#DeedsNotWords Interview: Former Hafal Cardiff Service User Holly Goodfellow

In our latest #DeedsNotWords interview, we caught up with former Hafal Cardiff service user Holly Goodfellow. Here Holly looks back on her time at the gardening project in Hafal Cardiff and discusses the mental health issues facing women today.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background with mental illness?

I’m 43 and have had mental health issues for most of my life in one form or another. It came to a head in my early 30s and I had to stop working to undergo treatment. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety although I have suspicions it was and still is a bit more complicated than that, as it is for most people. I was put on to some quite heavy medication – three different types – and also received a course of ECT. Not long after my mother died I received counselling through Mind and continued to pay for it when I could afford it. I discussed coming off my medication with a few GPs because I didn’t want to live like that for the rest of my life. I found much resistance from my family as well as psychiatrists – they seemed to want to increase my medication or try different ones. In 2011 I started withdrawing. It took 14 months and seemed like hell on earth. I can’t remember a lot about the years I was on medication – I felt very detached amongst other things. I have various episodes now, some worse than others, but I do cope.

Can you so tell us a bit about what you did at Hafal Cardiff and what you’re up to these days?

I started with Hafal in Cardiff in 2012. It was and still is the best door I’ve gone through to date. I got involved in the gardening project. They hadn’t long moved site to St Fagans so there were polytunnels to build, areas to clear and tasks within the museum to do. It wasn’t long before I was going most days. It gave me purpose, a sense of belonging for the first time in so long and there was no pressure put on me. Lesley, Fred and everyone else who worked there were so kind, they gave me room to just ‘be’. An opportunity came up for a horticultural apprenticeship so I applied and got it. I now work as a full-time gardener for the National Trust in the Vale of Glamorgan. In the past couple of weeks, I have trained to become a tree climber which involves accessing a tree with a rope and use of a chainsaw. I am also responsible for the renovation of the rock garden there which is something I love. All this wouldn’t have happened without the opportunity Hafal gave me – I was ill for so long and needed a lifeline.

What do you think are the key mental health issues facing women today?

Definitely body image issues seem to crop up everywhere now. Social media can be such a negative, horrible and bullying medium with keyboard warriors. Loneliness and lack of community, belonging and support are feeding what I sadly think is a whole wave of isolation.

Why do you think there is a need for the #DeedsNotWords campaign?

I do think there is a need for a campaign for people from all walks of life to be so much more understanding of each other. Not tolerant… understanding. Every campaign seems to provoke a counter campaign. There are so many social divisions; way too many. Things need to move on. People need support – most people. Young girls are exposed to potentially horrific levels of abuse on social media – I just worry how my niece is going to cope.

Which women have inspired you, and why?

My Gran inspired me the most – she died in 1994. She played golf while it was still gentleman only and ladies forbidden. She drove an ambulance in Swansea in the blitz. She had spirit and she accepted me for who I was. When I look back it feels like she knew I was always going to struggle with life. Also Lesley at Hafal is a massive inspiration – she let me get on with it. She just gets on with stuff and inspires people to look at things differently and creatively.

The #DeedsNotWords campaign runs until World Mental Health Day on 10th October and includes 22 county events. Follow the campaign on our Facebook and Twitter pages or visit: http://www.hafal.org/deedsnotwords/