Five years ago, I was 'the chosen one'. I was the one who'd written a new-age bible fit for modern times. I was the one who was feeling all the world's suffering and elation in equal measure pumping through my veins in one single moment.
I was the one whose foot was firmly stuck on the gas pedal going at 200mph. I was the one whose senses were heightened to superhuman levels. I was the one who would explode if I didn't share the path of how to get to this place with as many people as possible.
I was the one who was standing in the middle of a major motorway in Northern Italy at rush hour, wearing nothing but his khaki shorts, backing up traffic for 10 miles, letting one vehicle pass at a time and doing so with more conviction and sense of purpose than any human who'd walked the face of the earth. I was the one who - in the true sense of the meaning - had lost his mind.
A split second later, I was the one strapped down in the back of an ambulance. I was the one being pumped full of administered drugs to force me to grind to a halt. I was the one locked up in psychiatric wards. I was the one who'd now lost all faith in himself; every thought he had; every word that left his lips; every choice he had to make; every microscopic part of who he was. I was the one who was unquestionably bipolar.
I was the one who - when released - felt the weight of the world pinning him to the mattress, with the three metre walk to brush his teeth each day comparable to climbing Everest. I was the one whose antipsychotic drugs were going to take three years to get right. I was the one who was completely debilitated, unable to work, smile, cry, laugh or feel any emotion other than being in limbo. I was now one of the many hanging on for dear life, with the prospect of taking his own life seeming the only way out of this nothingness, emptiness and crippling embarrassment of what he'd become.
Now five years on, I'm being called crazy for all the right reasons.
Now I'm running 1250 miles from Rome To Home to share my story.
Now I'm preparing for Friday 25th August 2017 when the adventure begins. Now I'm primed & ready for this 65-day self-supported adventure as a platform to share the steps I've taken to get back to the positive place you find me in today, and in doing so I hope to keep men alive by talking.
Now I'm set to take on the 20 miles a day average to normalise the conversation around mental health issues. Now I'm looking to soak up every moment through Italy, Switzerland and France whilst I share the raw account of my journey. Now I'm primed and ready to set off from the Colosseum with exactly the right medication that works for me. Now I'm anticipating finishing at the London Eye towards the end of October as a celebration of every person who's played their part to get me to where I am today. Now I'm ready for Rome To Home.
For so many, the idea of running 1250 miles over 65 days seems like hell. For me, the opposite is true. For so many, the idea of having to rely on a bivvy bag as your only shelter, not knowing exactly where you'll rest your head each night or where your next meal is coming from is not worth thinking about. For me, the opposite is true. For so many, sharing their experiences with bipolar or any other diagnosed mental health issue publicly is herculean. For me, the opposite is true.
I've rarely seen the point of keeping my experiences to myself. Sure, shortly after my diagnoses when I was facing my darkest days there were weeks, months, where I shut myself away. I avoided social gatherings as I didn't want to be the one sucking the life out the party. And there were times when I just didn't want to talk about my experiences - I would skip over some parts of my journey so as not to scare those closest to me. But then it got to a point where it was just too exhausting not to.
And this is what Rome To Home is all about. This is why the whole adventure is far more than just a challenge for my own mental health benefits. This is an awareness-raising challenge above all else, and that's why I've teamed up with the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) - one of the UK's most innovative charities dedicated to preventing male suicide.
See, I wasn't far from being one of the 12 guys under the age of 45 who decides to take his own life every single day in the UK. I wasn't far from being one of the 780 guys who'll choose to take his own life during the 65 days I'll be on this adventure. And so, if by me sharing my story and experiences so others out there can gleam a little hope and perhaps permission to speak up themselves, then it'll all have been worth it.
That's why I'm running across Europe with Bipolar Disorder. That's why I'm running from Rome To Home and, hopefully this time round, I'll be taking as many people as possible for the ride!
The adventure starts Friday 25th August 2017 at the Colosseum and finishes 65 days later on Saturday 28th October at the London Eye.
For more information, check out www.rometohome.com. If you're feeling generous and would like to donate towards my fundraising, please visit www.rometohome.com/donate. If you've been inspired and would like to run with during the final few days of the adventure in the UK check out www.rometohome.com/getinvolved/. And be sure to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I would love to hear from you.
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