Lara had a good job, was earning good money and despite having a very stressful job which was also emotionally challenging, she felt positive about life. Unfortunately, she then lost her job and after applying for several jobs and repeatedly being rejected she started to have feelings of failure, something she had not really suffered from before. She gradually got into debt and had to move back in with her parents and over the next year a series of unexpected events added to her emotional stress and Lara developed obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression. As a result, she chose to isolate herself.
Lara started at the Joseph Palmer centre for treatment and they recommended the Community Allotment but Lara didn’t think gardening was for her. However, her Mum kept pushing her to give it a go and eventually they came along together just to see for themselves what the project was all about.
In the beginning Lara felt nervous, didn’t want to talk to anyone and felt that she didn’t know what she was doing. However, knowing she had the option of working on her own when she wanted to, she slowly started speaking and working with other people. She loved the fact that there was no pressure and started coming regularly on both Tuesday and Fridays.
After a while Lara discovered she really enjoyed being outside and growing things and seeing how things changed over time and it gave her a sense of accomplishment. It felt great to feel part of a team achieving things in the garden. Slowly Lara regained her confidence and self-esteem. “It got me out of the house, doing things, achieving things and socialising again”
Lara remembers thinking and feeling that she was the only person in the world experiencing and dealing with these feelings of depression but meeting people going through similar things in a place where there was no judgement or pressure, made her realise she’s not the only one. “It was reassuring to attend the project; it was like a light-bulb moment – I am not alone.”
Another volunteer introduced Lara to a group where she could do self-employed gardening. From there she decided that horticulture was something she wanted to pursue as a career. Working part time and attending the Community Allotment gave Lara the confidence to search for full time employment. Now Lara has been offered a job working for a Horticulture and Arts centre for special educational needs and disability (SEND) adults.
“That’s where I am now, excited about making a new start. I feel like I was able to achieve this because of the community allotment, the environment and the people. I am so grateful for the opportunity and experience the Community Allotment project has given me.”