In early September, I exhibited my first show border for the BBC Gardener’s World Autumn Fair. It had been months in the planning, and it involved conquering a lot of my personal fears to be able to do it. I had a lot of anxiety in the lead-up to the show and a lot of fatigue throughout, as well as managing the early September heatwave! That said I had an absolutely amazing time meeting lots of other like-minded people, celebrity gardeners and designers and learning lots along the way. 

I also decided to raise awareness for the Addison's Disease Self-Help Group (ADSHG) by doing an interview about Addison’s disease and also having a QR code on display for donations.

The theme this year was ‘My Garden Escape’. I chose to use grasses and lots of bright colourful flowers to create the feeling of seclusion, sanctuary and also joy. I also set up a bistro table and chairs laid with a tea set - the perfect place to sit and relax and appreciate your surroundings. I called my border, ‘Tea Break’ which ended up being used as a pun by many! I was lucky enough to achieve a silver medal.

Why the ADSHG?

I was diagnosed with Addison’s disease in 2017 after years of asking doctors to find out why I was so sick and tired all the time. I had already been diagnosed with Graves' disease aged 10, and B12 deficiency in my twenties. I subsequently developed Hypothyroidism and later also had shingles. 

At the point of diagnosis with Addison’s disease at the age of 37, I was very unwell but grateful that my persistence had paid off and, by all accounts, just in the nick of time! I wasn’t happy with my first endocrinologist so requested to move to another hospital and my care has been amazing! I was also informed about the ADSHG. The information and social media content from the ADSHG has been phenomenal. I’ve also been able to take part in research projects that have been shared by ADSHG through social media and will soon be doing a Professional Doctorate myself looking at autoimmune conditions.

Addison's and I

I think the hardest thing for me upon diagnosis was getting used to taking medication three times a day and knowing when to up-dose. Since then, it’s the weight gain that has been the hardest to deal with, I feel like my body has changed a lot, so it has been about accepting those changes. I get bad bouts of fatigue and pain from time to time and have to listen to my body and rest when this happens.

Why Gardening?

I found gardening helped me to slow down, process my thoughts and gently exercise. It is a great stress buster. It is also a great reward to see something you have sown grow into an amazing flower, fruit or vegetable. I am a strong advocate for therapeutic horticulture.

Tea Break, designed by Zöe Defoe

A garden is both a place to gently work and a sanctuary. My design shows the beautiful balance between the two - the seating area a retreat at the back of the border, the gardener's gloves and tools at the front.

Tea break symbolises the need to pause and take notice of your surroundings - something especially important to me upon my diagnosis with Addison's disease. A garden is never finished, it's constantly changing and evolving. As Lao Tzu said, 'nature does not hurry, yet all is accomplished.'

What better way to escape to the garden than with a 'Tea Break'?

Donate to Zöe's 'Tea Break' fundraiser for Addison's

Addison's Admin

How do you remember to take your tablets? I use the Medisafe App on my phone which rattles like a tub of tablets to remind me, but I also have my phone alarm set at the times I need to take it and also my watch is set to vibrate at these times too. If I don’t take them with all of those things going off, I am doing something wrong!

How do you carry your injection kit? I have a little green tub – it’s the perfect size and contains my injection kit plus all of the medical information about me needed for medical staff. I always keep it in my backpack with me and have given one to my parents and one to the school where I teach.

What type of medical alert identification do you have? I have an ADSHG silicone bracelet – it’s practical for someone like me who likes to be messy with art and gardening as it’s washable and doesn’t get caught on anything.

I also have two Apps on my phone, one is called ICE and the other is iMedAlert. The first shows my conditions and who to contact in an emergency, the second has all of my information but also has a quick setting that sends a set message you have created to people who need to know should you have an adrenal crisis and need help - especially useful for me as I live alone.

Author: Zöe

Donate to Zöe's fundraising page here

Congratulations Zöe for winning a Silver Medal at the BBC Gardener’s World Autumn Fair.

 Thank you for sharing your experience with us and raising vital awareness.

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