In 2008 Pete was the victim of a robbery and murder attempt in South Africa. At the time, he thought he’d processed the trauma, and life went on. It was only years later that he realised something was wrong. Now he’s climbing the highest mountains on all seven continents to raise money and awareness for two causes close to home and to his heart: Mind and the NSPCC
I remember seeing a specialist straight after the murder attempt. She mentioned PTSD, but I dismissed it. With hindsight I should have listened. I remember sitting in a friend’s living room and just feeling petrified, fight, flight and flee in full mode, and it was at that point I knew something had changed.
That was back in 2008… I didn’t do anything about it, but there were signs, signals that something was wrong. The tipping point came in 2015 when I was sitting in the office, talking to a room full of graduates when, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t control the attack. Lips quivering, sweating, trembling - I was terrified of nothing.
There was no threat; I had done these grad talks half a dozen times before. I excused myself, lying about having to take a call, and ran straight for the director’s office. I called my line manager and HR. They were aware of a few other events mirroring the effects of PTSD. I'd been pretty transparent about it with work, but this took it to a new level. It was the first time in my life I couldn’t mask the attack. It had a life of its own, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
As with all events, traumas, difficulties in life, you find some people relate and some don’t.
For the most part people kept their distance. Colleagues I’d been friends with before were no more. But as with anything, my real friends, the ones who genuinely care about my health and wellbeing, were always there for me. My fiancée is amazing. She doesn’t treat me any differently, and I suppose that’s all I can really ask for.
I saw six different therapists with little result, but my GP has been a real source of light for me. She’s been supportive, we have regular appointments and her empathy and willingness to help have kept me strong when things have been a little difficult. Along with my fiancée and two-year-old dog, Charlee, they have been the ones who’ve contributed to making this feel like an opportunity to do something worthwhile.
I say nothing changed in 2008, but that’s not completely true. I want to absorb everything life has to offer, after nearly losing mine. I’ve cycled to Paris, trekked the Himalayas, run a marathon... But the idea of climbing the highest peaks on every continent, that crept up from behind. It’s one of those things that you don’t plan, but you know you were destined to do. I have a window. One day I’ll have my own kids. I guess I want them to be proud of me, and to know that if I could achieve this, then they are capable of anything.
I'm using this challenge to raise funds and awareness for Mind, because I believe a mental health problem doesn’t have to hold you back.
You don’t have to climb a mountain. It could be fixing a broken relationship or riding up a steep hill.
It’s not the event that matters, it’s the relationship the event has to you. For me it’s simple. I’ve found solace at high altitude, an experience where being present remains a prerequisite for survival. It’s where I feel capable of becoming the truest version of myself.
I’ve climbed Aconcagua, and in the next four months I’ll hopefully have Elbrus and Kilimanjaro under my belt. Come time for Everest, I’ll be ready and raring to get to the top.
On 29 July Pete is heading off to climb Mt Elbrus in Russia, the highest peak in Europe, then it's Kilimanjaro. You can follow his progress on Twitter and support his fundraising here.