It was about quarter past three on the day of the #letswalkamile Lanarkshire event in Strathclyde Park.
It had been a bit grey up until that moment – the handy dandy BBC weather app had told me to expect no precipitation – that, after all, is the walkamile way.
Imagine my surprise then, when the heavens let loose with a positively earth nurturing cloud burst.
I had to explain the the gathered ensemble that I’d booked the rain – just a short but intense shower – to er, quench the thirst of the not particularly parched earth.
15 minutes later, around 40 folk gathered at the agreed muster point, just as the rain stopped and the clouds parted.
We took a few photos, had a bit of a chat…and off we went…a small group of folk, challenging mental health stigma one conversation at a time.
I was lucky enough…and I do mean fortunate, to walk a mile in the shoes of Scott, a delightful 19 year old guy who was wonderfully interested and interesting.
That’s him in the picture above.
Walking a mile – for half an hour – isn’t really that long, but it can give you a real flavour of a person.
I was immediately put at ease by his comfortable and easy demeanour and friendly tone.
At school, he’d been diagnosed with ADHD – attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. He experienced difficulty in concentrating on things for any great length of time…he’d ask questions in class when he didn’t understand things…he’d feel frustration when time pressed teachers were unable, perhaps unwilling at times, to give him the support he required.
He was seen as disruptive by some – he may well have been at times. Others felt jealous that he was given, what appeared to them, preferential treatment.
All the time though, Scott felt like he was on the periphery of things, an outsider who didn’t fit in.
Years of this wears a guy down and so, when he was 15, he chose not to return to school.
Feeling on the edge and anxious about finding his place in the world, at times he was unable to leave his home for days at a time.
Like me, he’d go through periods of dissociation – times where he’d feel absolutely nothing – disconnected from the world.
For times of emotional distress it’s a fabulous defence mechanism – when it arbitrarily emerges at other times, it’s a pain in the arse.
Scott turned to alcohol. Vodka was his spirit of choice to smooth those sharp edges and, seemingly paradoxically, to make those periods of numbness easier.
As with so many who’ve chosen that somewhat perilous route, Scott soon found himself careering out of control – involvement with the police soon followed – as did probation and an electronic tag.
Remember, this is a journey that started with ADHD.
Perhaps a stitch in time…?
Scott told me about his new diagnosis – Borderline Personality Disorder – that’s what’s been attributed to my cluster of…stuff.
It’s not the greatest badge of honour.
He found himself in groups with men in their 40’s – for many, it had taken them all these years to get to that point…whether it be a lack of services or a lack of…who knows? that stopped them from getting there sooner.
On his way, Scott came across the Hope Cafe in Lanark
Open twice a week, the cafe provides…in their words…
‘A menu of learning opportunities for individuals to improve and maintain positive health and wellbeing’
Just as importantly – well, more importantly for me…
‘All of our courses are delivered by fully trained and accredited individuals, but more importantly all of our trainers have personal lived experience of mental ill-health. This enables us to provide honest, reliable and thought provoking deliveries.’
In short, they’re run by people with a lived experience…for people with…you get the picture.
And this is the place where we find Scott. His eyes have been opened wide by the great work of this small but wonderfully formed organisation.
As we walked around Strathclyde Country Park, he told me it was his aim to become a peer support worker with the Hope Cafe, so that he can give something back…his words.
I found meeting Scott absolutely thrilling – he still finds life challenging – maintaining eye-contact can be difficult for him – but his ambition to use his experience of mental ill health as a positive is lovely to behold.
Isn’t it amazing what walking a mile in someone else’s shoes can achieve?
I got all this from walking and talking for just half an hour.
Look at the picture again.
Walk a mile