Hannah Powell shared her story earlier this year, having been diagnosed with a Functional Neurological Disorder in 2009. Now she has published her memoir, The Cactus Surgeon, and says that ‘a little bit of me is sitting with people after they read it’
When she was six, Hannah Powell’s dream career was to be a cactus surgeon. Although that hasn’t turned out to be the exact career path she has gone down, she is, however, the communications and HR Director for Perrywood Garden Centres, based in Sudbury, Suffolk, and Tiptree, Essex – running the business with her father and two brothers.
She came back into the family business in 2010 after ten years working in PR & Marketing – and after suffering burn out. A year before her return to East Anglia, she was diagnosed with a Functional Neurological Disorder.
Growing up in a garden centre, Hannah’s childhood was full of nature and plants and this was in stark contrast to the concrete of London, where she became unwell.
Her Functional Disorder meant she would twitch and jerk in response to sound or touch. As Hannah puts it, ‘I looked like a peculiar air drummer with no rhythm.’ She says there was no information available to help her, so she found her own way to get better.
After seeking alternative therapies and moving back to the countryside, Hannah began to feel herself again, and what she describes as her ‘green recovery’ followed. ‘I believe we all benefit from having mindful moments, and this can easily be done by savouring the small wonders of nature around us.’
And her recovery has been put into print, with the publication of her book, The Cactus Surgeon: Using Nature to Fix A Faulty Brain. ‘I wrote the book primarily to help others. I want to raise awareness of functional neurological disorders and I’ve found that every time I open up and tell my story it encourages somebody else to ask for help.’
Functional Neurological Disorders affect one in three people attending neurology outpatient clinics. Yet, it is not something that most people have heard of. They can affect anyone. The diagnosis covers a range of difficulties in how the body works, including paralysis, seizures, pain, anxiety and difficulty speaking.
How has it been received by readers so far? I’ve had some lovely reviews’, says Hannah, ‘I’ve been really pleased with the feedback about it being very readable (people seem to not be able to put it down!), relatable and informative. I feel like a little bit of me is sitting with some people after they read it, whether they are contemplating their own connection with nature, or reflecting on their own tactics for keeping mentally healthy.’
The Cactus Surgeon: Using Nature to Fix a Faulty Brain, is available to buy via Hannah’s website www.thecactussurgeon.com; at Perrywood Tiptree and Perrywood Sudbury; through independent book shops including Red Lion Books in Colchester, via e-book providers and on Amazon. Hannah is actively looking for more independent bookshops or gift shops in East Anglia that would like to stock it. She can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org for bulk orders.