I have done many walks and runs for various causes but the one I participated in last Saturday night was different and I can't stop thinking about it. It was powerful. I am trying to sort out what was unique about it and here is what I have come up with so far…
It was the vulnerability and openness of the participants. It was the genuine care I felt from people I didn’t know. There seemed to be a mutual and unspoken understanding from those that have been impacted by metal illness that the only real way out of the darkness is through a connection with others.
Below is a random Facebook comment I read by one of the crew members that worked that night. He is commenting on a post about one walker Andy, who in honor of his sister, walked the whole 16 miles in her high heels.
"I was "one" of the crew. A privileged place to be, and a humble spot to see and live what "healing" really means. I have seen HUNDREDS of Andy like walkers. I remember Andy, as well as I remember another young man carrying a 80lbs backpack all the way. He didn't share the reason, I didn't ask. But for a moment I felt his own pain and desire to move on. Physical pain against heartbroken caused pains.
I supported a brave tiny lady; she ran the last mile with strength she had not. I was there all that mile supporting her feet by feet. She landed in my arms at the beginning of Luminaria path, and there I hold her up while she cried and took some breath again for almost 15 mins. She lost her girlfriend few months ago.
The 3 Vietnam veterans. The 2 soldiers in full gear to honor their brother and sisters, 22 a day who commit suicide.
Mothers, fathers, friends... to me, they were all like Andy. To me, walkers are the only reason why world is still spinning along all this nonsense sometimes we call life. To me, they gave 10.000 times more than I gave them thru a simple service. Thank You Walkers for being part of my life. See you in San Diego.”
At the opening ceremony, there was a table with different colored honor beads. The colors represented reasons people were doing the walk. There were many, from a supporter of the cause, to a personal attempt, a personal struggle, loss of loved ones, parents and children.
People were willing to be open about their loss and personal struggle. While walking I saw so many green beads, which represent a personal struggle with mental illness and I also saw so many people walking alone. I was surprised by both of these. When I signed up to do it myself, I did not expect I would be among so many others that did the same.
I walked for 7 hours that night and in the last two miles I held two conversations that I am still thinking about. The first was when I found myself walking with one other young girl. I asked her why she was walking and I was not quite prepared for the response.
She lost her mother to suicide a few months ago. She said even though she saw bipolar symptoms in her mom from a young age, her mother was only diagnosed officially 4 months before she died. She told me this is the third suicide in her family. Her mother left behind a 4 page suicide note in which she begged everyone in the family to watch out for the signs of mental illness. Her mother’s mother also committed suicide and she told me that was one of the hardest parts to understand. How her mom could have done it knowing full well what it would be like for her after. Because “suicide does not stop the pain, it just passes it on.” We were almost finished with the walk when we started talking and just before she walked ahead of me she told me that she still felt incredibly alone. I wish I could bring her some comfort but I don’t think I did. I have been thinking of her since.
The second person I talked to was a man who hit a very low point in his life 8 years ago in which he considered suicide. He reached out for help and had a therapist that told him basically just go do something, anything for someone else. He now does many long fundraising walks and other volunteer work. He said the best remedy for his depression is service to others and I would have to agree with him. I walked ahead of him but ran into him at the end. He gave me a big hug and told me to take care of myself. I hope I see him next year. That was one supportive group of people.
“The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die.”
― Juliette Lewis
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!