It’s March 2018 and I’m at the top of Lose Hill in the Peak District. I have fond memories of walking in the Peaks with my family. Although when I say walking, I mean walking a bit then Dad carrying me on his shoulders. I love being outdoors in this landscape. But I’m not exactly the best equipped walker.
I’d say for the last year or so, I’ve been on a personal journey to understand myself better and how my different-ability has influenced who I am today. For a lot of my life I tried to ‘ignore’ my different hips – pretend I’m like everyone else and avoid situations where it was obvious I wasn’t. And ‘protect’ myself – which I’m realising has had some interesting psychological impacts.
Like half way up the track to the ridge from the farm we’re staying at, I seriously want to cry. It’s very steep and rocky. I’m not in significant pain but I realise that somewhere in there I’m waiting for my dad to pick me up because I’m tired. My boyfriend is less thrilled at that prospect than my dad used to be and tells me to keep going because it’s good for me. He reminds me that “the obstacle is the way”. If you haven’t read the book by Ryan Holiday it’s a worth a read. Our ability to tackle problems head on not avoid them is critical – but knowing that doesn’t make me feel better at this point up the hill. When I get to the top of the ridge I sit down, and then refuse to walk further and suggest he does the rest on his own. I’m going to ache tomorrow, my knee keeps cracking in pain, and I know that I find downhill harder than uphill so best to stop now. What I feel is fear – and the need to protect myself from possible injury. Eventually after a rest and realising that I need to stop sulking like a 5-year-old, I get up and walk the ridge all the way along to Lose Hill. I take my time, and the view is spectacular and worth the walk.
And then I decide to do something crazy. If the obstacle is the way, then maybe I need to walk more not less? Maybe I need to find what my true limits are, rather than stop at the first sign of pain because ‘I have a good excuse, right’? I’ve already entered my first 10K in June which is feeling scary, but what if I walk something like the Pennine Way, or logistically better as closer to home, The South Downs Way.
So that’s what I’m going to do. Walk the South Downs Way. I’m not going to do 100 miles at once but I’m going to chunk it up and do it over a year. And share all the obstacles I come across in preparing and doing it. Walking my way to better mental health, where being diff-abled is the obstacle. And the way.
In my day job as a brand marketer, I help businesses embrace their differences. This blog is about me, trying to do the same. Embrace my differences, not hide them.