Using Wildlife to Cope with Depression

Lately, I’d been away from iSpot (and pretty much the internet as a whole) for some time. As people might know, I lost a close friend to suicide almost 3 months ago now. It’s still very difficult to get by but I have been semi-coping. Now, my grandma is on palliative care and my grandpa has dementia which is rapidly worsening. Between autistic meltdowns, general breakdowns, work and caring for my grandparents, I don’t get much time to do a whole lot of anything. I dearly love my grandparents even though they aren’t my biological grandparents - I would do anything for them and they would do anything for me. To see them withering away and anticipating the added grief of losing two family members on top of a friend already has been incredibly depressing to say the least. I have never been one to cope very well. The only reason I, myself, am still alive is because of nature. In a few days, it will be the 3rd anniversary of my own attempt on my life and I always have more depressive episodes around that time as it is. I remember sitting up all night with the conservatory door open, watching the hedgehogs running in and fighting. One night when I was REALLY struggling with my friend’s death, I looked out of my window to find a male hedgehog very much failing to woo a female. Through tears, I had to laugh to myself. I’ve always found nature has a way of helping, quite often via the absolute beauty of it. While I was at my grandparent’s house and the paramedics were trying to help my grandma, I stood outside and saw bats for the first time in years. I could’ve cried if I wasn’t ridiculously stressed at the time. I was so happy to see them and it felt like nature was saying “you’re having a rough time, I’ll give you something nice”. Nature always has a way of trying to fix things for you. Whether it be a butterfly flitting over, a bee landing on you or hedgehogs fearlessly headbutting your foot, it always manages to give something back to you that makes you rethink your situation. Sometimes I think about how resilient so many of the world’s creatures are and realise my worries would seem so small to them. Nature seems to have such an innate kindness towards humans, even though many humans treat nature like a portable bin or worse. With everything happening as of late, I’ve tried my best to fit in going to areas of nature to just be with wildlife for 5 minutes and forget everything. My favourite spot is currently overrun with ticks though so I don’t get long to disconnect as I have to keep checking my arms, hands and legs lol. Still, it feels like nature is the friend that is always there for you, that you can always fall back and rely on.

I wondered, then, does anyone else here find that nature and wildlife is a release for all of life’s stresses and strains? I think the Mindful Moments on Springwatch (and the other -watches) are proof that nature DOES bring people a lot of peace and comfort. Just the existence of the wildlife that surrounds us all can bring some calm to any storm. I find that recording wildlife brings extra comfort - it feels like you’re giving something back to the friend that has been by your side forever :slight_smile:

For all of that general downtrodden chit-chat, I’ll finish with something a little bit nicer. For the first time ever, I got to see a Mullein caterpillar and hopefully I will get to see some Mullein moths soon too! They truly are beautiful critters, they can bring a bit of brightness to even the darkest of days :slight_smile:

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Hannah, I really feel for you with all you are having to cope with.
We have a lot of autism in our family, so I know that stress/anxiety can be heightened.
Hang on in there - I cannot offer advice but I can offer solidarity.
In answer to your question, nature has often given me ‘gifts’. For some reason, red kites have always been significant to my wife and me. I cannot even remember how it started but they seem to appear as a sign or a blessing at appropriate moments. Years ago, when we were quite worried about our offsping (gender fluid), we were in Walsingham, Norfolk, in the grounds of a ruined monastery. We prayed together for them, and just as we had finished, a red kite flew over. I know that many people would just say that it is sentimental nonsense, but to us it was a blessing, a promise even.
I cannot say much about our offspring in a public forum, but they are doing OK now.
One thing about autism is that, although it brings its trials, it also brings special gifts. I think that life is often about making the most of your gifts and finding strategies to cope with your weaknesses - and we all have both!
Hope this doesn’t sound like a sermon!

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Yes that is true nature can help you to relax and can sometimes make you feell better even when you are overwhelmed or highly anxious and going through a difficult time. I have Autism aswell so it’s easy for me to understand the challanges being autistic can bring. For me I get sensory overload when it comes to noise I was diagnosed with hypersensitive hearing at birth and is part of my Autism it can make liveing with other people difficult sometimes and other situations. one challenge I come across often is people haveing the Tv on normal volume but that hurting my ears and having to ask them to turn it down only for them to say it is not loud and me haveing to say it’s hurting my ears and i listen to and watch things at the lowest setting. I don’t listen to the radio when music is on cause it can be too noisy for me and can’t go to crowded places or noisy places and don’t go to party’s and gives me high levels of anxiety. I also have depression aswell like you. But have had mood tablets so have found ways of copeing and it’s a lot better than it used to be. I aswell have gone through a difficult time which actually lasted a couple of years. Social challenges at school and college even though I was seen as a good friend and am a good friend I lost them all cause they wernt very good friends and one of them gave away a secret and told everyone in class includeing the teachers and got outed and have struggled getting into things like birding clubs or other things to make friends. I came out as transgender during lockdown aswell as lgbt.

Cause I have high anxiety I have lots of phobias one of them was wildlife and domestic animals but I chose to overcome them which took time but I did it. Iv been taking photos and videos since I was 12 but wasn’t into the wildlife aspect of it I got into Wildlife photography after I overcame my phobia. I found not only is it an enjoyable hobby but I find even just watching them can help cope with things for instance if someone puts something on that’s too noisy or people are being too loud for me and it gets overwhelming I turn to nature and sit on my own and spend time with nature which I find very relaxing then when they stop I go back inside so it helps me cope with sensory overload aswell as anxietys when im highly anxious. But the strength of hypersensitive hearing is that I can hear things that most people struggle to hear and I take advantage of it when wildlife watching along with other gifts that my autism gives me. but I find even when I’m not anxious it’s very enjoyable and you can also help contribute to conservation Aswell

For all of that general downtrodden chit-chat, I’ll finish with something a little bit nicer. For the first time ever, I got to see a Mullein caterpillar and hopefully I will get to see some Mullein moths soon too! They truly are beautiful critters, they can bring a bit of brightness to even the darkest of days :slight_smile:

That is exiteing that you saw the Mullen caterpillar if you do get to see the moths aswell we will look forward to seeing it on i spot. Back After I overcame my fear I encountered a buzzard for the first time And after birds I became interested in most if not all wildlife and I started doing wildlife gardening. I planted some nasturtiums in the garden and had lots of cabbage whites I got to see them go from caterpillar to crysilis and to adult I wasn’t a member of I spot then but it was very enjoyable watching them Spring and summer are my favourite time of the year cause all the butterflys and other things come out then. Wildlife is my main interest and one of my speacial interests. Do you ever go for a walk through the woods and look for insects? A walk through the woods can be very peaceful and if you stay long enough you might notice depending on thr time of year Bumblebees entering and leaving a hole at ground level aswell as if you look among vegetation you may spot a caterpillar Exspeacially if a food plant is there. The first time I ever saw a bat was last year it was very exiteing I planted wildflowers that open at night for bats hopeing to see them and I did eventually but aparantly other people saw them aswell though

You know what, Zo, we have lived surprisingly similar lives. I was also terrified and had major phobias of insects and mainly researched them to try to get over that fear, I didn’t expect it to become a special interest of mine. I’m also LGBT and had my best friend out me to everyone during high school which started a lot of my social phobias. I also struggle with sounds though, for me, I am worse with lights, especially flashing lights. It is really hard to make friends, I dare say neurotypicals must surely find it hard too. Most of my friends have been autistic, LGBT or both - it’s easier to make friends when you have a lot in common. I used to struggle to understand others and was very intolerant until I met my friend, the one that has now passed away. They were trans and they taught me a lot of things about living as a trans person and life in general. They taught me kindness and I’m always grateful for it. I don’t want to think what kind of horrible person I’d have become had I not met them.

I do like going for a walk in the woods looking for insects. It’s really lovely. You taught me something new because I didn’t even realise there were flowers that open at night, that’s really smart. Maybe I will have to take inspiration from you and try to plant some of those flowers myself in hopes of attracting some bats to the garden. I think you were really lucky to see those bats though - it had been so many years since I had seen one, probably about 5 years. Those memories are really nice to hold onto though. Things like you encountering a buzzard after overcoming your fear are really good because it shows you how strong you are.

Thanks for your comments Zo, it’s nice to get to hear a bit about you and I’m glad nature has helped you the same way it has helped me. I’m also glad you understand some of the difficulties that come with being autistic. I wouldn’t get rid of my autism, it makes me who I am, but there are definitely days where it really negatively affects me. I also use nature to cope with sensory overload. Sometimes when I’m in a situation that is loud or bright and I can’t get away, I will get my sketchbook out and start drawing insects and birds. It’s a way to feel connected to nature even when you can’t be out in it. Either that or I crochet. I’m actually crocheting a trans flag hat right now. Before my friend passed, I told them about my idea to make pride flag hats and said I was going to start with the trans flag and they got excited and said they really wanted one and could I make one for them. They passed before I had even sent them the sketch of what I was going to make for them. I haven’t had the guts to even look at my crochet for a while because it reminds me of them and I get teary. Now, though, I’m making the trans flag beanie for them. If all goes well, I am going to make a few to sell and donate proceeds to a charity - I’m thinking of giving to The Sparkle Charity. My friend donated hundreds and hundreds of their own money to various charities as well as doing multiple fundraising efforts and volunteering at old people’s homes. I think they’d approve of my idea for sure.

Thank you again for your comments, Zo. They gave me a bit of a boost when I really needed it :slight_smile:

Thank you for your kind words, Ken. It’s funny because my nan also sees red kites as a sign. Her sister’s favourite bird was always a red kite and my nan would always rush to tell her if she had seen one. A few years ago, her sister passed very suddenly and it was a massive shock to everyone. Whenever my nan sees a red kite, she always says it’s her sister coming to visit her. Not long after her sister died, I actually saw a red kite for the first time and it flew over to a tree right near me and just perched there looking at me. It was probably just a bird being curious but when I told my nan, she was absolutely adamant that it was her sister saying goodbye to me. I spent a lot of my young childhood with my great aunt and it’s sad that I don’t remember very much of it but I do remember that she was always a very strong character. I always knew she loved me, she made sure I felt very loved, so it would be nice if the red kite was her popping in.

I don’t think anything sentimental is ever nonsense though. I’m glad your child is doing well. I think I have actually been either to the area or very close to it where you saw the red kite as I’ve been to Walsingham a couple times, primarily to visit areas of religious importance. It is a very peaceful place and I’m glad it brought you some comfort being there and seeing the red kite. It’s really a beautiful place to see a beautiful bird :slight_smile:

To lighten the mood somewhat, I will tell you a story about Walsingham. Once, I went there on a school trip during the height of the 2012 heatwave. We had all finished the drink in our bottles long ago and were dehydrated which was made especially worse by the fact there was no shade anywhere. We went up these stairs to a little area with a bunch of barrels. The person working there said that there was water there that we could help ourselves to. We all rushed to these barrels, drinking like a desert explorer at an oasis. Kids started pouring it over themselves and swigging it as quickly as they could. When the worker came back, they were mortified. It turns out they were referring to the tiny water fountain round the corner that nobody even realised was there and we had just drunk our entire body weights in holy water. The worker was unsurprisingly pretty angry and rushed us off elsewhere. I remember saying to the worker “well, the barrel should’ve been labeled, really” which they didn’t take very kindly to. I don’t think I’d take it well either if I had a 10 year old being lippy like that. I hadn’t intended to seem rude though, I genuinely just meant they should label it next time! We got in so much trouble that day but it was worth it. That water tasted better than wine ever could…

I can only echo Surreybirder’s wise comment: ‘Hang on in there - I cannot offer advice but I can offer solidarity.’
Autism is close to home for me, too. And wildlife provides me with much pleasure, (or, at least, diversion). British Wildlife discussed the pros and cons of putting out wild-bird food recently, and the most positive effect was that on the psychological well-being of the people doing it.

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Yes there are some flowers that open in the evening and close during the day. There are also ones that are open during the day that help bats aswell Heres 2 links you might find helpful it’s about attracting bats to your garden and what wildflowers you can plant. it’s from the bat conservation trust*1ia927s*_ga*OTkzODkwNDIwLjE2ODg0NzgzNTQ.*_ga_G28378TB9V*MTY4ODQ3ODM1My4xLjEuMTY4ODQ3ODk5OS4wLjAuMA

This one also has suggestions aswell*16e0i5*_ga*OTkzODkwNDIwLjE2ODg0NzgzNTQ.*_ga_G28378TB9V*MTY4ODQ3ODM1My4xLjEuMTY4ODQ3OTMwMi4wLjAuMA

Also you can plant wildflower seeds to help attract bats from wildlife world
But of course you can also get those wildflowers anyway

Thought you were talking about Night-flowering Catchfly - Silene noctiflora or evening primroses and similar. Just having lots of insects around is likely to attract the bats.
As a child I always remember walking back in after playing in the London park and hearing the bats clicking around and parents saying they could hear nothing.
Now it is foxes walking along the streets and bright noisy parakeets, I am not sure how calming these are though given how noisy both can be.
There has been lots of research on how helpful greenspace and trees are for mental health and aspects of society such as crime reduction.

Yes I was talking about ones that open at night and ones that release there scent at night but there is also ones like in the link that can help attract bats wildflowers help attract more insects which can also attract bats. The first link Has about attracting bats to your garden in othet ways and not just wildflowers but has some Wildflower suggestions. Whereas The second link has a list of wildflowers the bat conservation trust recommend for bats. It also has other interesting facts about bats in the links too but it’s an example of ones that you can plant for bats.

Ones that release there scent at night are good recommendations if jins weenis wants to attract them obviously attracting insects will also attract insect eating birds and other wildlife that eat insects cause thats how nature works but if you want to attract bats that is a good way to attract them.

The Wild plants that release there scent at night are good cause they provide nectar for nocturnal insects and invertrevretes or are attracted by the scent which in turn attracts bats at night

Even though there are species that can be noisy like foxes there are quieter Wildlife aswell so if someone doesn’t find them relaxing they could either look out for or attract ones that are less noisy .in some cases it’s possible to be visited by certain species and not even be aware of it particularly at night. Iv got a trail cam up to see if I can see what visits my garden at night but I don’t have a way of uploading the photos from the trail cam if iv been lucky enough to catch one. Cause my laptop is broken. Trail cams can be used during the day aswell as night time so you can see who’s visited when your not around

Buddleia, sedum (ice plant) and hemp agrimony attract moths at night. It’s fun to go out on a warm night with a torch and see them. The moths don’t usually move; probably too busy nectaring.
Nicotiana is supposed to attract moths but I’ve never had much luck with it.

very Ironically I went downstairs and had a snack and suddenly out of the blue a bat apeared out the window. It is currently erratically flying around the garden so I watched it at the door. as a joke maybe it knew we were talking about them. I didn’t have my camara with me and it won’t let me take pictures at the moment so I can’t send it to I spot but it was very fun and entertaining watching it. Moths can be fun to watch as well. for me it’s fun to watch them regardless of weather there resting or flying about but it was very exiteing

If you can photograph a bat in flight, you are way ahead of me, Zo!

And solidarity from me too, Jins. I saw these yesterday to share with you. You may know what they are - I don’t.

Well I take photos of birds in flight even when Im walking they pass in as little as 3 seconds sometimes I also take photos of them in the passenger seat of the car in the back when someone takes me for a drive somewhere when the car is going and my photos normally come out clear so you wouldn’t think it was taken In the car. Im able to do the same with Butterflys and moths aswell as Bumblebees and other insects and invertrevretes so im definitely going to try. I tryed to get photos of the bats last year but it was in September so the light was too low though you could just make the bat out I took some videos of the bat aswell

but now it’s spring and summer so it’s lighter in the evenings which might help And will try to take photos of them when I see them even just the exitment of seeing them is enough for me to want to grab my device and take photos of them same with other wildlife. I have saved up to 300 pounds to get a mirrorless camara and it is at home ready for Going on holiday next Monday so hopefully my photos will be even better when I do even though my photos are very good anyway they will be even better. I do take photos of wildlife when there still aswell but cause I’m good at taking photos of things that move I try to take photos of them in flight

I usually use some of my money on getting bird food for the birds and other things but I have been planting more Wildflowers and look for more variety iv also been working on my wildlife pond, and taking care of my bird bath to make sure they can still have a drink if there thirsty so havnt spent much money on stuff.

but iv planted sunflowers so that the Bumblebees can pollinate them and then eventually produce sunflower seeds for me to feed the birds so that I don’t have to buy any and the wildlife benefit from it at the same time. even though I have stopped putting bird food out some birds are still visiting iv had goldfinches and long tailed tits recently. birds that Eat insects benefit from insects.

Iv had birds occasionally looking around in my wildflower borders for instance. Iv been working on Attracting more insects to the garden and I have a lot of them now. Even more than normal. I also have a butterfly visiting very occasionally and is interested in my pond could be that it comes for a drink. Not only do I have lots of insects and invertrevretes including moths I have had lots of moth caterpillars.

cause I have been too busy to buy much things I decided to save my money for a mirorless camara cause a camara is more my thing than a smartphone and it has a bigger sensor than a smartphone. Of course attracting insects also attracts bats. I find insects not only exiteing sometimes but also relaxing sometimes And very interesting to watch aswell. Bats are also very entertaining to watch aswell though and cause I’m used to taking photos of things that move I would probably be able to get photos of them when I get the chance to

Good idea to grow sunflowers to get seeds for the birds!

I would be nice to have bats using my two new bat boxes but there’s no sign of them doing so yet - and they’ve been up three years now.

I look forward to seeing what you get with your new camera… and great that you are doing so much to make your garden more wildlife friendly. My aim is to identify 1,000 animals in my garden. It’s slow work as I only count ones that have been verified - which means I have to photograph them and get them accepted by my county recorder or equivalent. I must count up but I think I’m well into the 800s now after about 20 years at this address.

Bats seem quite good at getting into roof spaces rather than bat boxes.

I’m so very sorry that you are carrying such a heavy burden at the moment Hannah, but when you list what you are having to deal with, I think you are managing to cope extraodinarily well. Your grandma and grandpa must feel so thankful to have such a wonderfully loving granddaughter like you to support them. Don’t all of us turn to watching and being among wildlife when life becomes unbearable, and thank goodness we can. So full of delight, offering us unasked for gifts, it makes no demands on us so we don’t have to pretend to be alright when we’re not, and doesn’t expect us to give when we have nothing left to give. For me the best thing is that when I am watching an insect or a bird or even the breeze through the grasses or the sound of wind in the trees, or the river splashing over stones, it’s such a blessed respite from churning over problems which can seem quite overwhelming - who can worry when watching a damselfly fluttering among the reeds? It may only be momentary but it helps to give us the strength to carry on and when lying sleepless at night, comforting images to dwell on to drive away despair.