Tom and Morgan have set out on a 2000-mile bike ride from Hanoi to Singapore to raise money for mental health. Here are their stories.
I first confronted my depression in 2011 while living in Sydney. Earlier in the year, I was in the room when my six day-old godson took his final breaths following complications during labour.
The immediate aftermath was pure grief and obviously huge sympathy for my friends who had lost their first-born, but then in the months following my mood sank lower and lower. This affected my daily life and eventually my relationship. On December 7, 2011, I seriously considered ending it all, there just seemed to be no way out of how I was feeling, a sense of worthlessness overcame me and I just thought the world would be better without me.
Thankfully I managed to pull myself away from the precipice but it made me realise that I needed to get help. Being able to sit down with someone allowed me to unleash years of issues that I’d never really addressed. In 2002, my mother passed away from a sudden brain haemorrhage. Since that point I had essentially been on the run from facing up to that.
Almost immediately after my mother’s death, I went travelling for six months. As soon as I got back I started at university. As soon as my studies were finished, I left for Australia, where I spent the next six years. I did my best to forget rather than face up to what had happened and that was never going to end well.
I returned to the UK in 2012 and my depression came back soon after; the pressure to find work coupled with having to leave Australia suddenly didn’t make for a happy return home. I got support through the NHS… although the waiting period of three months didn’t help.
Today, thanks to the therapy sessions and my focus on fitness, I’m feeling good. I still suffer from anxiety but the depression has subsided, although of course you never really know when it may strike again.
The realisation I needed to see someone and taking that first step was an empowering moment for me. I really hope that in the near future, seeking help for a mental health problem worldwide comes to be seen as an act of strength, not one of weakness.
Two months before I was due to graduate from university, I found out my brother was terminally ill with cancer. I found out in a phone call from my dad while I was 300 miles away and the pain of that conversation still reverberates around my mind.
I suppose I've always been an anxious person but the death of someone so close, someone I just naturally presumed would always be there, made me subconsciously aware of mortality and all the painful reality of death.
My dark moods and the constant fear of something awful happening came to seem normal. Something had to change.
I took part in several CBT sessions, which were useful but my ego always seemed to get in the way of real progress and I just couldn't concentrate on the sessions, or if I did, I left with more questions than when I arrived. I would often leave feeling better informed but with the whirring sensation of thoughts and anxieties filling my mind once again.
For the past few of years things have gradually improved to a point where I now feel as anxiety free as I have done for many years. But I know that the battle to keep depression and anxiety in check takes careful planning and consideration which is why charities such as Mind are so unbelievably crucial to helping people understand exactly what it is they are going through.
What we’re doing
One of the main effects of our depression and anxiety was the inability to motivate ourselves to do even everyday tasks. Since fitness is a big part of both our lives, we decided that we needed to do something that would not only give us a purpose, but which we’d have to train for, too. We came up with the South East Asian Cycling Challenge. Starting in Hanoi, Vietnam, we’ll begin a 2,000-mile journey through the heat and humidity (among other obstacles) to Singapore.
As well as a great way of raising money for Mind, were hoping to encourage others to get involved in fitness-based motivational challenges.
Tom and Morgan have set off on their epic bike ride, but you can still support them and follow their progress on Facebook or Twitter.