Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Nature's Lifeline; Garden Offers Michelle an Opportunity to Heal

Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Nature's Lifeline; Garden Offers Michelle an Opportunity to Heal

Article excerpt

Byline: Letea Cavender

MICHELLE Parry had started drinking so much she would fall over. She was at the lowest emotional point of her life following the news her unborn child had Down syndrome and the subsequent termination of the pregnancy.

In 2013, Michelle, then aged 38, moved from Hervey Bay in Queensland to the Sunshine Coast to be with her partner. They had met later in life and, soon after the move, they decided to have a child.

In preparation for the pregnancy, Michelle stopped taking her anti-depressants. These factors, combined with the heart-breaking decision she made following her baby's diagnosis, led to intense feelings of emotional, physical and social isolation.

At her lowest point, Michelle started cutting herself and drinking in an attempt to stop the mental health issues she had battled since her teenage years.

"I've got a chronic history of anxiety and depression and I get very overwhelmed, I get socially anxious and start to go into my own world, which makes me depressed. It's really important for me to interact with people, and to also have a purpose," she said.

Michelle knew she needed to make social connections. However, it was with apprehension that she walked through the doors of the Yandina Community Gardens for the first time to attend a workshop. She felt uncomfortable, and did not want to be in a room with strangers. Fast-forward three years and Michelle, 41, is now the president of the non-profit organisation. She credits the garden with being a lifeline that saved her from her downward emotional spiral.

"Sometimes it was a matter of coming in here to the gardens, even if I found it really hard to be around people, just to get out of the house," Michelle said.

"It's been somewhere to belong but it's also healing in that it's outdoors, it's growing things, but more than anything it's the people, it's that sense of community. We're doing something valuable here. We're teaching people to grow their own food, we're teaching people how to be healthy, we're teaching people to be connected and that so sits with who I am."

Michelle now spends about 35 hours a week, unpaid, on garden and administration duties. …

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