As those of you who follow me on social media might already know, I’ve taken the mad/courageous decision to walk 874 miles (the equivalent of trekking the iconic route from Lands End to John O’Groats) in 80 days to raise funds for the National Hearing Voices Network. This might not sound much, but if you factor in that I’m officially classed as ‘morbidly obese’, have ‘multiple comorbidities’ and am still recuperating from the after-effects of miscarriage, pregnancy, withdrawing from psych meds and mothering a wonderful toddler-tornado-warrior-child (aka Thea) … it’s a big step.
I’m not quite sure what possessed me to come up with this idea. There are certainly easier ways for me to raise funds – and as HVN’s chair I already give plenty of my time and energy to the cause. On the face of it, my decision was impulsive. Since stopping medication about 1 month ago (a really painful process, with a bucketload of physical and emotional withdrawal effects and a seriously reduced need for sleep), I’ve rediscovered this strange spark … motivation, I think it’s called. Rather than having to drag myself around secretly waiting for the next time I can reasonably slip back into sleep I have been seeing issues (everywhere) and instinctively doing something to address them. No washing up liquid? Get some more. Feeling a bit at sea as a mad PhD student? Start a group. Part of an underfunded charity? Do something ridiculous and raise some money. Easy 😮
Yet, there’s something about this particular challenge that is turning out to be deeply meaningful and transformative.
My relationship with my body has always been somewhat challenging. I’ve denied its existence, spend a fair chunk of time concerned that its not human and it has been the site of multiple traumas. My body (usually known as ‘The Body’ as my body sounds far too familiar to describe my relationship with it) is a largely neglected battlefield – a wasteland that still bears the scars of former conflict. To go back to the site and actually pay attention to it risks having to fully acknowledge so much that I instinctively shy away from. It is not a pleasant space to hang out.
In creating this completely unnecessary challenge, I have managed to inadvertently engineer a situation where I need to spend 80 days in close proximity to this body of mine. Walking 874 miles when you weigh around 20 stone is a big deal. As one of my training walks showed me last week, my dissociative ability to mute physical discomfort is both a blessing and a curse. It is all too easy for me to injure myself because of ill-fitting shoes (I really struggle to know what it feels like for shoes to fit, even now) or ignore my body’s other signals that it needs some time to rest. I’ve got this far my ignoring my body’s needs … now the next phase of my journey requires me to prioritise them and develop some kind of mutually beneficial relationship. This is new ground for me in so many ways.
Today, after heading to the physio for a gait check and some advice on how to do this and not break myself, I will be walking back to Shepshed from Loughborough, via Hathern. Then, for the next 80 days I will be doing my best to walk an average of 11 miles a day in order to reach my goal and raise some much needed funds for the English National Hearing Voices Network.
In all honesty, I am not sure if this is physically possible for me to accomplish within 80 days. But the time is just something I pulled out of the air and not the most important part of this endeavour. The point is that I am not going to stop trying until I have walked 874 miles. I have no idea what this journey will bring – but I can pretty much guarantee that – mentally and physically – when I walk past the finish line I will be a different version of myself.
If you’d like to sponsor me and/or donate to the National Hearing Voices Network at any point during my journey – whether it’s pennies or pounds – please check out my Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/874milesforhvn.
I’d you’d like to keep up to date with my progress (which is sure to include some random photos of me attempting to walk whilst studying / looking after my toddler / juggling), you can also follow me on twitter (@raiwaddingham #874miles4HVN).
I’m planning to be as open and transparent about the ups and downs of this journey – and any and all messages of support are welcome.