The week started slowly with all eyes and ears towards The Knee. It was certainly creakier than before but after a couple of days rest it wasn’t so much painful as just a bit stiff. I felt frustrated that I couldn’t keep up the momentum of training and concerned about whether The Knee was going to hinder me for any longer than a few days.
By Thursday it felt stable enough to try a walk. My Dad is a very keen walker and has embraced my challenge with excitement, both due to the fundraising aspect in Ian’s memory, and due to the excuse it will give us to do some walking together. He came to stay along with my Mum. Mum is embracing the challenge with equal excitement, again due to the fundraising, but also because it gives her a very valid excuse to steal her grandchildren while I walk with Dad.
It had been a really busy week with work, appointments and general mummy / wife / house business so I hadn’t really planned where Dad and I would walk. One of the problems with living in Somerset while training for a mountain trek, is that it isn’t the most mountainous of landscapes… there is a reason why they’re called The Levels. We ended up walking 5-6 miles along the very muddy and quite slippery Polden Way. It was a really beautiful day, sunny but cold, and we even managed to find two hills as part of the walk, one steep but short, the other more gentle but long. I learnt two things – the first one being that I need to buy some proper walking boots. My trainers are now completely ruined after being caked in mud… still, I can never run again due to The Knee, so hey. The second thing I learnt was that walking poles may help me to stay upright. I don’t know why I seem to slip, trip and slide more frequently than other people but I seem to have to concentrate very hard on just remaining vertical. My Dad gave me a good tip about walking poles and suggested I try the type which don’t change the natural angle of your wrist as you walk but instead allow your hands and arms to be placed as they naturally are. The walking poles are therefore used at a more horizontal angle rather than a vertical….. hang on a sec…. am I actually blogging, in quite a lot of detail, about walking poles? Yes… yes I am. Moving on.
Dad and I put the world to rights and thrashed out various things while we walked. My Dad, who has an incredible amount of insight and wisdom, has often said that “women talk face to face, men talk shoulder to shoulder.” This is very true. It was good to have a couple of hours together, enjoying a lovely day and a lovely walk, talking about things which matter to us at the moment. Talking about where we are, about suicide, about Ian, about each other… and then about the cows, the best snacks to take on a trek, and walking poles.
On Saturday I hoiked my 21 month old into the carrier and on to my back and negotiated stiles, brambles and public footpath signs with my husband and my 5 year old to do a short walk to a nearby hill in the village where we live. Sharpenton Hill is one of the knolls which lends itself to the area where I live being affectionately known as The Shire. We are surrounded by hillocks, knolls and mumps. Again, not exactly mountainous but I actually felt it was fairly good training with a heavy and wriggly little girl on my back, who patted my head encouragingly and rubbed various bodily fluids and yogurt into my hair while we walked. I have decided that next week I will hoik her onto my back again and climb Glastonbury Tor. The Tor is 525 feet. All I need to do is climb it 6 times and I will have achieved a quarter of the Mind 3000s challenge. My knee is creaking at the thought of it.
On Thursday I got an email from a lady from the media team at Mind asking me if I would be prepared to share any of my ‘story’ and the reasons why I am doing the trek for media pieces to promote the trek. When I signed up for the trek I ticked the box indicating that I would be happy to do this, but since her email I have been thinking carefully about it. I have spoken to my family about it as I am aware that I would not only be sharing my experiences, but OUR experiences. We decided as a family when Ian died that we would not hide his suicide in a shroud of shame, but that we would be open and honest about it and about the mental illness which, ultimately, for him was terminal. I am determind to challenge the stigma surrounding mental illness, but by committing to doing that, I feel I am also opening myself up to that very stigma. This is a daunting prospect. We have all seen hideous online trolls, who use their computer keyboards to attack and belittle. We have all felt the sideways glances of people as they whisper something behind their hand to their friend about us. And as someone who has been bereaved by suicide, I have experienced people literally and metaphorically crossing the road to avoid me because they don’t know what to say. I have lost loved friends who could not support me in my grief. Am I able to make myself vulnerable to those things, and potentially many more, by being honest and open?
It’s very, very scary, but I am. I am doing it here on this blog. I do it every time someone asks if I have any brothers or sisters and I tell them about Ian. I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to make myself vulnerable to the lack of understanding, confusion, assumptions which are made about mental illness but I am in this situation and not acknowledging it is not an option. So I will be honest. I will be honest because my brother was a good person, a great friend, a brilliant laugh, and he deserves understanding.
Have a good week and think of me peeling myself off the sofa in the forecasted cold weather to climb up some mumps.