Catherine Wells

Stories / Catherine Wells

Catherine Wells and her husband Matt are happily self-employed, Picton-based, apiarists.

The pair are well-known for their beekeeping skills, leasing hives to businesses and domestic clients wanting to improve pollination.

Yet for almost a year Catherine struggled with mental distress. Looking back, she thinks her experience of depression was triggered by a move from a larger lifestyle block to a smaller one, so they could expand their business.

“Our old 10-acre property was my happy place. It had bush and pine, paddocks and a five-bedroom house with a huge vegetable garden, berry plants and an orchard we’d developed. I had a flock of 15 Arapawa coloured sheep, three goats, chooks, ducks, cat and dog.

“Our new place is made of concrete blocks, on the flat ground with no trees. Most of the windows in our ‘bunker’ are above my eye level, so I can’t see out of the bathroom or dining room, and the kitchen window looked out onto corrugated iron.”

Although she still had her chooks, two goats and her cat and dog, Catherine sold the sheep and head honcho goat, and gave away the ducks. Then, she says, she lost her mojo.

Reaching out to friends did not bring comfort

Catherine didn’t garden anymore, because it all seemed too hard. She didn’t call family or friends because she didn’t have the energy to talk and be convivial. 

“I kind of disappeared and lost my drive and interest in everything,” she explains. “I wanted to just hide in the little space I’d created but didn’t really want to be in.”

She describes nights when she would lie awake for hours feeling numb. Pending activity brought huge weight of fatigue and indecision. Household chores, cooking (her other love), the business administration – it all got neglected.

“I realised how isolated I’d become and it suddenly dawned on me that I was quite depressed.”

Catherine tried reaching out to a few people she regarded as friends, telling them she thought she was depressed, but no-one made any move to help, or seemed to take her seriously.

“A couple of my friends just ‘blanked’ me and changed the subject,” she says. “I’m usually quite a positive person, so maybe they didn’t think I was serious. But nobody jokes about being depressed, do they?”

Getting back her mojo

Then something did change for Catherine. Matt surprised her with a secret plan - coffee and a walk.

“I loved it, in the bush, looking out at the beautiful sea view as we talked. I felt energised and happily tired, even back at home.”

Two days later, Matt suggested they go for a bike ride. He’d got a mountain bike and spent several hours, cleaning, fixing and adjusting it - just for Catherine.

“We went back to the track and biked it. Something happened, maybe the bursts of adrenaline, the fresh air, the shots of oxygen, the time with Matt. The sadness left, my energy returned and creative Ideas came that I had long forgotten.”

The next day, Catherine went to Blenheim and bought paint.  She went home, got out Matt’s electric sander and cleaned up two old wooden chairs, then painted them black and shiny.

“I was excited, I knew the cobwebs had been swept out and my blood was flowing again, like I’d woken up out of a deep sleep, or hibernation. I cleaned and vacuumed, I shifted furniture and got Matt to fix the old dresser that mum had given me from her childhood.”

Catherine and Matt began planning their home again. “It’s so nice to feel like I am back,” she says. “I just had to share my story, in case it can help others.”