Back in July I decided to sign up for a 12 hour hike across the Scottish Highlands raising money for Mind in memory of Shaun. I had seen a post on Facebook from Mind advertising this walk and thought I would look into it.
Now a lot of my family and friends thought I was bonkers (which of corse I am!) but there was method behind my madness. August 29th would have been mine and Shaun's 4th wedding anniversary and we had planned to go to Scotland as I had never been and Scotland was a place for Shaun to go when he needed to get away. He always spoke of Scotland's beauty and I couldn't wait to share such a special place with him.
For me this was a no brainer. I wasn't sue how I would get there or cope on my own or even get the training done with the boys but I knew I would do this for Shaun and honour our final plans together.
During the months leading to the walk, training wasn't really existent oops! However, I always knew this challenge would be more mental than physical. The week leading to the walk was not one of the best ones I've ever had! Lack of sleep, severe anxiety and waking with horrendous heart palpitations left me feeling like a zombie, barely functioning and extremely emotional! The day before I was leaving I went to the Drs to just get my self checked out and make sure I was as fully functioning as I possibly can be ha! The Dr saw no problem heart wise and she managed to get me an ECG done there and then just to make sure which again was normal. I asked her advise on whether i should do this walk or not and she said it would be the best thing for me to do as unfortunately these symptoms would have been down to my PTSD and anxiety and walking would be the best thing for me.
Thursday came and it was time to leave my boys and head for Scotland! I was extremely lucky that my Auntie Sue and Uncle Jon were crazy enough to come on this journey with me ! Jon was amazing and did all the driving and Sue kept me from having a complete breakdown! We left about 5pm to travel a few hours that night and stay in Stafford before doing the final journey on Friday. I've always been the sort of person who can sleep anywhere, well used to anyway ! The reality of what I had let myself in for had dawned on me and the doubt of if I could do this had set in so sleeping wasn't happening until the early hours. Friday morning came and we set off at 7am for Scotland. I've always travelled long distances with my dad living 3 hours away as a child and my family based in Norfolk which is a 4 hour journey so I'm usually OK in the car, however not today! My anxiety was through the roof, my body was shaking and every bump or move in the car sent my heart racing and feeling sick! Despite this I got to enjoy some of the most stunning views from the Lake District and Scotland and for the 1st time I could see why Shaun loved coming here. When we arrived at the site I was one of the 1st people there which was nice to get my bearings before 50 more people arrived. Sue came with me to sign in and find my lodging for the night before they left for their hotel. Then I was on my own. I was overcome with emotion, wandering if I had made the right choice in coming to Scotland but I realised that actually just getting to that moment I had achieved so much! I had achieved:
leaving my 3 boys who are my comfort blanket
Leaving my home which was my safe place
travelling 8 hours to get to Scotland
being on my own in a new place with strangers
So just getting there I had done so well! The 1st person I met was a lady called Jennifer who I am so grateful for ! She supported me throughout the whole weekend and made me feel safe which allowed me the chance to unwind... a little. Once we had settled in and unpacked we made our way to the hall for our dinner and briefing from the guys at Charity Challenge and Mind to discuss the walk the next day and a few ice breakers to get to know others (does anyone like these ?!?) afterwards we went back to our lodges to 'get an early night' or talk for a while which is what we did ! I had been worried about going to sleep given the past weeks experience and the amount of sleep I would get knowing I really needed a good night ready to start walking at 6.30am! Despite a pesky cough I actually got some sleep which I relieved about as I knew that some people didn't get a lot at all. We quickly got dressed and ready to make our way to the hall to collect our lunches and have breakfast ready to start at the start line just before 6.30! As we waited I was finishing of my breakfast trying to keep myself calm and not be sick! We had a team photo taken and then we were off! Straight up a bloody hill! Jennifer had stayed with me and we were joined by Esther (we were giving her a lift home on the Sunday ) the 3 off us set off and well, my body wasn't used to being up at 6.30 let alone walking up a hill in the cold Scottish Highlands! We had only been walking a few minutes when the anxiety kicked in, my chest was tight, I couldn't breathe properly and I could feel myself panicking. Can I actually do this ? The 3 of us stopped and waited for the rest to go by whilst I tried to calm myself and breathe properly. We were joined by the Team leaders who were beyond amazing in just talking to me and helping me to relax and focus again. I think that reality of everything had hit me. I was in Scotland doing a 12 hour walk right then and there by myself, no safety blanket or hiding away. I had to push on through these feelings despite wondering if I would make it to the 1st checkpoint! The Sun started to rise and after a couple hours and over 10,000 steps I was OK!
Walking through the Highlands was so humbling and magical. We saw various Lochs, forestry and even Highland cattle ! Conversations flowed and it was nice to be Sammiie for a change and not have any responsibilities. We stopped for lunch at Loch Katrine which was absolutely stunning even with a little shower! I realised I hadn't been drinking enough so as we started walking again after lunch I began feeling ill. I was feeling panicky, shaky and weak so I stopped for a while to have a drink and waited for the others to go by. A team leader suggested me and another lady missed the final incline as it would be very steep and once we started we would be committed to it and couldn't back out if we needed to stop. I was relieved as I would rather finish the walk with everyone then have to pull out given the fact I was starting to struggle. It was decided that we would meet them at the top of the hill to be able to continue the walk and finish with the group. The 3 of us went to a cafe and shared our stories of what brought us to Scotland walking for Mind before joining the rest of the team. I always find it fascinating listen to other peoples stories and hearing their point of view on things and sometimes picking up tips or new ideas that I might never have thought of.
Meeting up with everyone was entertaining whist trying to find somewhere to go to the loo!!! Nevertheless I was relieved to hear everyone struggled with the incline which made me feel better about my choice in missing it. It would have been too much for my body and I wasn't going to push it too far ( well further than it had already been pushed that weekend!) We started to make our decent through a forestry, seeing 2 amazing waterfalls,and the most incredible views I've seen. It was the best way to end such a magical day. I am so proud of what I achieved that day, 22 miles of walking during a 12 hour day over 45,000 steps and the greatest thing I found was confidence in myself and what I can truly do. I managed to conquer the monkey brain and enjoyed myself in the present moment.
This trip brought me so much strength and courage that I had forgotten. It was also the best way to honour my 8 years with Shaun. In his memory we've raised nearly £3,000 this year! I am so beyond grateful for the support of my family and friends and the generosity of those who have sponsored me. Shaun always wanted to leave the world a better place and through his name we are doing that!
If you are embarking on a new challenge or if your mental health is suffering I wish you all the strength and courage in the world and I promise you, you will get through this.
All my love, Sammiie x