Broken

Sometimes I wonder if I am fundamentally broken. Not damaged or spoilt; broken. Beyond repair.

Because the nightmare never ends. The anxiety, the getting worked up. The feeling down in the dumps and permanently on the edge of tears. 

I’ve been trying to fix myself for almost two years. Doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, counsellors, drugs, CBT, mindfulness. Nothing has worked. So I must be broken right?

When you can’t fix something, you say it’s broken. And then you throw it away.

But because I’m a person, I’m not allowed to be thrown away. I have to continue to be used, despite the fact that I’m not fit for purpose – I don’t function, I don’t operate correctly, what is the point? If I was a machine I’d be thrown on the scrap heap. But that isn’t allowed to happen.

So mentally, I put myself back in the box. Not working correctly. Of no use. Stuffed in a cupboard somewhere, no idea why I’m being kept. Broken.

Broken

Self loathing

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Some days I am consumed with self loathing. There are countless reasons that I feel this way. For example, I hate myself for putting my wife through this. She doesn’t just have to get herself through the day, she has to get me through it as well. I have to be coaxed into going anywhere. It’s never a simple “yes I’d like to go”. It’s a whirlwind of anxiety. Where am I going? How am I getting there? Who is going to be there? What if I’m in a bad way in front of them? Can I get home if I want to just leave? Plans and arrangements are constantly changed, tailored to my needs. Everybody else has to work around me. By trying not to draw attention to myself and my problems, I only end up doing the opposite. It’s hard work being married to me.

Yet I still can’t find the words to express how grateful I am. For sticking with me through this, for picking me up, for moving to a completely different country. Just to make me happy. For not giving up on me when any other sane person would have. To say more than just “I love you” and that I think I’d probably be dead without you. But I can’t find the words.

I hate myself for continuing to put me through this too. Nearly two years on and I still have days where I just want to give up. Why can’t this be like any other illness? Why can’t it be cured or just kill me? It lingers. I work myself into a frenzy and my brain feels like it’s going to explode. I see stars. Seriously, my head spins so much I see stars and lose my balance. I’m tired. Why do I have to keep experiencing this? Why won’t it stop? Why won’t I stop doing it to myself? And then I hate myself for feeling sorry for myself.

I’ve quit my job, moved to another country and tried to carve a out new career. But the slightest setback sees me crumbling. Giving up. I can’t do it. I’m not capable. This isn’t going to work. I lose focus. I don’t achieve anything, my brain gets stuck on repeat. I think over and over about something that doesn’t even matter. I’m useless. So I hate myself for being useless.

There’s no happy ending to this. I just hope that putting the words on a page and out of my head, will help clear it. I fear that it won’t. I think today is a day where I’m irredeemable. Because I hate myself for being self indulgent enough to write about hating myself.

Self loathing

226 miles in (almost) a straight line

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“Join Florida’s Turnpike. Stay on Florida’s Turnpike for 226 miles.”

226 miles, on one road. In one state. In almost a straight line. 

That’s a few more miles and a lot less roads than my regular journey from Brentwood to Cheshire that takes in the M25, M1, M6, A500 and A51. It’s also a lot less ‘areas’ than a journey that passes through Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire. And it’s considerably fewer turns in the road, than my journey that has umpteen (my official estimate) twists and turns as it snakes past English towns and cities.

America is bloody vast. And so, so different from the UK. It is easy for us Brits to believe in the illusion of an almost shared culture that encompasses the same language, music, TV and Film as our American counterparts. But an illusion it is, because we really aren’t all that similar. After all, American states aren’t even that similar.

Florida is quite different to Colorado for example, so how can either be that similar to the UK? They have different laws, food, dialect and landscapes and are almost 1,600 miles apart. That’s just over the distance from London to Moscow. From the humid bayous and swamps of the south, to the frigid great lakes of the north, the United States of America is just about as culturally and topographically diverse as you can get in a single country. It’s why I enjoy travelling here.

I love a lot of what America has to offer. Such as the huge roads, the huge parking lots and the huge cars. Having been given the choice of “Take anything from the midsize lane, sir” I was about two seconds away from choosing a pickup truck (yes, a regular pick up truck is midsize!) before ultimately deciding that an SUV would be a more comfortable choice for my impending drive of 226 miles in almost a straight line. I enjoy the food (admit it, nothing quite hits the spot like a burger, curly fries and some pulled pork) the customer service, the sport, the Florida sunshine, the Florida storms, the California sunshine, the super friendly people, the belief that any American can become President and did I mention the Florida/California sunshine?

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Of course, America – like any country – is far from perfect and there exists a multitude of things that I dislike; such as the continuous torture for a non-American that is tipping (how much and to whom?!), the confusing road signs and rules of the road, the love of firearms and hunting, the food (it’s not long before I’m sick of burgers and craving a bucket of vegetables), the lengthy customs procedures, the constantly interrupting stream of advertisements on TV, the emphasis on faith and religion and an electoral system that allows an odious individual like Donald Trump to not only run for President, but to reach the Oval Office.

There are also things that I will never understand. Such as the ever present issue of race in the USA. I am not belittling the matter, it is a subject of both historical, cultural and political importance – I just find it hard to comprehend, from either side. And how could I? I have never been black, Mexican, or Muslim in America. I have no idea of what it feels like to be treated differently because of the colour of my skin or my beliefs. America is a country founded by immigrants, that seems incredibly intolerant to immigration. And of course, the above is not the view of many Americans, yet it is the one that seems most prominent in modern day American society.

I also don’t understand the almost blind patriotism and allegiance to the flag that is ever present. I am not patriotic and I would neither define myself as British, or English. If pushed, I’d say the closest affinity I have is not to my country, but to my city. At most, I would consider myself a Londoner and not much else.

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I grew up as a non-religious, but ostensibly Protestant white boy, with a large Catholic family (courtesy of the Irish in me) and jewish friends, who attended an all boys grammar school where a large proportion of the student body was made up of kids from ethnic minorities. I then went and worked in an area which at the time was the 3rd most diverse borough in London and married a girl that was born in Newcastle, raised in Cheshire and half Maltese. So, is it any surprise that I never fully identified with any one particular part?

So, whilst I may never fully understand this great country (and despite it’s faults it is great) I will continue to come here to travel, to meet the people and explore. Because it is vast, it is different and it has so much to offer. There are roads that go for 226 miles in almost a straight line!

 

226 miles in (almost) a straight line

Goodbye.

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Today, I left the Met. There was no fanfare, no big goodbye, no collection, not even a card, let alone a leaving do to celebrate 10 years, 4 months and 28 days service. Just a few handshakes and wishes of good luck. I turned in my warrant card and left the building almost a civilian – 11 days of annual leave are all that stand between me and being gone officially. It’s a strange sensation, walking around without the leather holder and piece of plastic that gives you your powers. I can no longer flash my badge, gain instant authority and take control of a precarious situation.

The past weeks have kept me busy, moving house and travelling backwards and forwards across the country has denied me the opportunity to pause and reflect upon the magnitude of the decision that I have made. Of course, I have had brief moments where I think, “what the hell am I doing, giving up a career?”, but no time to sit and mull it over.

Being a police officer defines you; well it certainly defined me. It sets constraints on the way that you live your life and how you conduct yourself. You cannot escape the expectation to be perfect in almost every way, or to put yourself in harms way to protect total strangers. They were responsibilities and expectations that I took seriously. Maybe too seriously at times.

Yesterday I walked all over London, head up, looking around… I took it all in. London is a special place in the lead up to Christmas, decorations everywhere, Christmas themed window displays in the major stores and people searching for presents for loved ones. It made me realise how much I am going to miss the place. It has been my home for 33 years. Sure, as I have gotten older I have moved further and further into Essex, but I have still maintained the feeling that London is my home.

As I trudged along those famous streets – Hatton Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue, Regent Street, New Bond Street – I became sentimental. I started to think that maybe I was making the wrong choice. Maybe I should have given it another crack now that I’m in a better place mentally. Maybe it would be good to work right in the middle of town, surrounded by famous streets and landmarks, as opposed to crack dens and housing estates. And then I saw a lad that used to work in Hackney. He was stood in Leicester Square, high viz jacket and beat helmet on, the very model of a London Police Officer, and he was soaked. He stood there in the pouring rain, giving directions to tourists, “Sod that” was my immediate thought, shortly followed by “you don’t want to be doing that anymore”.

It was definitive, I am no longer willing and able to do that. I do not have the patience, the inclination. I have done my time. I have served London and it’s inhabitants, laying my body on the line to protect them or giving up my days off to ensure that there are enough boots on the streets to maintain the peace in troubled times – and pretty much always without thanks. That is no longer my life. It’s a marvellous feeling really, a weight lifted. The future is unknown, but it looks bright regardless. I hope to wake up everyday, looking forward to the day ahead instead of dreading it.

Many of my colleagues are as disillusioned as I became, whilst also feeling trapped by a mortgage, kids and the promise of a pension. Thankfully, that way of thinking didn’t permeate my thoughts for the future. I was not weighed down by the promise of a pension; a pension that has already been subject to reform during my service, so who knows what I would end up getting. If I had stayed I would have had another 25 years in the job, with a further 2 years retired, before being able to draw my full pension. That’s almost as long as I have been alive and in my opinion, gives me plenty of time to go and try my hand at a new career, instead of being stuck in one that is heading nowhere.

The MPS as an organisation is crumbling. In my opinion they simply cannot provide the service that is expected of them within the current financial constraints. Emergency services are never going to be cost effective, they are not businesses trying to turn a profit, but instead exist purely to serve the people. Sure, financial streamlining needed to occur, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

However much I will not miss the job, I will certainly miss the people. On the whole they are an under appreciated bunch, stoic but with an ability to find humour in almost any situation. I’ve found that the majority of my colleagues are honest, hard working people who really just want to help others. It saddens me that this gets overlooked by the public and the press, not to mention the job itself which does its best to make them feel marginalised and unable to provide the excellent service that they strive for. To most of the public they are just a uniform, a number, to me they are much more than that. Hopefully the time will come when they get the recognition that they deserve.

Upon leaving I have been issued with a certificate detailing my length of service and describing my conduct as “exemplary”. I take great pride in that description because I think that it’s well deserved, after all, I did somehow manage to survive the better part of 10 years service – within one of the most challenging areas of London – without a single complaint from a member of the public.

I’d like to think that’s because I helped people. I was never overly officious, I always conducted myself professionally and if you were a bad guy, I made my rules clear, “First I’m gonna ask you to do it, then, I’ll tell you do it and if that hasn’t worked, I’m gonna make you do it”. I inserted myself into dangerous situations to protect people I didn’t know and would never meet again, I consoled mourning relatives, gave unheeded life advice to young men on the slippery slope of criminality and did my best to look out for the people who needed looking out for. So, despite how the system often treated me and how regularly being a police officer had a negative impact upon my personal life, my overwhelming emotion upon leaving remains that sense of pride. And that, is no bad thing…

Goodbye.

Be The Change

You do your best, tell yourself to “be the change”. But you fail. You fail despite your efforts. You fail because of others.

You try to make positive changes to your life, but no matter what you do, how hard you try, you run into other people who stop you in your tracks. 

So you think “what’s the point? Why should I try to make a change when somebody else can come along and fuck it up without even knowing that they’re doing it?”. And the darkness descends. The light at the end of the tunnel disappears. 

You question your existence, because you look at the world around you and decide it isn’t for you. Why would it be? You are surrounded by stupidity. By selfish, petty people who care nothing for the consequences of their actions. They are almost blind, their vision extending no further than the end of their nose.

Humans are stupid. We like to think that we’re this super intelligent species, with our smart phones and our rockets to outer space. But we are idiots.

Clever people would have found a solution to famine. Think about that. We stuff our faces and waste food, obesity linked diabetes spirals and yet people die of starvation. It’s 2016 and people are dying because they don’t have food! How is that possible? We can send a fucking robot to Mars but we can’t feed people.

Humans are so stupid, so wrapped up in their own sense of injustice and blinkered by bigotry and discrimination that Donald Trump is a realistic presidential candidate for the supposed biggest superpower in western society. 

This is the man who said build a wall. Build a fucking wall to keep the Mexicans out. And people support that. 2000 years ago the Romans did that to keep the Scots out and apparently it’s still a viable solution! But you struggle to fight it, because the other option is the status quo, another crooked politician in a long line of crooked politicians (aren’t they all?).

We spend billions on entertaining ourselves with movies, sports and games, yet cancer research is undertaken by charities who have to beg for funding. 

People will turn out in their millions to watch millionaire actors in spandex pretend to fight in front of a green screen, but nobody is that arsed about the devastation occurring to wildlife in our forests and seas.

You think about all this and you want to end it all. 

And then you think about your loved ones. The people that you’d hurt. The decent people. The people who are kind and want to do good. And you decide that you don’t want to be one of those ignorant twats that you despise. You tell yourself to “be the change”. And you go again.

Be The Change

Challenge Complete

It’s done. Completed. Over with. Fin. Snowdon and Llyn Padarn have been put to the sword. The cycle ride has been shredded, the hike stomped to dust and the kayak swept aside. The fundraising total has been smashed to bits – the Incredible Hulk couldn’t have done a better job. Our total is a massive £3,256. That’s more than £1,000 over our target of £2,250. It’s astonishing. With gift aid we’ve raised almost £4,000 for Mind and I could not be prouder.

I have been amazed at the generosity from you, our sponsors. We may have done the challenge, but without the sponsorship money we wouldn’t have achieved a thing. So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. The money that you have donated will make a huge difference to people suffering mental health problems. You can find out just how much of a difference here.

As you will know, I have been building to this moment for quite some time. For me, the challenge was about more than just raising money. It was about giving myself a reason to confront my issues and share my experiences, in the hope that I would not only help myself, but also help others to avoid what I had been through.

A week on, I feel better able to describe the physical and mental challenges presented to me during our cycle, hike and kayak. So here it is…

6.45am, Saturday 8th October 2016, The Royal Victoria Hotel, Llanberis. Frankie’s alarm goes off. “Oh shit” I say. I am already awake, the ring of the alarm serving only as a reminder of my lack of sleep. At most, I had managed to doze for about an hour. My night had been spent tossing, turning and coughing. Endless coughing. Sleep was always going to be hard to find – my brain caught up in thoughts of the challenge ahead – without the additional problem of feeling like death warmed up.

We had arrived the afternoon before; myself, Frankie, Bertie and Emily making the short hop across to Snowdon from Tarporley. One look at the car told you that we meant business. Three bicycles on a rack adorned the rear, whilst the interior was loaded up with walking boots, jackets, cycling gear and endless amounts of sugary snacks and energy drinks. Brad and Ant were already inside the hotel having driven directly from London and equally looking like they’d burgled a Moutain Warehouse store.

Chatter abounded and a loose sense of anxiety hung in the air. We knew roughly what we had to do: cycle 17km/hike 15km/kayak 4km, but we had no idea as to exactly how we would be doing it. Eventually talk turned to dinner plans. I stewed. I felt conscious that people were “there for me” and it made me uncomfortable. Despite finding it easy to be open about my struggles in my blogs, I still find it difficult in person. Having a group of people all in one place, because you’ve had depression and anxiety attacks, is a strange position to be in. Nobody acknowledged it directly, but we I knew that without it, none of us would be there.

The evening rolled in and we had a briefing from one of our challenge leaders before dinner. Plans were laid out. We would depart at 0830, cycling our way along the shore of Llyn Padarn before chucking a left and circling the bottom of Snowdon. We would finish up at Llyn Cwellyn at around 1000, where we would embark upon our hike up Snowdon via the Ranger Path. The hike would take between 5 and a half, to 6 hours, to complete. We would head down via the Llanberis path and make our way to Llyn Padarn for the final part of the challenge, the kayak across the lake.

I went to dinner feeling reassured. As a group we seemed in good spirits, ready to conquer the challenge that lay ahead. As an individual I felt out of sorts and exhausted. I excused myself from dinner, having hardly touched my food and headed to bed, determined to be in the best shape possible for the morning. Usually I would take my anti-depressant medication about an hour or so before bed and it would send me off into a deep sleep. Unfortunately, the stinking cold that I had been carrying for the past week seemed to be preventing this. That is why I found myself lying there awake at quarter to seven in the morning.

I showered and dressed in my cycle gear. I double checked my rucksack and kit bag, ensuring that everything I would need for the hike and kayak was present, then headed down to breakfast. Whilst everybody else indulged in a hearty breakfast, I managed half a bowl of cereal. I was too anxious to eat anything, convinced that I would be physically unable to complete the challenge. What would I tell people? Thanks for donating and that, but I felt a bit ill and hadn’t slept for a few days.

After breakfast the group at large (I think in total there were 18 of us undertaking the same challenge but for various charities) began to congregate outside the front of the hotel. Bikes were lined up, chains checked and tyres inflated. Kit bags were piled up, ready to be placed in the support vehicle. People were milling around, they were ready to go. I stood to the side, coughing until I heaved.

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We had a group photo and then it was time to go. I froze, overwhelmed by the fear that I wouldn’t be able to complete the challenge. I told Frankie to set off and that I would catch up, I didn’t want to delay the group and bring the focus onto myself. Then I did a runner, headed to the gents and locked myself in a cubicle.

After several frantic minutes I composed myself and decided to take it one step at a time. I was sure that I could complete the cycle, no matter how bad I felt, so I focussed on the cycle and nothing more. Get through it, then reassess.

I emerged from the hotel to find my team waiting for me. The main group had set off, but Frankie, Bertie, Emily, Ant and Brad had decided to stay behind and wait for me. We had entered the challenge as a team, so we would complete it as a team.

We set off and I immediately felt better. I hadn’t cycled for a long time (although I had put in plenty of miles on an exercise bike) and had forgotten the sense of freedom you can find with a bike beneath you and the open road ahead. We hit the first hill, I stood up from the saddle and began to climb. I felt good. I looked behind to see how the others were doing… Frankie and Bertie had stopped. I turned around to see what the problem was. Thankfully it was a simple one, Bertie’s chain had slipped off. I managed to slip the chain back on the cog and we set off up the hill once more. Overcoming that minor problem gave me confidence.

The more that the cycle ride went on, the better I felt. I was comfortable in the saddle and distracted by the scenery around me. I was a fluorescent green blob and I was on the move. And then we hit the big climb.

Once again, I stood in my saddle and pedalled like I was wearing the polka dot jersey in the Tour De France. The climb went on… and on… until it was only Brad and myself left cycling. We had been forewarned that most people got off and pushed their bikes up part of the hill. I decided I wouldn’t be one of those people. I pushed myself, getting hotter and hotter with each turn of the pedal.

I had been prepared for the cold, but here I was overheating. The climb continued to wind upwards in front of me. At each corner, I convinced myself it was the last and that I would find the top of the climb and be able to rid myself of the jacket that seemed to be preventing all heat from escaping. At each corner, I was wrong.

Eventually, I stopped, I couldn’t take it any longer. My legs wobbled beneath me. I made a conscious decision not to get off my bike as I was worried I wouldn’t get back on. The jacket was removed, rolled up and tied around my waist. I pushed on, determined to reach the top of the climb by pedal power alone.

I gathered momentum and rounded the next corner… and found myself staring at Brad and the top of climb. If only I had convinced myself to continue for one more corner, I would have made it without stopping! I pulled alongside Brad, we admired the view and waited for the others to catch up.

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The descent was much more fun than the climb and I embraced the opportunity to travel as quickly as possible. Once we hit the bottom, the scenery got even better. The route to Llyn Cwellyn was beautiful, we eased our pace and took it all in.

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We reached the car park and the rest of our group, with barely enough time to change into our hiking gear and grab a coffee. Then it was off to the start of the Ranger Path and a quick safety briefing before our hike. At this point we were joined by my brother in law Steve, who had decided to come and do the hike with us.

For the first time in several days, I was beginning to feel confident about the hike. The cycle ride had distracted me from my coughing fits and I had convinced myself that my old biology teacher was right, the best way to get rid of a cold is to sweat it out. I was going to carry my mentality over. Focus only on the hike from now on. We started climbing… And I started doubting.

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I immediately began to feel the effects of the cycle in my legs. My cough returned. My lack of sleep loomed over me like a dark cloud. So did a sense of panic. My doubts came flooding back. What the hell am I gonna do? It’s going to be so embarrassing when I give up, a quarter of the way up… I am not capable of this. I am too tired. Too ill. And that’s how the hike went on. My legs battled the ground beneath me whilst my head battled the anxiety that swirled around inside it.

Whenever the incline levelled out slightly and the gradient decreased, I would find myself able to take in the spectacular views. But as soon as the climb got steeper, I would find myself retreating, unable to take part in the conversations around me. Whenever we paused for a rest break, I would stand aside from the group, consuming energy gels and flapjacks in a desperate effort to replenish my energy reserves. In my head, Snowdon had somehow become Everest and my cold had become pneumonia.

At the 3/4 mark I thought I had finally reached my limit. I couldn’t move my legs any further and breathing was nigh on impossible. My body was conspiring with my mind to defeat me. The group took a rest break and I collapsed onto the ground. Within seconds I was freezing and placing on my additional layers of clothing. Before I could zip up my jacket we were off again.

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The slope reached its steepest point and I slipped behind the group. I was finished. I stopped and took what I thought would be a final look up. What I saw changed everything. About 100 metres ahead of me, I saw clouds. There and then I determined that I was going to finish the climb. I wasn’t leaving without making it above the clouds. I whipped out my phone, stuck on some tunes and stomped my way upwards.

We had been lucky with the weather throughout the day – it was dry and mild with little wind. When we reached the summit, we were even luckier. The clouds around us seemed to part and the sun shone brightly. The views were spectacular and we all headed to the very top to take pictures. We had made such quick progress up the mountain that we were given 30 minutes to pause and take it all in.

The descent was a doddle and my ailments were forgotten as Steve, Ant and myself hip-hopped our way down the mountain (for those who don’t know, the act of “hip-hopping” means to dance and do your best Snoop Dogg impression).

The hardest part of the challenge was overcome. I had done it, I had dragged my sorry, tired arse, up and down the mountain and overcome my anxiety. Now it was time for the bit that I had been looking forward to the most, the kayak across Llyn Padarn.

Despite being soaked through, the kayak was great fun and a final chance to take in the breathtaking scenery. Boats seem to be an ever present for big moments in my life – I proposed on a boat in the Lake District, we had a boat trip with all our friends and family in Malta prior to our wedding, and now this. So it was nice to finish the challenge as just Frankie and I, together in a boat. Yes, I had completed the challenge as part of a team of six, but I had finished it as part of my most important team – a team of two.

Our kayak was dragged ashore and we were presented with t-shirts, champagne and medals. It was done. The challenge was complete.

Once again, I’d like to thank everybody who donated. I’d also like to thank Frankie, Bertie (who flew back from Malta just to take part in the challenge), Emily, Ant and Brad for being by my side throughout not only the Snowdon Challenge, but the challenges I’ve faced over the past year. It means a lot.

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If you haven’t already, you can donate here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/MindTeam6

 

 

 

Challenge Complete

Down Days

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Down days. I still have them. I’ll be floating merrily along my way, feeling right with the world, when suddenly someone turns the lights out.

It happened to me recently whilst in Malta. I’d had a fun week, visiting my favourite spots on the island, swimming, eating good food and too much ice cream, when all of a sudden my world turned dark. I couldn’t make eye contact, couldn’t speak, couldn’t help feeling like curling up in a ball and crying myself to sleep. I was down as down can be.

Eventually though, it passed; my head cleared and I was able to engage with the world again. I put it down to a long two weeks spent almost permanently in the company of others (I’d spent the previous week in Cyprus for a friend’s wedding). I’d spent so long trying to stay up, without any time to stop and breathe, that I crumbled under the pressure. Previously that would have knocked me back and I’d have been spooked by the episode for days, but I’m a different person now. I’m able to accentuate the positive from the situation instead of dwelling on the negative.

Nowadays when I relapse I take it as a lesson, a reminder – I am doing well, but not as well as I think I am. I still need to be on guard, I – and the people around me – need to remember to be on the lookout for symptoms that I might be on my way down again. I can’t just pretend that all of a sudden, everything is alright.

When you start to feel right again, it’s easy to plough on forwards as if nothing ever happened, oblivious to the events of the past. I can’t do that. I need to be conscious of the bad decisions I’ve made in the past and make efforts not to repeat them.

I still get incredibly anxious about my stomach. Panic rises when I know I’m about to embark on a long journey and I won’t be near “facilities”. These episodes are incredibly disheartening and leave me feeling like I’m back at square one, still going through the motions of the first manifestation of my anxiety.

To combat this, once again, I try to get positive. I’ve come such a long way, I’ve dealt with the big issues and now is no time to feel down about the little things. On the way back down the mountain, you cross the same places that you passed on the way up (apt little analogy given what’s happening this weekend).

I have tools now. I manage my breathing and play games to distract my brain. It doesn’t work every time, but sometimes, sometimes is enough. On the flight back from Malta I felt the anxiety rising, but I caught myself. I identified that what I was feeling wasn’t actually anxiety, it was excitement to see my dog Lyla. It had been so long since I allowed myself to be excited, I had completely forgotten what it felt like. So having stopped, taken a moment and correctly identified my emotions, I decided to embrace them.

Hopefully I will do the same this weekend for my Snowdon Challenge. I’m full of cold, a coughing, sneezing, cold sweats mess, but I don’t care. I’m excited to take on the challenge. I’m making it to the end no matter how ill I feel. I see this charity challenge as the physical manifestation of my journey of the last 12 months. It’s going to be tough and at times I will stumble, but with the help of the people around me, I will keep on walking… I will overcome.

I am raising money for Mind, the mental health charity, please sponsor me here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/MindTeam6

Down Days