Time to talk on Time to Talk Day about why I want to row the Atlantic

On the eve of two more rowers’ arrivals in Antigua, including solo rower Gavan Hennigan who has brilliantly maintained 3rd place throughout the course of the race, I continue to marvel at what all the crews are achieving and look forward to our turn when we depart La Gomera this December.

As I write this, it is also the eve of Time To Talk Day, an initiative of Time to Change, run by Mind (one of our chosen charities) and Rethink Mental Illness.

Talking to more and more people throughout our Atlantic row campaign, there’s one question almost everyone asks – “Why?” This is nearly always followed by “Are you crazy?” or “Rather you than me”.

When thinking of whether to write this and of all the reasons I didn’t want to, it made me realise that not to do so goes against everything we as a crew are trying to achieve, namely to get people to open up about their mental health so that it isn’t a big issue or one that is stigmatised.

We are rowing in support of the Heads Together campaign to change the conversation on mental health and end the stigma. It is crucial that if people need help, not only should it be available, but they should feel confident and able to get it.  Why would you want to make someone who already feels anxious and alone feel afraid to speak out for fear of what people may think or how they may react?

So yes, particularly in my 20s, I struggled. I’m aware there are some people close to me who may come across this blog who do not know that – although it was probably obvious! I’ve felt desperate at times and very alone despite having lots of lovely people around me. I’ve felt low to the extent it looked like I was in a really bad mood. I wasn’t, but at the same time, neither could I just ‘cheer up’! I made drastic changes in my life to see if that helped; I’ve wandered around Australia alone for two months, changed career and lived in the Caribbean. All fantastic changes but they weren’t the solution to what I suppose is a muddle of the wiring in my brain.

Because I’ve been able to talk about it when out with my friends, I’ve got through it. I’m in a job I enjoy, live in a great place and still have lovely people around me. Although I may still have the odd ‘down’ day, I’m fine. Sport has also played a big part in that and rowing in particular, which I started at university. I like to have a project or a focus and this Atlantic Challenge is definitely that. I’m not doing this because it’s the latest ‘drastic change’ I want to make, but rather because I now know I can do it.

One of the great aims of our Atlantic campaign is to help increase awareness surrounding mental health in support of our two great charities, also involved in the Heads Together Campaign, Mind and Combat Stress. So, if this blog helps even a little on Time to Talk Day then we’re doing our job.

As well as an incredible physical challenge, this is going to be a tough one mentally too and I don’t want anyone to think after reading this that I’m going to crumble. If I, or any of us, do it’s because no one can know how they will cope with being on a very small boat in the middle of the Atlantic, not because they may have found life difficult in the past. I’m throwing myself wholeheartedly at this. Roll on December!

So back to the questions. ‘Why?’ Because it is important that this issue is hit from both angles; that those suffering should feel empowered to ask for help and that those who may be on the receiving end of that admission can cope with it. ‘Am I crazy?’ To want to row across the Atlantic, maybe, but as a person, no I am not. And as to the last, yes, it is me, not you, but don’t worry, I’ve dealt with it.

#TimetoTalk  #MentalHealthMatters  #thisgirlcan  #twac2017 #Atlanticrow