I was diagnosed with anorexia and borderline personality disorder at age 18. I went through three years of treatment and was then left to go it alone. I tried my best, I always got the job, I’d start off part-time, work my way up to full-time and then become ill again. At which point I didn’t know what the problem was, but I’d blame work, jack the job in and get a new one, and the cycle would start again. Each time I would generally become more and more unwell with each job. Finally, at 28 I had another spectacular breakdown and my world came crashing down again.
Back into mental health services, I once again had therapy. This time was different though. I got referred to a social enterprise called Organic Blooms. This is essentially a ‘return to work’ program for people with mental health problems or learning difficulties using gardening as a therapeutic medium. I was still very ill at the time I started. I couldn’t talk to people, it took all my concentration just to sow seeds. I could only manage a few hours a week. But gradually I became more confident, therapy was helping, and Organic Blooms was a safe space in which to practice my new skills for life. I worked my way up, I learnt how to manage my medication so that I could get up in the morning and started arriving on time. The better my mind became the more work I could do. I was able to leave the safety of the polytunnel and work in the field with a small team (a big step for me). I gradually worked my way up to being able to do three days a week.
There have been many bumps along the road, but Organic Blooms has been there to support me through my blips. Helping me to see ways to manage my illness and not let it stop me. Half the time all I needed was to chat it through with somebody who understands. I’ve learnt how to step back from a situation and figure out what is really going on, and be solutions focused instead of defeated.
Organic Blooms was then there for me to help me plan my next steps. I knew I wanted to continue to work in agriculture. So they helped me find a job one day a week at an English Heritage property maintaining their gardens. I was so delighted… a year on I’m still loving it! I have grown in confidence so much over the past year. Organic Blooms recognised my love for keeping things organised, and I now have a paid role at Organic Blooms doing work on the administrative side. I love that and want to take it further. So I am; Organic Blooms supported me applying for college and I’m now studying for a qualification in administration so that I can continue doing work which makes me happy.
I feel so blessed and fortunate to have had the support I have in which to build my life back up. Without it I do believe the whole cycle would have started again, and I wouldn’t be as recovered as I am now. I had a safe space in which to learn to walk again and all the support I needed to take my next steps.
I believe places like Organic Blooms should be the norm rather than the exception as it is now. A fully comprehensive recovery program is needed for people with mental health problems: we can recover, we just do need that bit of extra support.