Debbie's story

It’s definitely changed my life. It’s given me something to get up for in the morning. I’m getting back to the Debbie I used to be.

Debbie“I used to work for a big accountancy firm in the City where I was a PA to a number of directors and their teams. I was bullied by one of the directors I was a PA for: He was making my life hell. I used to absolutely dread going to work.

In December 2008 I was made redundant and I was relieved to be able to leave. After the Christmas period I was busily applying for jobs but not getting anywhere. As it went on and on I felt more and more despondent. I thought 'What is the point?'. I started feeling pretty useless. After 19 months of making applications and not getting a single interview my confidence was getting worse. I was bursting into tears at any opportunity. I started having panic attacks on the underground and in the supermarket. I was also drinking too much, had constant low energy: I could basically sleep all day.

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. After the Doctor told me I went outside, called my mum and burst into tears, I was so relieved that someone had recognised it. The doctor then referred me to PoLLeN (therapeutic horticulture project). The first time I came [to the Bromley by Bow Centre] I thought it was so lovely, walking through the gates to see a green courtyard. It’s really calming. When I first visited I thought 'Can I do this, can I cope with it?' I’d be meeting new people in a strange environment. I was really nervous.

The group are really down to earth. No one is judging you. When I was coming here I started feeling better about myself and better about life. We started off digging and clearing the flower beds in the rain but I didn’t mind.

There are days I can’t face it but I come here and talk to people and leave with a smile on my face. This summer I completed my vocational accreditation in horticulture (NCPT level 1) and am going on to do my Level 2.

Lisa (project coordinator) could see I was really interested and suggested that I could do a work placement at Core Horticulture [partner mental health organisation]. I’m really pleased that I’ve taken that step and I’m experiencing a new environment. I want to work in horticulture and I feel like I’m moving in the right direction.”

You can find out more about PoLLeN here.