So it’s been a while. In fact I wondered if I would ever write again as 14 days after my last post, I was taken ill and had, as many of you will know, had a mild stroke, but none the less a stroke. Whilst I really don’t want to focus on that, it was a terrifying few days that have had massive impact on the last year, and have made me really stop and think about what’s important to me, as well as made me focus on some stuff that is deeply uncomfortable but has needed focus and determination to get through. Whilst I am 75% back to where I was before that day, I am still struggling with energy levels, with some left side weakness and with the isolating anxiety that seems to go with this level of illness. But most of all I am still struggling with the amount of self care I need to exercise, which often feels like complete selfishness, especially when exhaustion forces me to stop and feel that I am letting people down.
But rather than focus on the negative, I’m here to really talk about what has kept me going over the last few months as I get used to what is, inevitably, my new normal, and that has, of course, been my tiny garden. Whilst for the first several months I couldn’t actually garden, what I could do was wrap myself up in a blanket and sit, even on the coldest days, on the chair, drink hot tea and listen to the birds in the trees behind us, and as the spring progressed, watch the first bees, as they appeared on the spring bulbs and primulas. As winter slowly turned to spring I watched as the bulbs, kindly planted for me by a friend when I still was in bed, began to poke up above the soil, and slowly began to flower, and watch as buds appeared and swelled and finally began to burst open. I remember sobbing as the first of the primulas opened, just with the joy of knowing that whilst I felt trapped and in a body I didn’t even recognise, everything was carrying on as normal and the seasons were turning. With each bloom has come a deeper connection with the garden and it’s immense power to heal and support me even in the hardest moments. When I felt no medicines were working and the anxiety was getting the best of me, when it felt as if the adrenaline that just won’t go away would burst out of me, and when I was convinced I was having another stroke because the anxiety was mimicking the symptoms of stroke, sitting in the garden, breathing and taking in that days change, supported me in a way nothing else could.
Nature,I realised, was the key. Going for tiny walks in local parks with friends, driving to the occasional garden centre or garden, the beaches on the north Somerset coast, all allowed my brain to stop, my body to calm and the panic to slowly slide away. Watching wading birds at Slimbridge, going to see the starling murmurations at Ham Wall, and watching as nature woke up as spring arrived gave me moments to live for and to remember in moments of panic and anxiety.
People, of course have also played an extraordinary part. Texts, messages on social media, phone calls and visitors all kept me from going completely insane. From the moment I reached out on Twitter from hospital and asked for pictures of plants, I have felt swaddled by the most incredible community of gardeners that are there, and the same is true of Instagram. I’m pretty sure Rob Smith and Darren Lakin have no idea how much their tweets about Rob’s Buggery, (bug hotel), kept me sane as I battled through the dark days of winter whilst Andy was at work and I was almost to scared to get out of bed .Beautiful messages from people who know who they are, and who promised the flowers would bloom again, were more than just messages, but supported real moments of hope and a realisation that I wasn’t alone. I knew, at any point I could reach out and there was someone there. Daily messages from folk just checking in meant more than I could ever say, but those people know who they are, and that their kindness was so much appreciated. And all the time the incredible people here in Bristol were keeping me sane with visits, flowers, gifts, phone calls and keeping up the work I wasn’t able to do.
But now I’m back. I’m working on what’s next because that has to change and whilst I will always lead on Incredible Edible Bristol, my role is morphing to be fully strategic and less and less practical. So more writing will happen here, I’m doing loads of writing on the Incredible Edible Network site and I’ll be active as ever on the socials! So if you’d like me to focus on anything in particular do get in touch!!