So I went for a walk…

It has been a while since my last post, and so much has happened.

The job hunt continues, organisation and management of my awesome umpire group ramps up as the season approaches and everyday life continues.

One thing that has occurred in that time is March With Me 2017. This 116km trek is the single greatest challenge I have ever completed. Nothing comes close. Nothing.

The greatest physical challenge.

The greatest mental challenge.

The greatest emotional challenge.

What drives someone to willingly put ever fibre of their being through such a gruelling examination of strength and fortitude?

Seriously. Why, just why?

Mine is one of 320 stories that each finds in itself the motivation and desire to overcome adversity and rise above.

Each of these heart wrenching and heart-warming March With Me narratives is ultimately inspiring and uplifting.

Some, like me, walked with fierce determination for deeply personal reasons, to confront their own demons and take a step forward in their own endeavours to escape the clutches of the black dog.

Others strode forward to honour the memory of someone dear who could no longer live in their own world.

More still, for that special someone in their life who is struggling with mental health issues. They chose to show their support in quite a different way than how they express their love and support day in, day out.

Never underestimate the courage, bravery and resilience that any of my comrades on this march displayed, not only on that unforgettable weekend, but also in everyday life.

The examples of this were evident everywhere you turned…

The bloke with the busted knee and a heart bigger than bloody Phar Lap… the kids who conquered Kokoda and backed up on this hike… the bloke who inspired his uncle to walk, spent a night in hospital before a step had been taken, and then joined the walk… the lady who was determined to climb just one of the Mt Martha monsters, just one. She climbed all four hills… the father and daughter who walked the whole way together… our two absolutely incredible Love Me Love You youth ambassadors that had no right to be on their feet but would not get on the bus come hell or high water… the married couple from the bush that were side by side the entire journey and always had smiles on their faces… the eight or so teens that showed remarkable strength and resilience way beyond their years… the bloke who founded Love Me Love You walking with a busted knee… the very many selfless stars who looked outside their own trials and tribulations to instil belief in others through the fine art of conversational distraction… the multiple incarnations of Lazarus, those who were physically spent, through pain or exhaustion, yet found a way through perhaps previously untapped mental strength, rose and rose again to walk with heads held high onto North Port Oval, a suburban football ground that now holds so much more meaning to many, many people.

I could go on, and I assure you for every little anecdote you just read, there are hundreds more.

Those on the walk will know instantly who all of these people are and what they went through. Each of us continues to be inspired by each other almost two weeks later. That is pretty special. Very special.

Special too is the Love Me Love You mantra each of us wore proudly on our backs and demonstrated so clearly along the route.

No one travels their journey alone.lmly
Emotionally, there were times on the walk when I was alone. And that is OK. In fact it is good to have some alone time and reflect.

There were times I shed a tear or three; when a song I took a verse from for dad’s eulogy played its way from my iPod and into my mind, thinking of what I had endured and overcome, realising with pride the sheer enormity of what we were doing, thinking of my family and when I saw my wife and daughter at the finish. The tears came yet it was from them that I gained strength and will to out one foot in front of the other.

There was no shame in showing emotion and it was at these times that a once stranger’s hand would rest on my shoulder or an arm embraced me.

Small gestures. Monstrous impact.

I may not have stopped crying at another’s soothing youch, but that is not what the hand or embrace was designed to do. This simply and subtly told me that I was not alone.

So, my story. For the first time with a bit of brutal honesty.

I am sure you are by now well aware that I have suffered through bouts of depression and severe anxiety. I have come to the realisation that I have experienced this for longer than even I think I previously understood. And I am OK with that.

Throughout that time I have put up a façade, as have many others trying to cope with mental illness.

A façade.

OK. So, who am I?

Who am I really?

I am the gregarious, upbeat and extroverted person that is a contorted explosion of contradictory emotion beneath the layers of bullshit. Have been for sometime.

I am ego-driven and talk about myself more than I should. I seek validation from others and enjoy a little embellishment from time to time, not to impress anyone else, but to try and convince myself of my own worth. Yet the contradictory aspect of continued  self-degradation eroding that worth not-so-happily co-exist.

That is the person I have been an apologist for. No more.

This incredible journey from the playground of the rich and famous at Portsea to the no-holds-barred working class heartland of Port Melbourne has taught me many things, but it has taught me one precious lesson that I must never forget.

I do not live behind a façade.

I am who I am.

I am who I am and I should be proud of the person that I am. If nothing else, I can honestly say that Love Me Love You through March With Me 2017 has allowed me the clarity of mind to finally be proud of who I am.

I like me.

I took my first tentative steps from Portsea with a solitary friend.

I arrived at Port Melbourne part of a 320+ strong family.

I really like me.

In fact, I love me.

Love Me Love You.

March With Me is the signature event of the Love Me Love You foundation, a non-profit organisation that strives to empower and build resilience in young adults so that they may overcome the stigma surrounding mental health and other life hardships. (Just in case you might like to add to the record $25oK raised, here is my fundraising link)

I may not necessarily be in the target market, but thank you to Lance and his team at Love Me Love You, as well as everyone who shared the journey with me. Thank you all for helping me find a way clear of the clutches of despair and low self worth.

It is not over, but more than ever and for the first time in a long, long time, I feel like I am winning. I can’t tell you how good it feels to not just say that, but to believe it.

The black dog is at my heel and the skies are definitely blue.

All because I went for a walk.

We went for a walk.