Lucy’s Story

“Going to Growing Well has literally turned my life upside down. I am a different person. I am confident and no longer apologetic. I have made so many friends and have the confidence to go out and meet other people”

Lucy, 25, was working as a corporate lawyer in Manchester and during the pandemic was locked down in her city centre home. As someone who now knows she needs to be in nature every day, it was a tough time. But it also came on the back of previous traumas: struggles with her physical health as a teenager; being sexually assaulted on a train in 2015 and a subsequent lengthy trial process; and her coming out as pansexual not being well received by her mum. Add in working days lasting as long as 19 hours and she was en route to burn-out and breakdown.

“I felt a misfit at work. All this accumulated and in the pandemic it got to a point where I couldn’t manage it. I had CBT, talking therapy and medication for anxiety which helped to an extent, but my mental health was on a downward spiral.”

Lucy had moved with her partner Alice Bell, a secondary school art teacher, to Kendal in June 2021, and continued to work for her law firm until October.

“The anxiety led to depression. I got stuck on the sofa, I couldn’t go anywhere, I had lost all my confidence and was really anxious. I finally resigned in January this year,” she explains. “We are all weeds in life, in other words we all have inner beauty, but society and the system pull us out if we’re seen as not belonging.”
She had heard of Growing Well after seeing an episode of the BBC’s Hairy Bikers and was encouraged by her GP to join. “I was very nervous, so scared of coming but on the first day I worked closely with James. He taught me how to prune an apple tree. It was so wildly different and new and unlike anything I had ever done before. James can tell you so many horticultural facts and his passion rubs off on you.”
Within a month, she reached a turning point. “I was working in the fields with another beneficiary and she opened up about her mental health. I thought ‘if she can do that and share that with me then I can too’. Having that freedom and space to talk helped me offload; being here in nature with other people who understand what it feels like to feel depressed or anxious.

“It has taught me that it is possible to be somewhere where you are respected and valued for who you are and whatever you’re able to do; that it’s OK to ask anything no matter how stupid.”

In fact, over time, she has developed a reputation. “One particular skill l’m known for being very good at Is broad forking; it’s part of bed preparation and apparently I’m quite good at it. I love the sounds of the repetitive activities in the field as well as the birds, bees and the scents.

“It’s so rewarding to sow seeds and to see them grow into a plant that you then get to maintain and ultimately harvest. Plant maintenance is a wonderful chance to slow down to nature’s pace.”

As well as working on the farm one of her favourite things is making lunch for everyone. “It’s such a buzz, the kitchen is full of positive energy and people are really excited to see what we have cooked. One day it might be curry with lentils or chickpeas and any vegetables we get off the field like sweet turnips, potatoes, kale, spinach or chard. People are exposed to a very varied cuisine at Growing Well; trying something new is important for our wellbeing.”

Lucy has been signposted by Growing Well to other activities and is now an active open water swimmer thanks to an introduction to Blue Mind Swim. She also started to do unsupported volunteering with Citizens Advice, although it has confirmed that her future does not lie in an office and she has decided not to return to law saying, “it’s not the right environment for me”.

Having played piano and guitar for many years and performed musical theatre since she was seven, she has returned to this too, setting up Kendal Musical Theatre Choir. Its ten members meet at Studio Pugh, in New Shambles, Kendal, on Wednesdays at 7pm. “I tested the idea with other beneficiaries at Growing Well and the choir’s first two members were fellow Growing Well beneficiaries. Music is an important activity to have in my routine and now I have more time to play.”
Participating in Growing Well also rebuilt her confidence enough to start writing on social media about mental health and her personal journey. “I really enjoy sharing information on mental health and wellbeing; I’m a big believer in holistic healing.

“Going to Growing Well has literally turned my life upside down,” she adds. “I am a different person. I am confident and no longer apologetic. I have made so many friends and have the confidence to go out and meet other people.

“I can see how much I’ve changed and grown in the past six months. I’ve also got so much knowledge that I didn’t have before and an appreciation of the cycle and seasons of growing.”

Lucy adds: “I really wanted to get better. When I was signed off work I asked my GP what else I could be doing because although mental health support in Cumbria is fantastic, the waiting lists for talking therapies were long.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I hope it will involve spending lots of time outdoors because I really benefit from being in nature.

“I am still working on my mental health; I love coming here, it’s a magical place. This is the first time I have finished therapy and felt like I’m going to be OK.”

First published in Cumbria Life, October 2022