October is coming to an end and this month our theme has been all about mental health awareness. It’s a topic we talk about a lot as it’s something personal to me and is central to why we do what we do, here at Sow Clever.
I’ve talked about my mental health journey here, but today I wanted to go a bit deeper and talk about the specifics of my challenges around anxiety and OCD.
Looking back, I was anxious from a young age, starting around 11 or 12. I’ve always been very concerned with upsetting or harming people and would worry for hours about whether I had said or done something that may be misconstrued.
Later in life after I had my son Isaac, I became consumed with whether I was doing a good job as a mum. Was I inadvertently harming him in some way? I tortured myself about not being able to breastfeed ‘properly’ and having to combination feed. Was I going to be able give Isaac enough antibodies so he didn’t get sick? I felt like a failure.
Being a new mum is hard and my anxiety made it harder. It sucked a lot of the joy out of the first year, which I look back on with a lot of sadness. I felt so guilty that I wasn’t loving being a mum with a newborn. Society tells us that it’s ‘the best feeling in the world’, so why wasn’t I feeling it?
It was around this time I went to the doctor and explained how I was feeling. He offered me anti-depressants and some cognitive behavioural therapy. Slowly I began to feel better.
Interestingly, at this point I didn’t see myself as an anxious person, just very sad and unhappy.
I had a good job, but an intense full-time role which took me away from Isaac (guilt, guilt and more guilt) but I cracked on. This was life, everyone was in the same boat. We moved to a house with a garden and a great community of neighbours who became our friends.
Our garden project was a lifesaver. John and I set about creating a space that we could relax in and enjoy the peace and quiet. Working outside took me away from the stresses of my job and helped to ease my anxiety. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment – gardening makes me happy!
Mentally, I was still up and down though. I had periods of time off work which affected my confidence. I remember a doctor asking if I was in the right job – another lightbulb moment. I started seriously thinking about a change of career in my early forties but it was only after my brother sadly passed away that I knew I had to make a change. Life is too short to work in a job that makes you ill.
So, after reading hundreds of articles about starting a business, I tentatively put a plan together. Combining a hobby I loved with the business experience I had developed over my professional career seemed the right way to go. However, the biggest driver for me was that I wanted to share the positive mental effects gardening had with others.
Last year, during the pandemic, I had a particularly difficult period of anxiety and was diagnosed with OCD. At this point I had some brilliant CBT which set me on the path to recovery.
Today I’m feeling much, much better. I have accepted that anxiety and OCD are part of who I am, and that’s OK! I am so pleased that mental health is being talked about much more and that it has risen up the corporate agenda. We must normalise mental illness and not be afraid to share our experiences if we feel able.
We donate 10% of our net profits to Mind the Mental Health Charity. They’re an amazing charity which supports people when they need it most. If you are struggling with your own mental health, there is help out there. Please click on the link below to find out more.