Gardening Mental Health

A thank you from the bottom of my heart. **CONTENT WARNING – may contain references to eating disorders, mental health and of a sexual nature***

There is a lot going on in the news right now. Coronavirus is threatening a second wave, there has been a man killed by the very people who should have been protecting him – just because of the colour of his skin. Life isn’t normal by any means for anyone. We are without our friends and family – our normal support groups, but also very importantly; we are trying to live in a world without our normal coping mechanisms. The things I have learnt to do in rehabilitation therapy to manage my day to day, have dissolved. Possibilities of going back to work but it is all up in the air and completely uncertain. My normal places and activities are not suitable at the moment.

Throughout my recovery, I have talked about how gardening has saved my life. Years of working hard to achieve my little cottage allotment. Hours upon hours lost in that little patch of sacred land. My community there (albeit all 5 of us), have found such solace in our allotments during this strange period. We have all come together, helped with other jobs that others cannot manage, socialised at a distance and have probably achieved our best year yet.

So what happens when the allotment becomes no longer safe?

Whilst I can’t go into detail about what happened on Sunday, I can tell you that my world I had worked so hard for – fell apart.

Now before you read on – I would like to just put another content warning before you read on. It isn’t suitable to young eyes and I am angry.

**CONTENT WARNING – may contain references to eating disorders, mental health and of a sexual nature***

On Sunday, me and two other women were sexually assaulted and attacked at our allotment by a man.

I’m not going into anymore detail than that as it’s not necessary. But I am so fucked off that someone on their furlough time, decided that that was what they were going to do with their lockdown time. Oh I am going to force my body on vulnerable women.
I’m not just a sitting duck waiting for someone to come along do what they want. I won’t back down and I won’t back off. My FEMALE body is not meant for you to look at. It is not for anyone else’s pleasure but my damn own. I will wear what I want, swear when I want, and not adjust my behaviour to be a lady and please people.

My allotment is my LIFELINE. AS it is for the other ladies down there. We have disabilities, conditions, depression, ups and downs – but we are a network for each other. We pick each other up when we are feeling down. We help each other or get in the help for when our abilities are just so underwhelming. WE ARE OUR OWN THERAPY. We are there every day come rain or shine. Even out of hospital last year after my operations, I was sat there watering at night with packing up all in my sinuses for two weeks. I was there two days after major surgery. Why? Because I felt like I needed to be there. I needed everything I had worked hard for, around me.

I like to sit there and listen to the birds. There are so many noises from nature around. Sometimes even have the radio on and a couple of beers if the occasion arises. Just take in all the sounds and mindfully listen too what’s around me. I found my allotment one the only places I can do that and as a mother to a three year old – I value my time alone trust me. It’s the only time I get to enjoy my own company and learn to love myself again. Or did.

But never ever have I asked to be sexually assaulted or abused and I am pretty fucking sick of it.

This is my second occasion THIS YEAR. Not in my life – this year so far. That’s disgusting.

My allotment is no longer safe for me on my own. Which is the one place I like to escape to on my own. It also seems kind of tainted. I have been up every day since but I have been extremely anxious.
Strangely too – I only go up when there are men there to protect me which seems weird right?
I have thought long and hard about writing something about expressing how I feel about this and I will be honest – I just don’t know. No one ever wants this so how do you process something that isn’t supposed to happen in the first place? Especially when it happened in the place you have taught yourself over and over in therapy, to use, utilise and love.

Where do I go from here? I’m there at the allotment but I cannot find the capacity to clear my mind enough to figure out what I need to get on with. I feel very numb and an overwhelming sense of shame. I can’t help but think to myself ‘do I dress inappropriately?’ or ‘do I give the wrong impression?’. But then I realised that it isn’t my fucking problem and I will dress how I want and just be who I am.

So whilst it’s all fresh and raw – I am trying my best to get up and out there. But I feel incredibly broken. I feel betrayed. I feel dead inside.

Unfortunately this has triggered other things I have worked hard to recover from. Chronic pain flooding back, taking back control through lack of eating and triggering my eating disorder, depression, huge problems with my body image and now a huge an unwelcome mistrust in human kind.

I won’t let someone take my allotment from me and all I achieve through it – but it will take me a while to get back to loving myself again and loving what I do,, which includes loving others. I cannot and will not let someone’s actions do that.

I just feel…sad. This is not okay.

Thank you to every single person who has sent me messages, called, emailed etc… I may not have replied but your messages have warmed my  heart. Thank you.


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  1. Anything I, as a fellow gardener could say, will certainly not change what has happened, but I hope there’s a surge of love & kindness from all who read your story. That allotment space won’t be the same for sure, but the plants you’ve nurtured will I hope nurture you back in return, & I hope you can continue to garden there, even if you have to go within a group… ?

  2. Kevin Smith says:

    So sad and can I apologise for my fellow men , please be aware that 99.999999999% of men are appalled by these type of animals and would willingly pull the trigger
    Take care and hopefully your path to recovery is quick and painless
    Once again, please don’t think all men are the same

  3. Mary Rogan says:

    I am so sad & disappointed to hear your pain. My allotment is my sanctuary too & I dread to think how I would feel to have that sanctuary destroyed so completely. I hope you can rebuild, your confidence, safety, heart soul & sanctuary. If there is ever anything I can do to support you through this please feel free. Strength, courage & wisdom I’m wishing for you.

  4. VIV ALDRED says:

    Try hard to not let them get to you. Take a rape alarm and deafen him when he’s being unacceptable and take photos. Name and shame.
    Stay strong xxx

  5. Simon Garrison says:

    I’am so appalled that something like this could happen in a place which was meant to be your solace and safe haven . I too use gardening as a way of escape along with trying to photograph wildlife and moving images. you are brave opening up and hoping you continue to keep strong .

  6. Megan says:

    O KJ, I’ve just read your blog, and it makes me want to cry and scream at the same time for you. You are so important in this world, you must not blame yourself for what happened, you just keep being you, and try to love yourself a bit more. Bad people and things don’t ever win, only good can, and you are certainly good. PS have planted my radishes in pots today, as I’ve said before to you, you inspire me ?

  7. Jenny says:

    It’s so wrong, I feel for you! Anytime you need an ear just message I’m here.

  8. Oh KJ, that’s horrific! But you‘re right, nobody has the right to dictate how how you dress or how you present yourself, the way we dress is not a reason for someone to take advantage of us. The problems lay squarely with them and I hope you can manage to get the confidence to relax in your sacred space back soon, please don’t let this obnoxious excuse for a human take away your place of solace and the enjoyment it brings. I hope he gets the justice he deserves? and you can claw back the strength and wellness you had worked so hard for. Sending hugs xx

  9. Gemma says:

    Ahh sweetheart I am sorry that has happened to you! And again!! No one should ever have to go through that and especially in a place where you feel safe. I have an allotment myself and I am an absolute beginnner and I find that it too is my sanctuary. Big hugs and love to you and all the other ladies there. Xx

  10. Jane says:

    I’m so sorry – that’s not ok. Most people are good but some are just awful. I hope this will pass and gardening will continue to be therapy for you.

  11. […] have probably read my previous blog ‘A thank you’ where I spoke up about being sexually assaulted at the allotment back in May […]

  12. Edward Mullan says:

    Ridiculous that you should have to contend with this kind of behaviour. Have you considered a body cam? (I am aware how ridiculous it is that you should have to resort to something like this, but may be good for securing evidence if it happens again).

  13. Roger says:

    I do not know you personally and have only known of your online existence for a few days, but when I read your blog entry I was moved to tears. That this should happen to you in your place of happiness and safety fills me with sadness and shame. Often, the narrative is around what women can do to stop themselves being attacked. This is the wrong question; the question is: what can men do to stop attacking women – and the answer is: don’t attack women.

    You have every right to be wherever you want to be and express yourself however you want to. I really hope that this unforgivable event does not stop you from doing that. It might for a while, but I would like to offer a gardening analogy for you, because you know that even if it takes a while, things will recover and grow. I have a Californian Lilac in my garden which I bought from the poorly section at my local garden centre. I planted it and it grew, but then the winter gales came and the frost in the air killed it and it looked as though I had planted 4 withered twigs. It wasn’t dead though. Deep inside, it was still alive and it was just taking time to repair itself. When the warmth of spring came, so did small green shoots of recovery. These small green shoots have grown into beautiful foliage. As a whole, the plant is actually stronger now than before the winds hit. It seems to have weathered the experience and come back as a better and more healthy version of itself. When it finally blossoms, come summer, it will be truly beautiful (if a little misshapen for the purist, the idiots) and all the bees, insects, birds and passing humans will benefit from its presence. You can be like my Californian Lilac.

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