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Local woman struggling with mental health issues finds solace in gardening

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A local woman is advocating for the use of gardening as a way to help those who struggle with mental health issues.

Tamara Brown’s journey began one day when she became overwhelmed and had a breakdown at her job.

“That moment unleashed a series of emotional outbursts. And the next thing you know, some of it I don’t remember, but the next thing you know, I was at the hospital,” Brown said.

Brown said following that incident, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

She also learned about manic episodes associated with mental illness and what can trigger those moments.

Brown said she began to unpack unresolved issues from her past, such as the time she served in the Army.

“While enlisted, things occurred and it left me feeling a way because when I tried to speak out, no one believed me,” Brown said.

She also shared how, in many Black families, it’s considered taboo to seek therapy.

“If you have a problem, we don’t talk about that. No, you go to church and pray about it. So, no, that’s not something that … we don’t get depressed. So, when that happens, we just pack that stuff away, and pack that stuff away, and then it doesn’t get talked about, so it doesn’t get treated,” Brown said.

For years, Brown said, she pursued her creative side as an artist, but when space and financing made it a challenge to continue, she found a new, wide-open canvas that was organic.

“It became my medicine and therapy. Beneath our feet is a whole world of microorganisms just ready to help us achieve a beautiful garden and to help us with our mental health, too. There are microorganisms found in the soil that have antidepressant effects,” Brown said.

Now, Brown combines what she absorbs from nature with counseling, medication and support from her friends and family.

She hopes her story holds a message for anyone who may be struggling with their mental health.

“Do not be ashamed, because we all go through something. Please do not be ashamed. Second, I would say, make the decision to fight for yourself. You have to fight for yourself!,” she said.

Brown encourages people to reach out to a counselor or someone who they trust if they need help.

Whatever your course of treatment, she suggests, add a little gardening therapy into the mix.

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