I first heard about Mind Hike one Friday evening. I was idly scrolling through Facebook when I noticed a link to Mind's website. I clicked on the events page, saw the Mind Hike and thought "I could do that".
Perhaps I was a little impulsive. I filled in the application form without thinking too much about it. I briefly explained why the hike appealed to me - that my mum had taken her own life a couple of months before my son's first birthday and that I wanted to do something in her memory as well as raise awareness and money - but I didn't give much consideration to the hike itself. I have family near the Lake District so I'm familiar with the area, and hiking's just an endurance test really isn't it? I'd just need a bit of determination and some decent shoes, right?
I thought about it more after submitting my application form, and I settled on two facts: 1) this was going to be really difficult - both physically (hiking 40 mountainous miles in 24 hours is no walk in the park) and from a fundraising perspective (there's a minimum sponsorship level of £650); and 2) I absolutely had to get a place. I wrote to Mind. I explained I didn't think I'd done a great job on my application form, gave them some more information about myself, and upped my sponsorship target from the minimum to £1,000.
None of this will come as a surprise to people who know me well - I'm a big fan of making my life more difficult than it already is! I explained how I planned to raise the money: I'd set up a fundraising page, as recommended, I'd do bake sales, I'd ask for donations from corporations – I'd basically make sure I met my target.
"I really wanted to do it and I really wanted to do it properly."
I'd thought that I'd share some information about what happened to my mum on the page, but what came out when I sat down to write it shocked even me. I think I was ready to open up. I wrote paragraph after paragraph about our relationship, her interactions with my son and what it was like to hear she'd taken her own life. It just poured out. I wrote it all in less than an hour.
I was 31 when my mum took her own life. My son, her only and much awaited grandchild, was not even ten months old. Nothing could have prepared me for the evening in March 2013 when my dad arrived on my doorstep to tell me she was gone. We found out more later; she'd taken her life downstairs in our family home while my dad was upstairs working.
I was devastated. And more than that, I was furious. I recall holding a glass and wanting so badly to hurl it across the kitchen. And then I remembered. I have a baby. I can't do that. I can't cover my kitchen in tiny shards of glass, put glass on his high chair, on his toys.
"I'm still angry. But not with her. I'm angry with the mental health problems that took her away from me, from her friends and family and from her grandchild."
I wrote all of this on my fundraising page and then waited. Did I really want to share all this? I had to make sure my dad was ok with it, so I spoke to him. I talked to some of my friends and my husband. Did everyone need to know all of this?
I pressed "post" after a good deal of staring at the screen, and I went and watched TV to take my mind off it. When I warily checked my page an hour later, I'd already raised over £300. I couldn't believe it! That was almost a third of my target! And I'd received so many messages of support. I was speechless.
The £1,000 target I'd set was clearly way too low. It was smashed overnight within 12 hours.
"I'd vastly underestimated my friends' and family's generosity and empathy with the topic I was raising money for."
After a few days, as the donations kept coming, I upped my target to £2,500. That too has now been exceeded and I'm wondering where to go next with this. I don't want to stop raising money for Mind simply because the targets have been met. I want to raise as much as I can.
I also want to normalise talking about mental health issues as much as possible. This isn't something that has just affected my family and those close to my mum. This can affect all of us. And help is out there.
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.