"On the 16 May 2015, I am proud to say that I successfully completed a 24-hour 15-mountain trek to raise money for Mind." Danielle blogs about her life-changing experience.
Ups and downs at every single turn, emotionally, physically and literally. I've made new, life-long friends, and smashed what I thought were my own personal limits.
My involvement with Mind began last year when I was in my final year of university and living in student halls with five others. One of my flatmates hadn’t turned up at college and we realised that none of us had seen him that week. Then we found out he’d taken his own life without any of us even realising.
"I’ve suffered from mild depression and anxiety my whole life … a dark cloud that has loomed over me for as long as I can remember."
This had a profound effect on me. As his flatmate, I wish I’d taken more notice of him. He was such a lovely guy, but very quiet and kept himself to himself. I would speak to him whenever I saw him, but our friendship never extended beyond small talk and pleasantries. Looking back, I feel that all he really needed was a friend, or for someone to show genuine interest in him ... but I was so busy at the time with my own problems that I failed to see his.
I’ve suffered from mild depression and anxiety my whole life … a dark cloud that has loomed over me for as long as I can remember. Even as a little girl, it was always there. I didn’t have a miserable childhood by any means, but my past has been tainted by this ‘not quite right’ feeling. I understand it now. It’s just me – part of the way I’m made. With medication and counselling, I now feel for the first time like I’m in control of my emotions.
This all happened at a time when I was particularly fragile. I was in the middle of a very difficult relationship, which was tearing me apart, with final year exams and looming deadlines thrown in for good measure. It’s hard to explain how severe anxiety can make you feel… but for me, physically, it felt like my insides were rotting away.
"My nerves were in tatters and my mood constantly swaying from one extreme to another."
Dark thoughts would keep me awake at night, stop me from eating and ruin my concentration. My nerves were in tatters and my mood constantly swaying from one extreme to another. My university was fantastic - I was offered counselling and therapy and all of my deadlines were extended. But I couldn’t shake off a feeling of guilt. Depression is such an isolating illness; it destroys me to think about how lonely my flatmate must have felt, despite being surrounded by friends if only he’d known.
I decided that I wanted to try to make a difference. It was too late for my flatmate, but it wouldn’t be too late for others. I held a sponsored silence to raise money for Mind and managed to raise £1,544 by staying silent for seven days. I set up a student support group, where every Wednesday afternoon people can chat about anything that’s worrying them. But I wanted a bigger challenge and to raise more money. When I read about the Mind 3000s challenge… I immediately signed up for Team Wales. I knew this was going to be a big challenge, but I didn’t realise at the time just how huge!
I stuck to my training programme religiously, and threw everything into fundraising. My friends and family have been overwhelmingly supportive. My work colleagues helped me to set up a cake sale at my Homebase store, where I managed to raise over £500 in one day, and my university helped me hold two cake sales on separate occasions, each one raising well over £100.
As the trek got closer and closer, strangely enough, my nerves faded. I met my team captain Matt Johnson on a photoshoot for Mind, and was put at ease by his friendliness and warmth. The closer it got, the more excited I felt.
Now that the challenge is over, I ‘ve been trying to think of how I can describe that weekend, but nothing I can think of will do it justice. It has been life-changing. Ups and downs at every single turn, emotionally, physically and literally. I ‘ve made new, life-long friends, and smashed what I thought were my own personal limits.
"The support and encouragement from my team-mates lifted me up and got me over that final summit."
My soul soaked in breath-taking views and witnessed first-hand the inner strength of the bravest people I have ever met. People who have lost mothers, sisters, cousins, fathers, brothers, aunties, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, best friends and their own minds, but who have found the strength to push through and further.
Being faced with a sheer 90-degree solid rock-cliff chasm at 2am in the morning in the pitch black after 20 hours straight of mountain trekking was something that made me hit my own wall. That was, until the support and encouragement from my team-mates lifted me up and got me over that final summit, step by step. This challenge has had a profound effect on me and now I have a mountain of memories that I will carry with me forever.
So far I’ve raised over £2,200, with donations still rolling in and to know that together we have raised over £60,000 is phenomenal.
I would do this challenge again in a heartbeat. It has meant so much to every one of us, and we know that it will help others find the support they need. I just can’t put into words the intensity of the pride that I feel for every member of our team who set off with me that morning.
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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.