This week, I bought a new pet. Well... not really a pet, but that’s how I think of him. I decided to expand my group of carnivorous plants and I bought my first Venus Flytrap. I love carnivorous plants. They are so exotic and unusual, each one so marvelously different in how it manages to catch prey and survive.*
My new flytrap is quite young and small. My husband and I named him ‘Fang’ as I consider him to be male. Fang can catch flies and other similar insects in the open ‘traps’ which top each of his stems. There’s only one problem; it’s been so chilly that I’ve been having to keep Fang mostly indoors. All his prey is outside (and I intend that they stay out of my apartment!) so he has had nothing to eat since I bought him.
I’ve been trying to find bugs for him. I dug into some of my plant pots and my hubby even scratched around in the dirt near my pond. Nothing! How can it be that when you need some bugs you can’t find any? I may have to go to our local pet store and buy some crickets just so Fang can have a meal and get the nutrients he needs to start growing.
In the middle of this dilemma, I began to think of Fang as someone with chronic pain / illness. If he was living in the wild, he’d be in a marshy swamp exposed to the elements and unable to help himself. He couldn’t reach his food; he could only open his traps and hope to entice the prey to come. He could not ask for help or rely on a neighboring plant. He couldn’t pick up and move to a better environment. He would be at the mercy of his surroundings. He’d be truly stuck. Isolated.
When I was in the worst part of my depression, anorexia, and chronic pain I isolated myself from the world. I allowed myself to get stuck in the swamp of my dark and hopeless feelings and I did not leave the house (I hardly left my recliner - I’m surprised I didn’t have to have it surgically removed from my derriere!). I didn’t interact with people if I could help it. I mired myself in an unhealthy isolation. I allowed myself to become like Fang, holding open my hands wishing for help and a better life, but not pushing myself into a place where I could actually reach what I needed.
Of course, I eventually did get the help and my life is completely different now. Even so, I do on occasion catch myself getting into isolation mode, wishing for something better but not putting in any effort to achieve it, just sitting there and shunning the world, feeling like it requires too much energy.
We all feel that way sometimes. The trick is to recognize when you are starting to isolate yourself and not allow it to last too long. Most importantly, if you are having a depressive episode or a bad symptom flare-up, see your doctor. However, if you just find yourself wanting to close off and hide away from the world, think about Fang and don’t let yourself get isolated:
~Ask for help... or just a little attention from your loved ones to feed your lonely soul
~Be willing to accept help. You’ll have the chance to return it to that person someday.
~Pull yourself out of your ‘swamp’ and force yourself out of the house: to a movie, to have coffee with a friend, for a walk with your neighbor - make yourself spend a little time with another person every day. Don’t let yourself be alone all the time.
~Find a purpose: get a head start on Christmas gifts and knit a scarf for your Mom, volunteer at the local shelter to pet the cats or walk the dogs, take up a cause like fighting Fail First, 'adopt' a grandma or grandpa at your local nursing home and brighten their life with visits, get your friends together and start a book or recipe club, etc... Find something that feeds your soul and gives you the motivation to get up out of bed every day. Pushing yourself to work toward a positive goal gives a feeling a satisfaction that even eating chocolate cannot beat (did I just say that? yeah, it’s true, believe it or not!)
Poor Fang. Even though I can protect him from the weather, I cannot make bugs fly into his reach. Thankfully, he does not need a voice to ask for help because I am here to provide for him until conditions improve.
Now, off to buy some crickets at the pet store...
*If you are interested in carnivorous plants check out California Carnivores. It’s a fantastic nursery for these amazing plants & a great deal of fun to visit, too! You can take a virtual tour of the nursery on the website. And if you decide you want a carnivore, they ship live plants right to your door.