Bright lights, dark faces, a theatrical stage or an interrogation; which response will this be, paranoia or exhilaration?
Tracing my thoughts back to the steep, winding climbs of the Berriedale Braes, the heady heights of the cliffs of Caithness, the storm into the harbour at John O’Groats where even the island of Stroma was hidden in plain sight, I recall the battle it took to get to the tip and complete the first leg with a bitter taste in my mind, thinking at the time that I just wanted to get the heck out of there.
A brief photo and video to capture the debacle, the wind whipping off my cap, my hand punching the post to catch it; deep down that was an ominous sign. Greeted by the local Minister, I couldn’t shake off the apocalyptic sensation of being gripped within a Stephen King novel.
And in one fowl swoop, the return leg was stalled by technology cutting out, and the realisation that I was fast losing my grip on the situation. I’d missed my medication drop further south, and still had days to go before collecting it. I felt lost, in my head and my emotions. Wondering whether this is what it had come to, a failure at the midway point, the furthest point from home that I could get, without knowing a soul and with only a stubborn reaction of deciding to stay put until the darkness ended.
The two days where I couldn’t leave John O’Groats became two important days – I was not going to be beaten even though I felt absolutely rotten and almost drunk from going cold turkey and feeling emotionally raw from the fight to get there. I met a woman who looked after me and who passed on her strength through empathy and a sense of absolute determination. Karn reminded me of myself, and so restored my strength by helping me to remember why I’m out there doing this.
The sun came out as I departed, and has remained sunny since. I was able to overwrite the bleak memories with brighter ones. And once more, I can find myself on stage, performing my drama to an expectant audience. With my interrogators waiting silently in the wings for the curtain to fall.
I wrote this piece whilst somewhere between Glasgow and Gretna, on the journey south, all of about five weeks ago. I couldn’t bring myself to pen anymore on the matter because the journey since has fluctuated to such a degree that no day seemed relevant to the day before, and I was simply becoming confused with how I was feeling, thinking and the intended communication. Since then, the days have run between thundery storm showers, heat exhaustion, mud-clogging swamps and flat-winding canal lanes. People have come out of the darkness to guide me towards a smile, and the questions that cluttered my thoughts at the beginning still swam around in a soupy-soul. I didn’t know how things would go: route maps deserted, on-the-hoof became more reliable. Breaching that exposure into national media still didn’t happen, the world appeared to be spinning on a new-angled axis, day-after-day.
It’s now a week since I completed the challenge. I can write it, say it, read it, and still be questioning my own belief. Did that really happen? The daily challenge synopses are recorded on my peppyplant page to confirm that it did, and to remind me of the highs and lows, though actual days and dates blur into one. The final day was written here, too. It seemed the best place to share the lighter aspects, while this blog can better handle the darker corners. The world has moved on so much since day one that I barely recognise the society that I left behind at Land’s End. Coming back home has been a slow awakening from the journey’s dream; a few days near Plymouth before I could get a lift back to North Wales. Two birthdays. A weekend with the family. Back to school. Life goes on.
Sitting here, on the other side of the nutrition and logistical planning, PR coordination and training, there wasn’t anything that went according to plan. Plans are made for amendments, otherwise we wouldn’t learn from the errors. Another dress size down after consuming ample cake and chocolate, a decent tan with go-faster stripes, muscle-toning from never running fast or having to go to the gym, these are all delightful bonuses, but overall I have a feeling of failing the charities that I had promised to support. I ran this for people who don’t know what to do, to be used as a platform to remind others that a diagnosis is not the end of the story; it’s a new chapter, perhaps another book in a trilogy.
Coming to terms with my own diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder has been a long process; can I say I have come to terms with it? I’m not sure, I think I’m getting there because I feel more confident (today) in being able to say that this is what I have had to survive, and I did, and I know that that makes me stronger and less likely to put up with the bull that some are intent on communicating. But being humble with my own strength of character seems a little juxtaposed. Hopefully I will find the balance. Certainly I have learnt that through running, I can better explore what makes humanity its name-sake. If ever there was a phrase that meant something to me, it would be run to explore—to understand who we are.
Defying the chorus of self-imposed stigma is, and may always be, an unseen battle, but there is never, ever a call for any stigma to dominate society through ignorance and self-service. There is enough information in this world for us to just know that our minds are the primary element of our being—we can function without limbs, not so well without a mind. But there is much work to do for people to understand what this knowledge entails.
Turning this point into a political blast is too easy, as this point lands squarely at the feet of our governments the world over to set the standards, not the standards that they want, but the standards that the sufferers (indeed any human) deserve.
Instead, this is a call to action for anyone who considers life to be meaningful and beautiful: do what you can to make a difference, even if it seems impossible. Nothing is unsurmountable once the mind has already decided. Your adventure awaits.
In the meantime, I’m still fundraising for Mind, Bipolar UK, Young Minds, Place2Be and SAMH 🙂 Diolch x