Stuart's Gardening in Greenwich

greenwich park again

I was diagnosed with OCD when I was 18. It is called “Intrusive Thought” OCD and I'd had it for seven years before I told anyone about it and received a diagnosis. Since then I have been recovering from the symptoms but have been left with depression and social anxiety.

I’d been out of paid work for about 10 years. The last 10 years I was living in France in a mindfulness centre. I was working in a volunteer capacity on an organic farm. It was here that I became interested in gardening.

The reason I returned to the UK was to train to be a psychotherapist and to receive professional support for my mental health issues.

I began meeting with Ben Weatherall, an Employment Specialist at Twining Enterprise, in October of 2016. We met for the last time in May 2017 although Ben has kindly let me know that he is always available for a chat if ever I need some support.

It was very helpful to meet with Ben and talk to someone who knows the challenges facing people with mental health difficulties as they enter the workplace. The first half of the sessions tended to be Ben asking me about my mental health that week and how I had been feeling.

He listened really well and showed that he cared and understood what I was going through. It was very validating to receive this kind of empathy.

The second half of the sessions tended to be goal setting for the coming week. We would set achievable goals to move me in the direction of getting a job. Some examples were updating my CV, spending an hour a week looking for jobs on the internet, researching volunteer roles, and applying for two jobs a week and so on.

Ben also worked to help me remain relatively stable during this often stressful time of looking for work. He encouraged me to ensure that I was getting the appropriate care for my mental health conditions, to reward myself for the progress I made, and to take time out each day to relax.

Ben gave also gave me some great contacts such as Greenwich Local Labour and Business (GLLAB) and other different avenues for looking for work. The GLLAB contact actually led to me getting my current job. GLLAB is an organisation in Greenwich which supports people to get back into work. They sent me on some courses including a CV workshop and a Career Confidence workshop. After this I signed up for a six month placement as a Gardener for Greenwich Council.

On my first day on the placement I heard that a full time job was being advertised and was encouraged to apply. With support, I applied for and was offered the job.

When the weather is nice it is a lovely job. My mental health is still a major issue. It is on the edge of my capacity to hold down a job and balance my mental health. My boss knows I have mental health issues though so it helps that I can talk about it with him.

My main difficulty is social anxiety. I find it very uncomfortable being around people all day. I'm doing my best to learn how to cope with this though and working outside helps. Being in nature calms me down and it is less pressurised than an office environment.

Stuart has always enjoyed nature and contributing to community projects. With determination and the right support he has secured work helping to maintain and look after Greenwich's community spaces.

During our time working together Stuart has shown great courage to try things outside of his comfort zone to improve his wellbeing, connect with people and move towards work. It was a pleasure to hear him reflect with intelligence and honesty on these experiences at our meetings. I've also learned a lot from our discussions and I'm really glad he has found a role that works for him.

Ben Weatherill, Employment Advisor, Twining Enterprise

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