The Family Monsters which inspired our Chelsea Show Garden

Alistair our Family Monsters Garden designer, shares his own family monster and what inspired him to get involved with our project.

When idverde was first approached about exhibiting a garden with Family Action at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and I heard about what the charity did, I had no hesitation. I wanted to show my support for the charity and its campaign to get families talking about their monsters. The garden is personal to me and the many Family Action service users; I hope it strikes a connection with those involved and those that visit. I’m certainly not alone. Because I have my own family monster, which I’ve previously shut away.

My life, and importantly that of my family, turned upside down two days after we scooped a Gold Medal for Mind Trap at Chelsea 2017. I had my first of many seizures in the back of a black cab. I was diagnosed with epilepsy, something I suspect was presenting itself some time before; I’d have moments I’d forget, strange sensations and feelings – I’d put it down to the everyday strains from working hard, bringing up a young family etc.

Despite the “everything will be alright, it’s a manageable condition” – it doesn’t help when it’s raw, when you’re dropping to the floor and violently shaking, losing control of your bladder, losing your independence and explaining to a three year old why daddy isn’t well. From not bathing alone, to not holding your child. The anxiety that accompanies it is a huge obstacle to overcome. For me it’s the toughest and hardest period of time I’ve ever experienced. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride, some days good, others not so.

But my monster, whilst not tamed just yet, is perhaps a little smaller and is getting more manageable. I have a support network that gets me through, I find that talking about my problems and anxieties with the condition helps. I know I’m not alone as research for Family Action found that when asked about common family pressures, families worry most about money (52%) and health and well-being (50%).

But if you don’t have that close network of friends or you feel you can’t share to someone you know, pick up the phone to our FamilyLine – there’s someone there on weekday evenings and weekend mornings to listen to your concerns about your family life – it’s free and confidential to call, text or email.

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