Actions speak louder than words, or so the saying goes. For many years now I have used my social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blog (www.teaandponders.wordpress.com) as a voice for myself and others with mental health conditions and to help end the stigma attached to them. Last year was the year I turned 40, and when I decided I would use my feet to fundraise for a mental health charity.
In the heat of early summer, I walked 20k for Support in Mind Scotland – smashing my initial £100 target for donations due to the kind generosity of friends. However, something told me I needed to do more - but what? I saw the 100 Streets Challenge on Support in Mind’s website and thought “Sounds good... but where should I do it?”
Life changes in an instant and one week in July last year showed me just how much it can. My mum had a hip replacement and my dad died of cancer within days of each other. My dad's death became an elephant in the room as nobody talked about it and my mum needed my support 24/7. This was further compounded by the sudden death of a close friend with schizoaffective disorder, which highlighted to me I needed to pay tribute to both. So I decided I would do the 100 Streets Challenge in their honour. It was also a way to have time out and focus on my own needs as I realised I wasn't looking after my own wellbeing and mental health, as well as explore South Edinburgh afresh on foot.
I began by exploring the rabbit warren of the area I live, which despite living there on and off, I had never fully explored. This was followed up by a long walk from home to Craigmillar Castle and back, which allowed me to think about my dad and all the things we did together, including visiting antiques shops and historic properties. I reached the castle as the heavens opened with an enormous cloud burst, which in many ways symbolised the tears I had been suppressing. Rather than curse the rain I laughed and cried as I thought of his dry humour...it was almost poetic walking for mental health thinking of a man that worked as a child neurologist but didn't like exercise! The final part of my challenge took me to Morningside and Comiston as I thought of Dan and others like him that struggle to even take one step outside their doors. Occasionally when walking I took photos and checked in on social media as a way to showcase South Edinburgh's hidden and known gems, which included Consulate General of the Czech Republic and the old suburban railway.
Above: proudly receiving my 100 Streets Challenge award on my 40th birthday
I was pleased when I completed my walk, and glad I had done it - especially as I spent the next three months off work with stress as I struggled to cope with my grief and supporting my mum's needs. When Iain from Support in Mind emailed me to tell me I had won an award for my fundraising and would be awarded it on my 40th birthday it seemed a good way to sign off on the successes of 2018 that at times felt few and far between.
I am already planning my 100 streets for this year and encouraging friends around the world to do the same, wherever they live. 100 streets is a great way to see places you know afresh and discover new ones, with or without friends. Why not join me?
If you’d like to read more from Fi, you can find more on her blog at www.teaandponders.wordpress.com