Going back to my roots – how nature helped me
Top nail artist Kate blogs about how discovering a love of gardening has helped her tackle her depression and anxiety.
Kate loves singing, reading and nature.
I was brought up in Taunton, the county town of Somerset, in the South West of England. It’s a beautiful part of the country, surrounded by hills and nature.
I spent my childhood roaming through fields with my friends, dissecting unfortunate insects, making mud pies and climbing trees.
Somewhere along the line I turned into a rebellious teenager, where smoking and shoplifting, snogging boys and dabbling with illegal substances became my norm.
By then nature bored me to tears. I thought it was something old people were into and I was way too cool to stop and smell the flowers.
I moved to London and after a few years of random jobs and random house shares I found my feet and landed a job as one of London’s top nail artists.
I was tending to the nails of celebs like Frank Ocean and Missy Elliott, traveling around Europe, working at fashion shows and photo shoots, basically living my best life.
Or so I thought.
What I haven’t touched on yet is my history of mental health issues, stemming from tricky family dynamics and exacerbated by traumatic life experiences I had a cocaine habit in my late teens and early twenties, mixed with questionable characters and got into all sorts of sticky situations. I suffered a miscarriage in my mid-twenties and was raped a year later. Truth be told I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I was 15, and I’m now 33.
When I was a teenager I didn’t take it seriously. I thought that I was just “overwhelmed with life”, as my dad tactfully put it. I tried different things; I read self-help books, I self-medicated with drugs, and struggled on, swinging from the darkness of depression to something resembling happiness.
Thankfully in my mid-twenties I was finally diagnosed with depression and anxiety, put on antidepressants and after a few months wait, given therapy. Things improved to the extent that I was able to carve out my glamorous career in the fashion industry.
Fast forward to the end of 2016 and I was slowly but surely unravelling. I was at the peak of my career and I’d stopped taking my medication, because, well, I was fixed now wasn’t I?
I was completely wrapped up in my career. Then loads of bad things happened in quick succession. I fell out with a close friend, my cat died, I had to move house, a cancer scare, and yet another doomed relationship ended
"I woke every morning at 5:30am, I had no appetite as I constantly felt sick with anxiety, I was chain smoking and I couldn’t work."
It was the perfect recipe for a full-blown episode of acute anxiety and depression with cannabis-induced psychosis for good measure.
I woke every morning at 5:30am, I had no appetite as I constantly felt sick with anxiety, I was chain smoking and I couldn’t work.
"I had no option but to return to Taunton, to my parents. I needed looking after and I sure as hell couldn't look after myself."
All I could do was lie on my bed wide awake with Chill FM on really quietly (I couldn’t tolerate silence and I couldn’t tolerate noise), and a bottle of lavender oil under my nose to try to calm me down.
It got to the point where I had no option but to return to Taunton, to my parents. I needed looking after and I sure as hell couldn't look after myself.
One sunny afternoon a few months into breakdown hell, I watched mum as she scraped moss out from the cracks in the patio. I looked so satisfying so I asked if I could have a go.
Before long I’d de-mossed the entire patio and was now trimming the edges of the grass with a pair of scissors. This seemingly insignificant act, scraping moss from a stone, was the catalyst of my recovery. I felt like I was doing something worthwhile, I had a purpose! I could see the results before my eyes. The patio was looking better and better and I was helping my parents by doing a tedious job in the process. But tedious for me it was not! It required just enough effort for me to push the trowel through the soil and moss. But not too much to overwhelm me.
"As I focused on getting the cracks clean of moss, I forgot I was ill, and felt stillness within me, like nothing I’d felt in months."
As I focused on getting the cracks clean of moss, I forgot I was ill, and felt stillness within me, like nothing I’d felt in months. It gave my overworked, strung-out brain a break.
I started to do little jobs in the garden each day; a bit of weeding here, a bit of trimming there, even a few seeds tentatively planted and dutifully watered.
I liked the feeling of soil in my hands; it literally grounded me. I saw little shoots of seeds I’d planted in the earth, and each day I would water them, weed them and marvel at the wonder of nature. I successfully grew runner beans, lettuce, parsley, spring onions and a carrot (yes just the one).
The more I gardened the better I felt, and the more I realised I needed to live back in the countryside.I couldn’t go back to my life in London, back to living in the middle of the city, with sirens wailing 24/7. I realised how essential nature is to my well-being. I craved space, greenery, the tweeting of birds and the sky at night lit up with a blanket of stars.
I know I was fortunate – most people can’t just leave their lives behind and move to the countryside however much they want to.
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