After flying in to Milan airport this morning and then driving up to Luzzone, we got our first look at the dam this evening. This is what we intend to climb tomorrow (although if the weather isn’t good, or anything doesn’t go to plan, we’ve left Friday as our backup).
I’ve been meaning to write a bit about why, out of all the charities I could have chosen, I wanted to raise money for Mind. I’ve been putting this off I suppose, because it’s not an easy blog to write – but this seems as good a time as any. It’s late, and we’ve got a big day tomorrow, so I’ll be brief.
I don’t talk about it often, but depression is something I’ve struggled with on and off over the years, since being a teenager. Back then, I didn’t understand what was going on, and didn’t have the words to explain it to anyone else, or even to know how to ask for help. Because it’s invisible and there’s no obvious physical injury, and because it often just seems to make no sense, it can be hard for others to empathise, and harder still to know how to help. I still have a few scars from some early, desperate, clumsy attempts to communicate the un-sayable; and I know it’s not been easy for the people around me. Being depressed, from the inside, can seem a bit like playing Japanese binocular football (if you’ve never heard of this – check it out. I promise it’s worth it). It makes it really difficult to do even simple things right, but people watching from outside can’t understand why you’re having trouble; to a casual observer you just look like an idiot.
I used to joke that “normal, well adjusted people don’t become professional mixed martial arts fighters”. While there may be an element of truth in that, I was definitely speaking more for myself than anyone else. MMA was one of the ways I found to deal with things; in hindsight I think it hurt and helped in roughly equal measure. While it taught me some valuable psychological skills – it was also a way of hiding. A fight is a great way to take your mind off things closer to home; but it doesn’t make them go away, it just kicks them a bit further down the road.
Over time, though, my demons and I have gradually come to an understanding. They’re not tamed, exactly – they still get out of their box now and then and chew the furniture – but they’re generally under control. I’m fortunate to have an amazing partner who understands, and a good support network around me. I’ve figured out the things that work for me, and how to manage the occasional relapses. I have far more good days than bad days. Life is good.
It hasn’t always been that way though; and I know that many people out there are not so fortunate. Mind does some fantastic work when it comes to supporting people with mental health issues and their loved ones, providing education and raising awareness.
I wanted to do something big to celebrate my 40th birthday this year. It feels like a good milestone on the journey, and an opportunity to raise money for a cause that’s important to me. Climbing Luzzone Dam seemed like an apt metaphor, somehow – it captured our imagination. If you’re able to make a donation, it would mean a lot.