Putting in the ground work for Mind
Mark explains why he has set himself the challenge of cycling to 116 football grounds in 34 days to raise money for Mind.
Whan I was a teenager I was bullied at school, suffered periods of low self-esteem and was withdrawn. This was 40 odd years ago (I’m now 56), and depression wasn’t widely recognised so the standard reaction was ‘Stop being miserable’.
This was followed by long periods of anxiety and suicidal thoughts that resulted in me being referred for counselling in 2004 and being prescribed anti-depressants. Being able to speak to someone who doesn’t know me and wouldn’t judge me was a big comfort and it helped me focus on positive aspects of my life while recognising difficult periods in my past.
“All I wanted was to feel I wasn’t alone and, that help was available and that I deserved to have a happy life.”
In 2020 during lockdown, I hit another low which was recognised by colleagues who encouraged me to talk to a counsellor. Although I had benefited from counselling previously, I resisted, despite knowing it was the right thing to do. Thankfully, my colleagues persisted, and I took their advice. all I wanted was to feel I wasn’t alone, that was help available and that I deserved to have a happy life.
Diary of achievements
My counsellor set me a number of tasks, including keeping a gratuity diary to help focus on my daily achievements. This enabled me to focus on positive aspects of my life.
I wanted to take the focus away from myself and focus on helping others, so I decided to support charities concerned with my two passions – football (Luton Town) and cycling. Being able to exercise through cycling had helped with my mental health, so for the 2021/22 season I set myself the challenge to cycle to all the away games raising awareness and funds for mental health and other charities.
This kept me active, which helped my mental health and also took me out of my comfort zone. Although I was in a better place, I still worried how I would come across. Thankfully I think I came across well and managed to raise lots of money for deserving causes.
It’s OK not to be OK
There are still bumps in the road. I know I am on a constant journey and recognise the signs when I am feeling low and need to ask for help. My message to everyone is ‘it’s ok not to be ok’ and don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one should ever have to face struggles with mental health alone.
“I am cycling to 116 football clubs in 34 days – a total of 2,500 miles. It’s my toughest challenge, but I am determined to complete it.”
I am supporting Mind and two other charities that I am passionate about as I embark on my latest challenge, which has been six months in the planning to cycle to 116 football clubs in 34 days. It’s a total of 2,500 miles, starting at Carlisle on 5th April finishing at Luton Town on 8th May. This is my toughest challenge, but I am determined to complete it and raise awareness and money for three great causes.
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