Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Whatever you are, be a good one.’
A great quote, but one that only scratches the surface, doesn’t it?
Not so long ago, me and the lovely Ella were in a cafe in Banbury with a friend of ours, Charlie.
He was keen to show us this groovy little place where they ask the punters to pay what they feel is right for the goodies they’ve devoured.
As you can imagine, we scoffed everything on the menu, and gave them 20 pence for being such economic idiots.
A combination of hospitality and trust – it all felt rather walkamiley.
Well, look at me, one sentence into a story and I’ve already been ambushed by the digression faries…
At the counter, talking in an agitated tone, was a man in his mid-60’s – since the cafe was compact and bijou, we soon became involved.
The conversation – for one reason or another – rapidly became a dialogue between me and the man – we soon found ourselves upstairs in a private room discussing some of his trials and tribulations.
Ultimately, he was a distressed man in need of a quiet listening ear. In amongst it all I made sure he was aware that I’m not a qualified counsellor – although, having worked in and around social work for the best part of two decades, I had a black belt in nosey parkeriness…
The situation calmed into a friendly chat…I told him a bit about the sacred ramble…
‘I can’t go walking around the edge of the UK!’ he declared with not a little indignance. Although I happily invited him to walk with me pretty much anywhere at any time, I told him that…well…he was under no contractual obligation…and that this was, essentially, my walkamile – my…thing…
I told him that it took me 2 years of great group psychotherapy to get to that point where something so…well…ostentatious made absolute sense to me.
We talked about how, by having a mental health malady his and my walkamiles were moveable feasts – and that something that made absolute sense to me, or him at one point, would feel absolutely ridiculous at others.
He went off with one of my none-business cards – hopefully with a feeling that just because he was having a bit of a mental habdab he wasn’t an enemy of the state, that he wasn’t alone, and that the world that we live in can be a compassionate one.
I haven’t heard from him, and I hadn’t thought about him for a while…until last week.
We’d just had the wonderful, life affirming, celebration of the general fabulousness of people that was letswalkamile Edinburgh.
100’s of people, some with lived experience of mental ill health, some working in the area, some carers, some a bit of all 3 and some…you get the picture.
I knew that after all the hard work – after all the hopes – investment of energy from me and all the people involved – thanks again to everyone on the walk a mile steering group – with extra special thanks to Eleanor Ogilvie at SeeMe – I knew that it was likely – not definite – that I’d take a turn for the loopy.
It’s a bit like holding the reins of a bunch of wild horses – I can stop them galloping off, but only for a limited time.
I dissociated. My arms, my hands, my ME became completely unreal. The world pretty much drifted away. Emotions left me – as with all the times before, touching my lovely Ella had no more emotional connection to me than handling a joint of meat.
Sitting in a darkened room, watching loud American cop shows, my walkamile is significantly altered.
Making a cup of coffee, achieving eye contact with…well, anyone really, not punching myself in the face, or screaming…anything to try to feel…anything…all become my brand new walkamile…a walkamile that’s often unachievable for around one unpredictable week every month.
Walking and talking to folk is really good for me…only when it’s really good for me.
Sitting in a darkened room with a single noisy focus is good for me…as above.
Mental health problems, mental health maladies…whatever you choose to call them…vary wildly between people, because of their own experiences, their environments, their access to mental health services, how severely ATOS’d they’ve been, how stigmatised they feel, how supportive the people who are most important to them are…and they vary from week to week…day to day…and for many from hour to hour.
Their walkamiles vary accordingly.
Your walkamiles vary accordingly.
I guess what I’m saying here is – there is no, one size fits all, panacea that fixes folk so they fit into some manner of employment-centric, benefit damning, quick to sanction, caricature of what an upstanding pillar of community should be.
So, what’s your walkamile?
Walk a mile