Hi, and welcome to Ever East
It’s March 2016 and this is our first (of hopefully many) blog posts, both in preparation for the trip and from the road. We’re hoping to keep this updated regularly with all sorts of aspects of our trip and our lives, so people get a really good idea of who we are, why we’re doing this, and what’s it’s really like for two people to quit their jobs, pack up, and cycle around the world together.
You’ll see from our biographies that we’re a product of internet dating, so hopefully that makes for an interesting start already… In truth, before we met, we were independently thinking about riding around the world solo, and it just so happened that we found in each other another person equally crazy enough to want to do it (and to do it together). But cycling and that ambition isn’t the only thing we’ve got in common; we share an outlook on most aspects of life (except on the Cadbury/Galaxy chocolate debate, what constitutes ‘a nice temperature’ and vegetarianism [Helen's note: Galaxy and 'not so cold you shiver']). We both know that there’s more to life than a house, car and career, and since there was nothing stopping us except ourselves fulfilling a long held dream, why not actually go and do it?
Mental health is something that is very important to us both. We’ve both suffered through difficult times in our lives, and seen those times out. Many people aren’t so lucky. Many people don’t have a network of supportive friends, family and colleagues with the patience, empathy and understanding to help. Many people view mental ill health as something to be ashamed of, or to be scared of, or simply as a weakness. It affects so many people, and really it's none of those things; it’s an illness and it’s treatable. And therein lies the rub: sufferers often lack support and understanding, or fear opening up about being unwell. In our view that is among the most damaging aspects; it causes sufferers to internalise their illness, doubt and blame themselves, it destroys their wellbeing, they withdraw and repeat: a process that can be crippling iterative. We don’t have the answer but what we do know is that, from our experience, openness and support helps a great deal.
So, when we speak about ‘raising awareness of mental ill health’ we address it to two audiences. Firstly, to those lucky enough not to experience it, it’s just like any other illness: a simple misfortune, so don’t assign blame to the sufferer, they aren’t weak or at fault. What’s more, you probably know someone who isn’t well. The signs aren’t always obvious: a friend might be ignoring your texts, or drinking too much, or glossing over something that ought to be difficult for them: stoicism and smiling is the classic mask of the depressed mind. So be observant, be thoughtful, ask uncomfortable questions and be willing to offer support (for which you might not always receive immediate thanks). If they open up to you, be grateful: you’re trusted and special, albeit you may feel you’ve received a difficult privilege. And to the sufferers, the message is the same: don’t be embarrassed or ashamed; it’s ok not to be well. Find someone you can talk to, trust that there are people who want to and are able to help. Even if you just speak to your doctor at first, take that daunting step. It’s the first on the path to wellness, and there will be people to help you along the way. Think of them as sherpas, if you want, and unburden yourself just a little.
So our thanks go out our friends, family and colleagues who guided us to better times, and our thoughts to those who need the support of those around them.
And so here’s to the path to wellness, a route that is taking us Ever East.
Posts by either Mike or Helen. Individual authors will be named.