This week’s highlight, from Issue 135, features an interview with top political journalist and wildflower enthusiast, Isabel Hardman, who used her love of nature to recover from mental illness.
Over to Isabel…
Where did your love for wildflowers come from?
As a kid I learnt the different garden plants. It was only this year that I got really into botany. I was on sick leave. I have post-traumatic stress disorder, and the symptoms are depression and anxiety, and lots of flashbacks. Focusing on nature makes you attend to the now, rather than what has happened or might happen. It helps take me away from the flashbacks, as well as the depression and the anxiety. It doesn’t solve it, but it makes it a bit better.
How exactly does that work?
When I was very sick, I started to go for lots of walks and write down and photograph every wildflower that I found. I didn’t know as many as I thought, so I started to learn more. It wasn’t a cure, but I just felt a little bit better about the world.
Then someone posted a picture of a fly orchid and I didn’t even know they existed! The next day I went to the reserve and found it, and the greater butterfly orchid, and twayblade, and all these beautiful flowers. I was still really sick and I had lots of bad thoughts as I was walking around, but it was much better than spending my day lying in bed. It became a way of treating myself. If you’re trying to find a fly orchid, which is so tiny, you can’t focus on the mad stuff, because you’re having to keep looking the whole time.