Updated: Jun 15, 2020
December 31st 2019, saw us undertake our fifth #WalkAndTalkMMH between both Fulham and Reading.
As most of you brought in the New Year of 2020 at parties, a group of football fans undertook the 44 mile walk from Reading to Fulham.
Author: Sam Shiner
I think it is fair to say that everyone in this modern age has experienced some kind of mental health issue. Whether it’s feeling unmotivated, having a certain fear that makes you anxious, comparing yourself to perfect celebrities and feeling unsatisfactory... or on a more serious scale; being completely overwhelmed by depression, in the worst case that you feel the only way out is to end your life, having anxiety so bad that you experience panic attacks and other physical symptoms.
I have had depression and it is a dark place. I didn’t know until my doctor said ‘you are clinically depressed’ that I had it. For six months prior, I lost three stone; I became fixated on cleaning, being in control of everything. I lost interest in sex with my then fiancé; I was constantly walking or cleaning or working and never ever let myself rest. I remember feeling that nothing mattered and nobody cared about me. And one day I woke up, I’d been crying in my sleep. And I didn’t stop crying for three entire days. I stayed on the sofa, unable to move or eat or drink, the only thing I could do was cry my heart out. And after that I sought help.
I’ve also had anxiety. This came about two years after I finally came out of depression. And anxiety is the antithesis of depression. To go from not worrying or caring about anything, I started worrying about every little thing, I panicked I was having heart attacks, I couldn’t leave the house, I thought everyone turned their nose up at me or laughed at me, I constantly compared myself to everyone and used to have panic attacks all the time. I found mindfulness and CBT and again, I found my way and learned from it.
I lost a very close friend to suicide just over a year ago and it broke my heart into a million pieces. So mental health and the issues surrounding it is something I know and understand and I want to help continue breaking the stigma and support anyone in need.
I met Lee who runs Walk and Talk MMH in May 2018 through a mutual acquaintance after he’d completed a 113 mile walk from Fulham to Birmingham. Since then, Lee and I have remained great friends and have a shared passion for raising awareness about mental health and specifically about encouraging men to talk. Lee asked me to join them on the walk on New Year’s Eve 2019 from Reading to Fulham and in a split second I agreed.
We met at the Madjeski Stadium on New Year’s Eve. I only knew Lee; the rest of the group of walkers were all new people to me. Within the space of an hour of us taking off on our expedition across the country in the pitch black, freezing cold, I already felt a bond with everyone. We had all committed to spending 17 hours together on a night where everyone would normally be partying, but there was a huge sense of excitement about what we were doing and it was clear to me that everyone involved was as equally passionate about the cause as I was.
We all spent time with each other over the course of the walk, we chatted, we laughed, we cried, we motivated each other, we said lots of swear words. But like that old saying goes ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’ It was a long night. We kept marching, keeping each other’s spirits lifted. On and on and on we walked.
I’d like to mention a very special person that was part of our group. 17 year old Jamie, who has cerebral palsy. He was determined to join us all and managed 30 miles. Not once did he complain and he was always smiling; I have never been so inspired by anyone in my life. He kept everyone going and his attitude to life is beyond admirable.
We lost a few walkers on the way but they only gave up when their pain became utterly unbearable, so in no way was their achievement any less than anybody else’s. Our lovely Charlie had very sore blisters early on into the walk and he still managed to make it to 30 miles despite being in absolute agony. Matthew, his hips were hurting so much but he kept going.
We made it to London around 6am with another 7 hours to go. We walked, talked, walked, had quiet moments, walked, walked, hugged, laughed at Lee’s obsession watching the planes fly into Heathrow, walked some more.. The last hour for me was the toughest. The backs of my knees, my thighs, my back, my calves, my feet, were literally burning with pain. I couldn’t stop, if I stopped I’d never get up again. So I shuffled, I was barely able to lift my feet off the ground. But in my mind I imagined the pain of someone who is experiencing depression, I recalled that feeling of worthlessness, that constant black cloud. And I remembered why I was doing this. So I kept going, we all kept going until we finally saw the bright lights of Craven Cottage in the distance. And we made it! 17 hours, 44 miles later.
I can’t describe the strange feelings when we got there. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion, I was exhausted, I was absolutely buzzing, I was happy, I was sad, I was hungry, I was in pain. But mostly I was elated. I was so proud of myself and every single one of my fellow walkers that my heart might’ve burst with love. And we raised so much money and awareness. The pain, the endurance, was all worth it.
I would encourage anybody to join one of these amazing walks, it is so enlightening, and every single person that does something will be helping to raise awareness, if it helps just one person you have saved a beautiful, absolutely precious life.