In yesterday’s post, I opened up about how developing schizophrenia in my early 30s led me to re-discover gardening, having enjoyed helping my parents around the garden at my childhood home in Whangarei when I was a kid. Because this is a gardening blog, I don’t want to write too much about my health issues. If you want, you can read about my journey at https://www.anitakundu.co.nz/mind. To summarise, I have encountered the following health problems over the past eight years:
I started our garden simply by planting a lily (Hot Spot) in Dad’s memory. I didn’t know anything about growing lilies and didn’t even expect it to flower. When it did, I became hooked and from there, the garden grew. At first, I started off just with flowers (mainly bulbs), then started growing some veggies. I added a few roses and bit by bit, our front lawn gave way to the garden. The range of what I grew also expanded. In the past eighteen months, I added some fruit trees and berries. I consider the garden to be “complete but not finished”, if that makes sense.
Against the background of battling all of the above issues, I found gardening to be very therapeutic. It gave me an outlet and took my mind off my problems (although over time it presented new problems to think about!). In my opinion, medication alone isn’t enough when confronted with these kinds of health issues, a view that was propounded by a couple of health professionals from Counties Manukau who visited me when I was sick once. I strongly believe that plants have healing properties, whether taken medicinally or not. A couple of years ago, I noticed a stray cat that had decided to make a home for herself in our garden. She always seemed depressed, too. In time, she found a way into our hearts and became our cat. Pets can be wonderful therapy for dealing with depression.
I used to be a lawyer. While I did try to return to the workforce several times, in light of all of my health issues, I found that I could no longer hold down a full time job. For a long time, I felt angry that I was forced to step off the career track as a corporate lawyer by no choice of my own as I worked very hard at school, university and in my formative years as a lawyer at one of the largest and oldest commercial law firms in London and Paris. Over time, the garden became my work, if you like. I even ran a boutique nursery from home last year, selling plants and hosting workshops to educate locals about how to grow their own food. I always feel like I’m making up for lost time. I work damned hard (with only two weeks holiday per year I work like an American) and take what I do very seriously (maybe too much so). I’m in a good place now in terms of my health, but it took a long time (and a lot of hard work) to get here. I really resent our busybody neighbours for (i) prying into my mental health issues which are obviously an incredibly sensitive issue (yet apparently spying on the neighbours, asking them lots of personal questions and gossiping about them constantly constitutes so-called normal behaviour?) and (ii) for judging me when I was unable to work and genuinely unwell, even though they don’t work themselves. People can be very quick to criticise others, when they should be looking to themselves first for self-improvement. As for me, I’ve learnt to flip things around and look at life more positively. Living with (and living down) a mental illness isn’t easy, but it is achievable. I’ve accepted my issues and worked hard to find solutions. Developing our garden is a part of that. In the future, I’d like to branch out into other ventures. I see my blog as a stepping stone to bigger projects. I’ve thought of writing a book about gardening and in time, possibly other things too.
Today’s photo is of an oriental trumpet lily which has just started flowering.