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When Chloe walked from Leeds to London, it was to raise more than just money. It was also to raise awareness of mental health problems by sharing her own story.
Chloe wants to pursue a career within sport and mental health to turn her experiences from negative to positive by helping others.
When asked about depression, it’s often said that it’s about feeling sad. Of course, feeling sad is part of it but comparing the living nightmare of depression to day-day normal sadness is like comparing a paper cut to a broken leg. Everyone experiences sadness in their lives and it is often a healthy part of someone’s emotional wellbeing. Depression isn’t sadness. Depression eats away at you from the inside out. It’s the dark cloud over your head that turns everything greyscale from as soon as you wake in the morning to when you hit the pillow again on an evening. It’s the mental battle of carrying on because everyone else wants you to or giving up because there’s nothing or anyone to get up on a morning for. It’s with you all the time, some days more prominent than others. It’s the terrifying suicidal thoughts that make you want to hit your head against a wall to make it all stop.
"It’s like drowning in the middle of ocean, yet never drowning enough for the pain to end."
It’s looking in the mirror and not recognising the person looking back. It’s the life-less eyes that look back that have nothing but emptiness behind them. It’s looking into the eyes of your friends and family and the immediate stinging pain of tears as you try to remember how to love them. It’s the painfulness of doing things you once love, the overwhelming sense of worthlessness and the loss of your humour, your warmth and your interests. It’s there when you’re sat on your bathroom floor taking chunks out of your own skin because of the demons that are eating away at your mind, every second of every day.
It’s like drowning in the middle of ocean, yet never drowning enough for the pain to end. It’s like being on a train at a 100 miles an hour as you watch the world, and everyone else pass you by, getting on with their lives whilst you’re stuck in this one place. The screams for help that no one else can hear, yet the smile that masks any sense of poor mental wellness.
The guilt, the shame and the embarrassment comes from within. You blame yourself and constantly question whether it’s real, whether it is all in your head. Blaming yourself for an illness that only you can dimly see, but can take over your whole being, unable to do anything.
"It allowed me to take time out of the normal day-day stresses of life and give my own mind some breathing space."
6 months ago I remember having conversations with my friend about a big challenge I could do, to not only raise money, but raise awareness of mental illness. I loved London as a city and the iconic scenery there, it made sense to include the capital city into the challenge I would set myself. Walking came as something that I enjoyed, as it allowed me to take time out of the normal day-day stresses of life and give my own mind some breathing space. That same day, I came up with the idea and made a JustGiving page. My dad asked about all the logistics of it and my family were shocked that I had set myself such a huge challenge considering how much of a dark place I was in at the time. I decided to support mind and was ambitious in choosing a target of £10,000. Mind have been a charity that have helped me in some of my darkest moments and offer a fantastic platform to those suffering, so raising money for them was a no-brainer.
When deciding to do a huge challenge of walking from Leeds to London around 6 months ago, I saw it as a chance to save my life. This project I had set myself offered me a lifeline, it offered me a focus and allowed me to share my story in a way that inspired others. For me there was two options, I either don’t make it to the age of 18 through killing myself or I do something to turn my life around. To make my depression manageable. To live rather than just exist. The challenge has not only helped me but it has allowed me to share the reality of depression. The dark cloud that can hit at any time was now shared to hundreds of people following my progress. Depression is living in a body that fights to survive and a mind that tries to die.
"The walk itself was a rollercoaster, but it highlighted the importance of exercise on one’s mental wellbeing."
The walk itself was a rollercoaster, but it highlighted the importance of exercise on one’s mental wellbeing. Being out in the outdoors made me feel as though I had a purpose, it exposed me to the beauty of the world and all of the little things that are there to live for. The physicality of the walk was challenging, both mentally and physically but the response I was getting from strangers was unbelievable. The second day for me, was mentally the hardest, the reality of walking 27 miles and not getting back to the hotel until late at night threw me and I questioned whether I would be able to continue. The next day, I received a phone call from BBC Breakfast asking me to appear on the show the next morning and that they would sort us out free accommodation in a nice hotel in Media City. That was a turning point for me, it gave me the boost I needed and reminded me why I was doing the challenge in the first place, to raise awareness of mental illness. Taking that first step of talking about it, sharing my story, has given me confidence I didn’t even know existed. My message of ‘its okay not to be okay’ has reached hundreds, if not thousands of people. Talking is the most powerful thing we can do. I managed to exceed my £10,000 target and knowing that, that sum of money will benefit so many people suffering in such a way has made me extremely proud. I’m proud to be able to say that I have supported, and continue to support Mind charity.
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.