About three weeks ago, in the grips of my latest bought of insomnia, I was browsing Twitter at about 3am and saw a tweet from Mind asking for applications for a fund raising hike in the Lake District. At this juncture I should mention that this is not just any old walk. This is walking 40 miles in 24 hours straight. That's a hell of a lot of walking for some surgically attached to her car. As a sat there, I remembered another night, years ago when I could not sleep. Back then, my anxiety was probably at its worst. I had taught myself to function during the day but when night came I was gripped with such a fear I did not dare close my eyes in case whatever was stalking me would finally attack.
I knew so little about my anxiety then. I felt that if I understood it, it would be akin to acceptance and would always become part of my life. A part I was so desperate to ignore. That night though, I knew something had to change. I barely recognised myself anymore and I did not know where to turn. somewhere around 7am I decided to call the Mind infoline. I spoke to lady called Susan. I think I will remember Susan for the rest of my life. She was the first person I had spoken to about what I was feeling that really heard me. She did not just tell me I would fine; did not tell me to overhaul my entire existence; did not make me feel alone. She simply listened to me.
Back to the night three weeks ago and I found myself making an application for the hike. For the following two days I blamed the insomnia but in reality I knew why I had applied. I wanted to ensure that the services that had been essential to me would be available to anyone else that needed them. I sometimes think I do not know where I would be now if I had not had Susan that night. She changed the way I saw mental health, changed the way I saw myself.
So come June I will be donning my brand new walking boots (which I will break in before hand, probably) and I will embark on this adventure with a group of people I imagine I will know for the rest of my life. When I struggle I will remember:
- £8 could offer a lifeline to someone in desperate need of support by letting the Mind infoline team answer their call
- £15 could help Mind campaign for better access to talking therapies, crisis care and other essential mental health services
- £21 could keep Elefriends, Mind's online support community running for one hour
After my first training walk this week I felt some serious doubts creeping in. Could I raise the money, could I manage on no sleep, would I ever be able to walk again afterwards? My anxiety was working over time to try and work through all the permutations of what could go wrong. Obviously being my brain it succeeded in coming up with a awful lot. At the exact moment that I was considering how hard it would be to fall off the top of a mountain, my phone beeped. It was a message from the Mind team sharing photos of where we would be walking. Looking at the photos I remembered why I need to walk and my mind went very quiet.
If you could find some pennies down the back of your sofa to sponsor me I would be delighted.