Gardening As a Metaphor for Healing from Trauma

In the past week I’ve started thinking about gardening as a metaphor for my own healing from my trauma, which has helped me organize my thoughts about it and figure out what steps I need to take next.

Imagine the soul, or the mind, or whatever the essence of the person is, as a garden. Some parts of it are deep, the bottom layer of soil touching bedrock and covered by many more layers on top. Other parts are more shallow, but they still touch the deep parts.

Any time you try anything new — a new habit, a new project, a new relationship — it’s like you’re planting new plants in your garden.

Maybe someone was careful with this garden from the get-go. Maybe they put in good soil, good fertilizer, rotated crops often, watered them. So the new plants you put in, they grow fine, easily, with few problems aside those problems that affect every gardener (aphids, weeds, etc).

However, maybe someone wasn’t careful from the start. Maybe this land wasn’t always a garden. Maybe it was a dumping ground for toxic waste, and no one did any clean-up before they tossed soil on top and tried to start growing plants.

So every plant you put into the soil struggles. And maybe you’re able to get a good, bountiful yield out of them, but it means toiling every single day. It means hardship and fighting. It means you are spending all your time trying to get these plants to just grow in tainted soil, so you rarely have energy to actually enjoy the fruits of your labors.

My garden is the dumping ground type.

A History of Trauma Etched in the Soil of Me

In the earliest days of my garden, I was given good soil and fertilizer. I was given rays of sunshine in a mother’s love and I was given the cool, clean water of peacefulness. Those earliest days barely lasted a season, but they were enough to give me resilience. So I am luckier than most.

After that, toxic waste was dumped into my garden. Not run of the mill toxic waste, either. Depleted uranium-level toxic waste. It leached radioactivity into the soil, and then more dirt just covered it up.

From then on, every time I tried to plant something, those plants tended to shrivel and die. They turned into little rotten bits of radioactivity, and then they’d get covered by yet more dirt, in the hopes that if I could just put enough dirt on top of the original wound, I’d be able to escape its effects.

Meanwhile, other parts of the garden started with good soil and water, but they touch the radioactive part. Plants there still struggle, though not as much.

If I want to have a healthy, thriving garden, I need to excavate and pull out that radioactive lump and then yeet it into the sun.

But I can’t only excavate and destroy. I need to heal at the same time.

Phytoremediation

If I want to actually heal the deepest, most wounded parts of me, I need to not only cut out the poisons and toxins but also give myself a blood transfusion at the same time. (We’ve swtiched metaphors for a moment.)

You can’t do major surgery without having blood products on hand. So trying to remove the toxic waste left behind by trauma without having some ongoing healing work happening is not a good plan.

In those shallower parts of the garden that touch on the tainted soil, I will plant phytoremediators. Plants that take up toxicity from the soil and cleanse it, giving it up to the sun.

I will plants sunflowers, and then I will dive into the darkest parts of the garden, and fish out the garbage that has been dumped there.

Like gardening, it is difficult, hard labour. And like gardening, it must be done.


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