in all of its undesirable glory.  I struggle with my mental health too.  I struggle with the same depression that any mother of a child with severe life-long disabilities goes through.  And I suffer from fairly severe hormonal imbalance issues, brought on by wildly stressful life circumstances and a serious lack of setting healthy boundaries.

My times of darkness are all-consuming.  I feel exhausted, like my cup is far beyond empty.  I lose my ability to find the silver linings, withdraw from people I love and sink back into grief over Oliver’s conditions.  My insecurities overtake my heart and I go to all of the very darkest places.  I doubt every one of my abilities and my tear-stained cheeks are a testament to my inner anguish. I feel like a failure.  I contemplate life.  I contemplate death.  My mind is stuck on overdrive and I feel powerless to stop its moving train of destruction.  These times are brought on by long periods of sleep deprivation, shifts in my hormones and when the stress in my life reaches a boiling point once again.  To call them difficult would be a laughable understatement. 

Sometimes these periods go on for weeks and I question whether I have truly made any progress on this path at all. But, in the depth of my despair, I inevitably find another hidden part of myself that has yet to be healed.  And when I feel strong enough again, I drag those unfinished, unpolished, rough around the edges, prickly aspects of my being into the light and take a good look at what lessons they have to share.  Like I said in my last post, the pain… that darkness… is the ticket to transformation. The times we feel ashamed, trapped amongst our thorns, are catalysts for our growth.  

If I have found anything, it is only this, a perspective that allows me to reprocess and reframe my ongoing challenges in a way that allows for personal development instead of complete destruction. 

So, getting back to the berry bramble… Today was one of those days for me, the hard kind… actually this whole week has been like that.  And honestly, these days have come a lot since pandemic life became a thing.  These mental health afternoons, although they are few and far between, are what keep me going when I feel that all hope is lost. So, when I post pictures of me beaming, alone in nature, it is almost always during one of these days and that smile has come only after I’ve spent a couple of hours refilling my woefully empty vessel with something that brings me great joy… nature.  

I rarely take this time until my cup far beyond empty, my chest is tight with an impending panic attack and I am ready to run full speed ahead into the mountains forever.  This struggle with self-care is one of the blind spots I’m still working on…  The ability to care for myself first, embrace my thorns and keep myself strong, so that like the berry bramble, I too can give generously of myself to others. 

Part of that giving, the part that feels like my life’s purpose, is to walk humbly in the truth of my own experience and share it openly with the world.  So, thank you for all of you who spend your time following our journey.  Thanks to those who allow my thoughts into your mind.  

Please, know that I am walking right beside you on this journey.  I am no more, no less, just a fellow sister on the path to Light.  

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