13/04/12 Walk a Mile a year on

It was a bit more than a year ago that I wandered out of Edinburgh with, essentially, 3 goals in mind.

First of all, I wanted to make a noise about mental health problems. I’d been relatively fortunate in my treatment through the NHS, the department for work and pensions and the social work department. Even though I, as an ex social worker, knew the system, there were still tears and much gnashing of teeth with long waiting lists and with money stopping with little or no explanation.

Where most of my colleagues were supportive regarding my mental health problems, there were still those who backed away wearing an expression that wouldn’t be out of place on an Edvard Munch painting.

Through peer support and help via the voluntary agency, CAPS, in Edinburgh, I realised there was hope.

Equally, I realised that the experiences of people in an identical position to myself varied from no support right through to what could be considered a deluxe service.

A noise was worth making.

Secondly, following my own perceived view of the media regarding trust, fear and prejudice against marginalised groups I felt it was worth demonstrating that the fine people of the UK are both trusting and trustworthy. Further that people are caring, compassionate and supportive of others.

They are, you are, I am.

There is a big society.

Finally, I thought it would be remiss of me to undertake such a ramble without collecting some money for charity.
I’m delighted that,over the year, we have collected just short of £1000 to share between Mind and the Child bereavement charity.

I’m going to recharge my Virgin Money Giving page to raise money for Penumbra, a Scottish mental health charity and to continue collecting money for Mind.

It has been a magnificent year. People have been all the things I’d hoped – indulge yourself – take a little look back at some of the older blogs…

People have given their time, their accommodation, their food, money, trust, love, support – practical and emotional, advice, passion, humour…I’m sure there’s more.

I have little doubt that the folk involved right at the beginning have ensured the success of this little endeavour – their trust has bred trust – so an extra thank you to Lou, to Jan, Teen and Stewart and the Fergies for being a huge part of the engine that has driven this.
Thanks too to Tom and Pete for their ongoing support – especially to Pete who ensures I still get my drugs as I travel about the place.

I have learnt that people of the group, far from being judgemental about my mental foibles, have been nothing but supportive at times when I’ve had spinouts.

It’s also worth mentioning Johanna, the documentary maker, ably assisted by Tali and Charmain, for their positively judgemental approach to my particular condition and the patience they’ve shown.

Obviously Ella needs a big mention here given her ‘drop everything and come to my rescue’ approach to my needs.

Hopefully I haven’t taken the piss too much there.

But really – good and indeed God – thanks to the hundreds of folk who’ve helped me on my way around Scotland.
I have learnt about Lyme disease – a condition that I, like many others, thought was an absolute rarity. This appears to be not the case. It seems that I meet someone every other day who knows of someone who has had this wretched illness.

It’s horrible, so please indulge me while I impart my knowledge.

Even now, it seems to be shrouded in mist. What I do know about Lyme disease –
It’s passed on by ticks

They are best removed using proper Tick removing tweezers – not your fingers, not Vaseline, or nail varnish remover, cigarettes, by drowning or shooting…

They like to hang out in lowland (usually) vegetation – but really anywhere deer and sheep have been..
The smaller ones are blown by the wind.

I’ve found that its best to wear light coloured clothing – since ticks are mainly black(ish) they show up better.
Always, always check yourself fully after camping – ticks will climb into any crease and orifice.

They seem to particularly enjoy being squashed up – so check places where your clothing is tight – around belts, watch straps, ruck sack straps and the like.

Lyme disease is not always accompanied by the target like rash.
There are now vaccines available to fend this off – but even a quick whizz around the interweb indicates that there are no definite preventions and/ or treatments.

The trick is not to get bitten for any length of time – there are patches high in vitamin b that make the user distasteful to the tick – and insecticides that keep them at bay too.

I have been treated with 2 lots if antibiotics and, so far, have had no repercussions of the symptoms.
I’m also having the vaccination – although I’m not sure if that particular horse has bolted.

I have, hopefully a final, appointment with my consultant in August.

Enough on that.

Today it’s the Grand National. My mum died 35 years ago on the 6th of April just after that mighty horse race – through my dad she’d put an each way bet on Red Rum – who, of course, romped home to win.

Today, I’ll just let pass. I’ll bob about a bit – listen to the radio – I might even snatch a look at the new improved Aintree course with its new improved horses and riders – and with the real chance of a female rider winning – d’you know, I think I’ve just persuaded myself into watching it….

Over the year I’ve also learnt a lot about me and how I operate – I’m inclined to be self critical – to be reluctant to take rests…I think the Lyme disease may well have helped me to stop and think.
I think the people around me – you lot – have helped me to stop and think.
I can’t think about the year that’s passed without spending a bit of time thinking about me beautiful nephew, Graham, who we lost suddenly in January.

I saw a photo of him the other day and it pulled me up short – I still think of social events – his smiling face – his positive outlook – his ability to make me feel good about myself – his decision to challenge me regularly with who said what and when…his kind, smiling prompts when I was miles out…

There’s not a day passes where I don’t think about him, his lovely friends and family.

Just recently, Stirling University have produced a study that links an improvement in mental health – namely depression – with regular walking.
This is, I understand, an analysis of earlier studies. My hope is that this isn’t just boiled down to chemical changes in the brain caused by the endorphins generated by exercise.

I would tentatively say I’ve felt some improvement – but I believe that’s had more to do with the beauty of the UK and the people in it than the simple mechanics of putting one foot in front of the other.

There again, what I would like to believe is true and what is actually fact don’t always coincide.

The coming year should take me well into England and Wales. There have been concerns expressed that the folk south of the border might be less generous than the Scots.

There again – what about all the kind and generous English and Welsh people I’ve met around the place?
I’ve got a bunch of goals for the year ahead – I want to continue with the walk a mile dream – making a noise and demonstrating that apolitical big society as I go.

I want to continue with my new found relaxed approach to my mental health – taking regular breaks as and when…
I’ll apply just a bit more focus on trying to get this all collated and published…probably in instalments – I mean, what could be wrong with Walk a Mile, the Scottish chapter…I’d buy it….

Anyway, thanks so much for walking with me all this way, through around 800 miles of the stunning Scottish countryside – thanks for sharing my joy at the songs of the plucky skylark, the beauty of the osprey and the majesty of the golden eagle.

Oh, and the gorse, the beautiful yellow flowers with the aroma of banana – no, really, go and sniff them.
There is so much more – there will be so much more.

Let’s look forward to another year of walking and derring do.

Walk a mile

Chris

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