It would be completely remiss of me not to begin this post by talking about the horrific events that happened in Manchester last week – events which I’m still struggling to comprehend. I went to bed having seen the tweets about an incident at the Manchester Arena and subsequently read “eyewitness” accounts saying that it was just a blown speaker…it was just a load of helium balloons, and figured it was just Twitter scaremongering. The next think I knew, Tom was waking me up and telling me 19 people had died. I lay in bed feeling utterly sick to my stomach in complete shock, like many of you I’m sure.
Manchester was my home for most of my twenties and like anyone who has lived there will tell you; it really gets under your skin and you never lose that love and pride for the place. Coupled with the fact some of my happiest memories as a child were at that arena, I felt utterly consumed by sadness. My Dad has stood in the exact spot many of those parents were standing in, waiting for me to come out of concerts. I’ve felt that utter elation of seeing my favourite pop stars in the flesh in that arena, I’ve left feeling on top of the world after months and months of waiting for that one night and the thought of those youngsters feeling that way and never making it home is just utterly heart-breaking. I can’t begin to imagine how one would go about dealing with such a tragedy; the injustice, the barbarity and the senselessness of it.
I felt like nothing else mattered last week, that everything paled in comparison to the heartbreak Manchester was going through. I was scared and anxious about the world and didn’t want to get out of bed for fear of something terrible happening. I wasn’t in the best place. But I knew that I had to somehow bring myself out of that dark place and do my charity walk for CALM. I felt guilty posting on social media about it and asking people for money, I felt that people would think I was being selfish and insensitive but at the same time I didn’t want to let CALM down by not raising as much money as I possibly could for them.
I signed up for the walk almost a year ago and it all came down to that one day – Saturday, and despite trying to remain positive, I knew before I even started that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to walk 100KM, I was mentally exhausted and as anyone with mental health issues will tell you, it really affects you physically too.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t do as much training as I should have. I had great intentions as I always do, but in reality they didn’t materialise to much. Yes I got in some good long walks and had physio on my failing ankle but I didn’t do enough strengthening or conditioning. Really, I should have never signed up to do 100KM, because quite frankly it was an impossible task for someone who isn’t exactly built for endurance. But of course, in classic Michelle style, I felt that I had to sign up to something that people would be impressed by, something that felt it would justify asking people for their money. Turns out, people who sponsored me didn’t give me the money because they wanted to see me walk 100KM, they gave me the money because they wanted to support the charity and would have probably given me the money for 10KM.
You’ve heard people say “all the gear and no idea” right? Well that was me. I spent a lot of money on things for this walk; trying to kid myself that with all the regalia 100KM would be easy peasy. Nah-uh. Turns out the more unnecessary stuff you have in your bag, the harder it is to walk as your poor shoulders just get weighed down.
Despite not feeling great I arrived at Richmond Park feeling a bit more positive – the adrenaline started to kick in a bit once we were faced with hundreds of other walkers and Queen blasting out on the speakers. However, that positivity was to be short lived…..
I went to the toilet to put my hat on – you know, just to check it looked okay, as you do. There was no mirror in the Port A Loo so I turned my phone on selfie mode, as you do. Nature called, as it does and I placed my phone on the side of the toilet, as only a complete idiot would do. As if in slow motion, my phone disappeared from view. Initially I thought it would have just fallen on the grass underneath the loo. Nah-uh. You probably don’t need me to tell you where it had fallen and you probably don’t need me to tell you what I had to do next…..let’s just say I was extremely grateful for having packed the hand sanitizer.
So, I embarked on the walk with no working phone and was utterly devastated. You see, I had saved lots of messages and videos on there to watch when the going got tough, I’d compiled special playlists and I’d promised to inundate my social media channels with inane selfies along the way. I’m one of those people that needs positive encouragement when I’m feeling like I can’t do something and the thought of having to do this walk without speaking to Tom, my parents and my brothers really upset me, so I think that was the beginning of the end physiologically for me.
I won’t bore you with a KM by KM account of the walk, but it was tough, really tough. I think I first cried at the 5KM mark when a lady on the street noticed we were walking for CALM and wished us luck saying she supported the charity. And I then spent most of the 40KM I managed to complete just generally crying. Crying because I was in pain from the hellish blisters on the tips of my toes (so annoyed as I had none in training), crying because I knew I wasn’t going to get to Brighton and I was going to let people down, crying because I couldn’t speak to anyone and crying because I wanted to prove myself wrong but I couldn’t.
I bowed out at the 40KM mark as I knew I couldn’t go on with the blisters and under the advice of the medics. I was heartbroken. I felt like the biggest failure and still do despite everyone telling me otherwise. You see the thing is, whilst I signed up for this challenge to benefit CALM and raise money for them to help them continue their amazing work, as anyone who does anything for charity will tell you (if they’re completely honest), there’s always a bit of a selfish reason behind it too. For me, it’s wanting to seek people’s validation, it’s wanting people to be proud of me and see me as strong. And because on this occasion I had to admit by quitting that I wasn’t strong, it felt like I was letting everyone down. I don’t like failing at things, and always give everything 110% because of that and I feel I didn’t and I’m annoyed with myself.
There will be many people reading this, who will be very annoyed with me saying all this as everyone has been telling me all week that I did fantastically and that I shouldn’t be disappointed in myself. But, we can’t help how we feel and I feel utterly disappointed in myself and somewhat humiliated after spending months and months telling everyone how I was going to do it. The fact the company running the walk made you feel like scum for not finishing it didn’t help either.
BUT and this is a big but, I raised over £2,000 for a charity that means a lot to me and that’s what I am trying to focus on. I know that money is going to go on to help so many people and potentially save lives and for that reason I should be proud. I desperately wanted to do something to help; the fact 12 men take their own life in the UK every day just horrifies me and I hope in some small way I have helped. I’m sure in time I will look back on last weekend and find the whole thing less painful and learn from the experience. I will continue to raise money for the charity and do my best to help, I’m just going to make sure that I do it more sensibly and not hurt myself in the process because that doesn’t benefit anyone in the long run.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my friend Nathalie, who did the walk with me. I pretty much bullied her in to it all those months ago and she was a star throughout. Together we raised over £3,700 for CALM and I know I speak for both of us when I say that everyone’s generosity has meant a lot.
My JustGiving page is still open for anyone who would still like to donate