This may come as a massive shock, but I’m going to let you into a secret, walk a mile in my shoes wasn’t terribly well planned.
The idea was fed by a number of things.
I’d used the excellent group psychotherapy I’d been immersed in to retrace my steps.
I’d come to realise that, although my mental health malady wasn’t curable – it was potentially manageable – not just by me, but through the support of others – primarily the support of other – Ella to be precise – who’d come into my world and taught me that anything was possible.
Through the media, and speaking to folk around me, it was clear that mental health stigma was still rife in the UK – not through any kind of malice, but through ignorance – an ignorance that was fed by the steady sensationalist drip from the media.
I had to go back quite some way to find the pre social work me. At the age of 12 I made a pact with myself that I was going to be there for others who found themselves in crazy out of control situations that the young me now found himself in.
Prior to that, my world was fabulous – so why not take a look there?
I loved to write. I loved talking to folk. I loved people – I found them thrilling – nourishing. I loved sport – especially being outside. I remembered walking holidays with my school where we went to Edale in Derbyshire – the start of the Pennine Way – and just how beautiful that world had been.
So, as you can see – the vast majority of the work was done in my head. Throw in a healthy slice of Satish Kumar, and I was off.
The physical practicalities meant gathering clothes and camping gear for all eventualities.
And that was it.
Oh, and an iPhone.
Oh, and faith, lots of faith. Not in any bearded deity in the sky – but in people. I’d convinced myself, and I knew that I could convince others, that people are fabulous and could be, would be generous and hospitable given the slightest opportunity.
Having a Johanna Wagner, film maker extraordinaire, certainly helped.
So, a big rucksack of ‘what if?’ love from others, and faith.
Walk a mile in my shoes isn’t just about me though. I don’t think it’d be terribly interesting if it was – I think there are enough so called inspirational tales of derring do to keep the world sated forever.
It’s about you lot.
So, what next?
I’m getting physically fitter and lighter as I walk around listening to mental health blog’s and undergraduate psychology lectures.
But what can walk a mile be? What can it become?
People may have noticed my conciliatory, reaching out to others, tone in recent blogs.
Polarisation of thoughts, beliefs and people is all well and good until someone loses an eye – or worse, hope.
Yesterday, I met up with my lovely friend Donna in the town of my birth, Corby, to start…sorry, further my thoughts about what next.
Donna will soon be the proud owner of a large community building in the town – with a hall, a stage, a kitchen, parking, and bags of potential.
We chatted about it – we went to look around the outside of it while she described her hopes and dreams for the space while ideas for walkamile rebooted grew in my mind.
What if we gathered some like minded people around to plan for the future of walkamile?
What if we gathered others too? People who we wouldn’t immediately imagine would fit the walkamile stereotype (if there is such a thing – answers on a postcard to…) – but whose thoughts and opinions could be just as valuable?
What if we could gather folk from different walks of life? People with a whole cross section of views and opinions on this – whatever it is.
People from different races, cultures, political parties, people from different backgrounds.
People with different beliefs and opinions – people who’ve used mental health services, people who haven’t, carers, friends, people who’ve never dipped a toe in that world.
People who work, people who don’t, people on benefits, employers…
Professionals – those working in mental health – people who work in/ for the benefits system….
What about local politicians – councillors and MP’s…?
A gathering of lots of folk with a simple starting question…
‘What’s it like to be you?’
Well, who knows.
One thing is certain though – I will be returning to Porthmadog in North Wales in the summer to continue the sacred ramble.
Walk a mile in my shoes is easy when it’s easy, but it can be terribly difficult when it isn’t. Not just for me, but for everyone involved.
I’d be delighted if you – yes you, I can’t see anyone else here, would start thinking about what next for walkamile.
How would you like to be involved?
Does being a part of walk a mile rebooted appeal to you?
Would you like to walk with me along bits of the Welsh Coast and beyond? Perhaps share a story or two?
What about arranging for me to come and speak with an organisation you’re part of?
Schools, Universities, societies, gatherings of any shape and size, reading groups…any groups.
I’m pretty flexible and time rich just now.
Do you have any thoughts on walkamile the podcast?
What about walkamile the charity?
I’m aware that there have been times when I’ve been winging it a bit – especially in the tail end of last year. It became obvious that there wasn’t an infrastructure upon which Ella and I could rely.
I wonder if we could make it all a bit more solid?
If you feel you have anything to offer or gain, or a bit of both from this, please get in touch.
You can email me here firstname.lastname@example.org
Tweet here – @walkamileuk
Phone me here – 07535035909
Message me on facebook via
Let’s make a start
Walk a mile in my shoes