Kate Cruise: The simple, therapeutic power of nature

leaf pattern

I started volunteering with Oasis in March 2016, seeing it as a way to meet people and reduce the isolation of working from home with my fledgling design business. The regular gardening sessions provide structure and inspiration as I love nature, being in the fresh air and exercise.

Among the numerous tasks involved with gardening, I have made a path in the polytunnels with woodchips, providing a dry and clean floor, and sown seeds and vegetables such as carrots and parsnips. I have helped with the inevitable watering and also planted out some flowers, dug up leeks and harvested salad leaves for sale on the barrow outside the Health Authority building.

Oasis has helped me feel more positive, after several episodes of clinical depression.

A lot of my issues were to do with the fact I’d worked incredibly hard to get good grades at school and university and upon graduation the only job I could get locally was a poorly paid menial job which was incredibly soul destroying. I found some more suitable work in schools then trained to be a teacher which was much more interesting and rewarding.

Unfortunately the stress of that job meant that the depression returned and after qualifying I realised I couldn’t work as a teacher and maintain my health. After several major depressive episodes in my twenties I took time out to recover, had several courses of treatment of CBT (where I was also diagnosed with OCD). I moved my focus to what made me feel better such as walking, being in nature, exercising and I also had art therapy at Mind. It was here that I remembered how much I loved drawing and painting and I took my art work to a local college and enrolled on an Art Foundation diploma. I passed with distinction, specialising in printed textile design and last year set up my business with support from The Prince’s Trust and the Printing Charity.

I am still finding my feet with my business but I am hoping to find success with it because it makes me happy. I feel like I’ve finally found work I enjoy that also allows me to maintain positive mental health.

The project has helped me learn new skills, and I’ve even been able to pass these on to other volunteers. There’s something very satisfying about gardening. I felt great after digging up four beds for carrots – much better than I’d have been at home on the computer. There’s a simple, but therapeutic power to nature and gardening.


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