How Tending to Seeds for Spring Reminds Me of My Personal Growth

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by Claire Richmond |

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Earlier this month, I planted rows of seeds. Twice daily, I watered them with a spray bottle. Within five days, bright green, tender stems broke through the earth, unfurling delicate pairs of seed leaves. Now, a tray of zinnia seedlings grow on a sunny windowsill in my dining room.

As of Saturday’s equinox, we are officially in a season of spring. In Iowa, where I live, the speckled gray of remaining snow only recently gave way to the muddy yellow of partially frozen dead grass. Yet, my baby zinnias lean toward the sunlight of a sleeping outside world without questioning their inner wisdom. They know that enduring these growing conditions will lead to ultimate beauty.

These seedlings serve as a reminder that my life with acute hepatic porphyria (AHP) is full of possibilities and hope. When the world around me seems dire, I can focus on growth and persevere into a future full of color and promise.

Guilt for all seasons

Winter was a doozy this year. Iowans endured above-average snowfalls beginning in October and record-setting wind chill that bit through even the thickest parkas. Throughout the season, my mental health balance was difficult to strike.

On one hand, I was oddly comforted by the thought of being snowed in and forced to park my body on the couch, pile on the blankets, and stream episode after episode of “Schitt’s Creek.” The pressure to do, to achieve, and to produce was temporarily lifted. I relished the thought of friends and neighbors being in the same boat, because the fear of missing out with AHP is real.

On the other hand, I don’t have the energy to play in the snow or do any of the seasonal chores, like scooping walks or icicle management. I love bundling up in my warmest gear and screaming until my throat is raw as I ride down hills on a plastic sled. I love watching the boys dream up snowy creations and helping them sculpt piles into mountains, bricks, and tunnels.

When I don’t have the stamina to play or lend a hand outside, I feel guilty.

Winter discoveries and a promise for spring

One Sunday in December, I couldn’t get out of bed. Recovering from a porphyria attack I had the previous week, my body felt like I had run a dozen marathons before being kicked in the abdomen repeatedly. After snoozing for hours, I woke up and rolled over to see it was precisely noon. Straining my ears to detect weekend signs of life in the house, I heard the boys just on the other side of the bedroom window, playing in the backyard.

Lifting the shade, I immediately saw the weather forecast had been on the nose. More than a foot of snow had been dumped on top of the house, coating the tree branches, play set, and lawn in blankets of glistening white.

My fiancé, Michael, takes pride in constructing a backyard sledding luge every winter, so I was not surprised to see he had done it again. For maximum velocity, the chute started at the slide, then wound its way over and down, around the yard. I laughed to myself as each boy took turns on their sleds. I watched as Michael shoveled heap after mountainous heap of snow to reinforce and shape the luge. I got lost in watching them play.

Moments later, I experienced a jolt of awareness. Suddenly, after spending the morning in bed, it dawned on me: I wasn’t ashamed. Rather than feeling pressure to be in my boots, leaping among the drifts, I felt content in simply watching my family from the cozy warmth of the bedroom. My joy left no room for guilt.

I’ll be the first to admit, I hold myself to unhelpfully high standards that harken to a time I was able to keep up with children. Rationally, I know that staying in bed doesn’t make me lazy. By sleeping late that morning, I was tending to my body’s needs.

That morning, I sensed personal growth. I learned it’s possible to both conserve my energy and feel like I’m not missing out.

Just as growing flowers from seed is a methodical process, I tend to my mental health daily as I learn to embrace my life with AHP. Because my guilt knows no season.

It’s hard to say no to bicycle rides, games in the park, or gardening chores, even if it means I’m taking care of myself. My feelings of inadequacy are year-round, but with the help of acceptance and mindful self-compassion meditation, I’m befriending my life experience. Like my tiny zinnia seeds buried in the soil, I am finding my way up and out, into the light.

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Note: Porphyria News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Porphyria News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to porphyria.