BY her own admission, Hannah Powell suffered burnout in 2009.

At a low, she sought medical help but was politely discharged from a neurology clinic and told ‘there’s nothing wrong with you’.

Far from it, the 43-year-old was subsequently diagnosed with functional neurological disorder (FND).

Essentially a problem with the functioning of the nervous system, it affects how the brain and body send and receive signals and that can lead to a host of physical, sensory and cognitive problems.

Hannah, who lives in Layer Marney with her husband and eight-year-old daughter, has “broadly recovered” since.

She suffers from fatigue and other mild symptoms and has to carefully manage her work-life balance.

However, despite this, she has carved out a successful career, working as communications and human resources director for her family business Perrywood garden centres - one of which is in Kelvedon Road, Inworth, near Tiptree.

Now she has written a memoir being published later this year to outline her diagnosis journey and how she began to get better.

Hannah attributes much of her progress to a passion for plants and nature and one of her key messages is the role greenery can play in recovery from depression and illness.

She said: “My functional disorder meant I would twitch and jerk in response to sound or touch.

“I looked like a peculiar air drummer with no rhythm.

“There was no information available to help me, so I found my own way to get better.

“My green recovery followed, using plants and the small wonders of nature to find a way back from burnout and my functional neurological disorder when I lived in London.

“Growing up in a garden centre, my childhood was full of nature and plants.

“It was in stark contrast to the concrete of the city, where I became unwell.

“But after seeking alternative therapies and moving back to the countryside, I began to feel myself again.

“I believe we all benefit from having mindful moments.

“There’s a myriad of research to show the physical and mental benefits plants and nature can bring us.

“I hope that by telling my story, I can give hope to those with invisible illnesses and conditions not easily treated with traditional medicine.

“I’d like to share some ways to bring these small wonders into your life and it doesn’t have to be left to chance.

“For example, by growing certain garden plants, you can ensure joyful moments throughout the year.”

Functional neurological disorders affect one in three people attending neurology outpatient clinics.

However, it’s not something most people have heard of.

Green shoots of recovery - Hannah Powell

Green shoots of recovery - Hannah Powell

It can affect anyone and the diagnosis covers a range of difficulties in how the body works, including paralysis, seizures, pain, anxiety and difficulty speaking.

April is FND Awareness Month and TV presenter Lorraine Kelly is a patron of the charity FND Hope UK.

“FND can really vary from person to person,” said Hannah, who runs her family business with dad Alan and brothers Simon and Tristan, having returned to it in 2010 after a decade working in PR and marketing.

“That’s why I wanted to write a memoir about my illness and it’s being published in September.

“I’ll also be releasing a free e-book next month, focusing on my diagnosis, the role nature played in my recovery and how I found a way to get well again, having been discharged and told ‘there’s nothing wrong with you’.

Family business - Hannah with fellow Perrywood directors (from left) Tristan, Simon and dad Alan

Family business - Hannah with fellow Perrywood directors (from left) Tristan, Simon and dad Alan

“As people emerge from lockdown and start to get out and about more, I’d definitely encourage them to hold on to that connection with nature that many have found while confined to their homes, gardens and local areas.”

The working title of Hannah’s memoir is The Cactus Surgeon, as this was her dream career when she was six.

She has started a Facebook group, also called The Cactus Surgeon.

This gives people a chance to share the small wonders of nature they come across and learn how to bring more into their lives.

Anyone interested can sign up for her newsletter at