Home My garden Coming to terms with disability when you’re a gardener

Coming to terms with disability when you’re a gardener

Times are changing for me and my garden
Times are changing for me and my garden

Blog: Or rather, NOT coming to terms with limited mobility…

I’m writing from a difficult place this week but I’m hoping my experiences will be a help to others. As the Tories infamously called it, I’m experiencing a double whammy.

The first is my worsening balance problems, so far blamed on Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), a joint hypermobility spectrum disorder. My collagen is too stretchy, leading to ligaments like elastic bands and terrible proprioception (the sense that tells the body where it is in space and how to coordinate it).

I’m used to stumbling around and walking like a drunk but this week I’ve had two proper ‘falls’. I’d rather say I fell over because I associate ‘she’s had a fall’ with something you’d say about your granny.

The first was on Tuesday, simply standing up from sitting on the settee, doing a full 360º turn and landing in the corner of the room on my left knee, hip and weak wrist.

On Friday, I was picking raspberries and turned around – next thing I knew I was in the tropical bed with scraped shins, and bruised hips and wrists (again). The left one is back in a splint, however a patch of nasturtiums is in a worse state.

This is on top of the ongoing saga of my right shoulder, which has been partially dislocating for weeks, just because of the way I lie in bed.

Nasturtiums took the brunt of my second fall
Nasturtiums took the brunt of my second fall

Suffering from physical and mental pain

Physical pain goes in hand with mental pain, especially when your family won’t let you out of their sight, in case you hurt yourself. I feel like I’m losing my independence.

This is on top of my long-running relationships with anxiety and depression – even writing about it brings that all-too-familiar feeling of rising panic.

It’s been a terrible year for most of us but my mam died in January and we’re still going through the hell that is selling the house. I spent the first 21 years of my life in that house and now I can’t bear to go back. It’s become too painful.

Gardening has been my life and salvation for so long but I’m having to come to terms with the facts that I can’t do what I used to.

To cap it all, I also have epilepsy, which means I can’t use power tools, in case I cut my head off.

Trying to be logical about all this, I have to think about ‘futureproofing’ the garden, so I can manage it more easily and there aren’t as many deathtraps. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know!

View from the tropical bed, July 24
View from the tropical bed, July 24

Problems

  • Twisting, narrow paths made of gravel – terrible for someone with poor balance.
  • Everything is crammed in as the garden is not big, making access very difficult.
  • Many of my plants are in large pots – I like exotics which are taken under glass during winter.
  • The conservatory is on the first floor, so everything has to be carried up there. There are 40+ tomato plants in there at the minute!
  • The huge hedge, which I gave up cutting long ago.
  • The greenhouse held together by bits of T-Rex Tape.
Tropical bed with ginger, bananas and Coleus, June 19
Tropical bed with ginger, bananas and Coleus

Solutions

  • It would cost a fortune to get rid of the gravel and we couldn’t afford that (that’s why I used it in the first place, it was cheap) – maybe try putting in posts at regular intervals to hold on to?
  • Limit the number of plants (gulp). I have started to replant areas with perennials so I don’t need to grow annuals each year – a pity, since I enjoy that. I am letting some self-seed Like Californian poppies.
  • I can’t give up my big exotics. They make me who I am. Looks like I’m going to have to rely on other people to move them for me.
  • In the conservatory, I’ve stopped using growbags, as they’re so heavy. This year’s trial of half bush tomatoes instead of all cordons has worked quite well – far fewer to tie in and get up ladders. Next year, it may be all bushes.
  • We’ve been using Cooneys Tree Services for years, as Billy the Hedge Man (that’s what I call him) is a proper forester and knows his trees and hedges. He comes along in late August and shapes the hedge ready for winter – Gary usually does the early cut but I think we might ask Billy to do both. It’s money well spent.
  • I really need a new greenhouse. This is not going to be cheap but having somewhere to put the exotics without having to lift them up a flight of stairs would be an advantage. I need to save my pennies!

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