SAGE Greenfingers: Dare to Dream
Charlotte Jackson talks about SAGE Greenfingers is a local charity that supports adults with mental health problems through creative therapeutic activities such as gardening, crafts and singing. Here, a member of the gardening group shares their story of how the group has aided their recovery and wellbeing.
Since being a child I have struggled with anxiety and had spells of depression. These spells of anxiety and confusion are very difficult to cope with and over the last few years I have been very unhappy and found life hard. My life started to turn around when I changed my GP practice and started seeing a new doctor. I told her how low I was feeling after a very stressful time at work and she referred me to SAGE Greenfingers. Before I first came to visit the group, SAGE phoned me and talked about what happens at the group. They even offered to meet me or even collect me from home if I needed someone to go to the group with for the first time. It helped enormously knowing that someone would be there and would support me when first walking into the group. Everyone was so kind and welcoming. The way in which the group worked was explained to me and at no point did I feel any pressure to be anything or do anything that I didn’t feel comfortable with.
To be honest, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to just be my numb, depressed, anxious self, knowing that good people were looking out for me. I feel a great sense of internal bliss to be outdoors in such a lovely space where there is simple, physical tasks that I can do. The group even arrange it so one of the volunteers spends time with you and they can be with you for the whole session if needs be – so I am never on my own if I don’t want to be. The group has been such an anchor for me, it has been my rock through a difficult time which I am now beginning to leave behind. It delivers a comforting routine and is a physical and cultural oasis in a geographical area experiencing high levels of deprivation.
The most enjoyable thing about coming to Greenfingers has to be the soothing reliability of it all – of something positive. It’s where I go and what I do at 11:00am every Tuesday. A place where I can be me, be welcomed, have some jobs to do and be around good company. In my home life, I am used to being in the position of the carer so to be amongst people who genuinely care about me still surprises me.
The group has offered me a structure, a learning experience and a place to demonstrate my gardening skills. It gives me the opportunity to communicate with a range of people, to hear others stories, to tell my own and put a new perspective on it. It allows me to give and receive kindness, respect, compassion and friendship, as well as allowing me to have a laugh. I have learnt how to grow fruit and vegetables and learnt the language so that I can talk to others involved in gardening and conservation work. When I first came to Greenfingers, I was struggling with anxiety and stress but through my time and learning with the group, I have gained the confidence to learn new skills and build on my old ones. I have taken that knowledge and experience out into the world and I am now involved in a local environmental project of which I am the secretary. Being a member of Greenfingers has given me the opportunity and confidence to get back out there and get involved in community action at a city-wide level. I am now applying for jobs and Greenfingers is still there for me, supporting me all the way.
Although I still struggle with my mental health I am hopeful for the future. On a bad day I see myself trapped in my personal circumstances, my gender and my age, trying to make the best of things. However, on a good day, I remember that I aspire to return to studying fine art through drawing and writing. I’d like to be facing my twilight years, looking back on my life as a life lived well because I have been known and I have known others that can be remembered as kind and loving people. Through SAGE Greenfingers, I feel like I have come such a long way in such a short time. I ultimately think that the group is still beneficial to me and is inadvertently reminding me of my personal values.
Written by Charlotte Jackson.