So it’s the time of year when I’m as cheerful as a Turkey at Christmas, we’re swamped with cheesy inspirational quotes for the year ahead, when health clubs are packed to the brim of people and short-lived enthusiasm to shed their festive indulgence, and forests full of folk who only appear to go on a walk together once each year. Time to reflect. New Year, New Me? Not quite.
The first draft of my book is done. And it’s the first New Years Eve in four that I’m not working in my local restaurant: I won’t be smelling like a triple-fried potato chip by the end of tonight. It’s also the first in two years where I’m not gearing up for an expedition in the Spring.
I hate rest. I’m in the idle stage of ‘planning’ my next cards. I’m not in training mode. I’m not achieving, driven or making bold progress. That’s something I’m not so glad about, because without the distraction of an immediate focus or goal, I’m as cheerful as a Turkey at Christmas, or even worse, an over-baked Nut Roast.
The past few weeks have been alienating. I’ve been running 6 miles in the middle of the night because it takes near enough a full day to peel myself outside and summon the motivation to do anything. It’s hard to believe this time last year, the same person was rising at 5am to squeeze in an 18 mile hike with 45lb rucksack, hobbling home with just fifteen minutes before my shift at work. I fondly recall being the only person at the gym on Boxing Day whilst it was still dark outside. The buzz of progress and anticipation of achievement was fuel to my ears.
Not this time. Depression first struck me at Christmas in 2011, then 2012, and the little devil remembers it well enough to cling onto the sparkly decorations as they come out of the box each year. It’s fair to say the festive period is frankly the worst possible time for anyone with a mental health problem, and for me personally, enough to contemplate grabbing a box of snowflake-shaped chocolates and doing a runner alone with my tent to the midst of the Scottish mountains and escaping the sickly festive pit of uncertainty, mince pies and twinkling lights.
So, do I wish I was back on Everest in three months time? Actually, not really, and funnily enough- my mum doesn’t either.
Early next year will see my first book Icefall released. There’s plenty of speaking bookings, including at the Outdoor Adventure and Travel show in London in February. Whilst I’m not yet the most polished, overbearingly-confident and fierce speaker, I think the most important thing is having the honesty and a strong story to begin with- that’s more than half of the battle. I’d like to think that makes up for my stammering like a broken stereo. 2015 saw me try hypnotherapy to rid myself of the stammer, but the only thing that miraculously vanished, was a few hundred quid from my wallet.
Of course, there’s at least one big expedition in 2016, a fundraising walk up Snowdon on the earthquake anniversary, a record attempt, and plenty of other opportunities. I’m also part of a new project called YP Potential. Soon I’ll have plenty to sink my teeth into… so, what’s the problem? Mental health doesn’t quite work that way when you can’t see the wood for the trees. I just need to chip away one day at a time, and focus on the small victories. One thing for sure is that my challenges in 2016 will be fundraising for mental health, because the support available is, quite frankly, about as useful as a chocolate saucepan. If there’s one thing that does boost the mood, though, it’s beating one of your cyber trolls (who earned himself an honourable mention on my blog earlier this year)- at the local Parkrun 5km race on Xmas Day. Oops!
I can’t end the year as if nothing happened, when Everest 2015 changed my life beyond recognition. Raising over £22,000 for charity, speaking to nearly 2,000 people, and completing the Everesting challenge (video here!) on my bike are definitely my highlights. 2015 also saw the end of the EPIC7 project. There are many more highlights, but you’ll think I’m blowing my own trumpet. One wish I can’t grant is that Kumar, Pasang Temba and Tenzing are able to see in 2016 with us. I’ll be quite glad to see the back of 2015.
None would be possible without the friends, family, sponsors, mentors and coaches, generous donators, awareness-raisers, most of my Everest expedition team, and general supporters I’m indebted to. Every contribution becomes a rung on the ladder to achievement and making a difference. So THANK-YOU. Do I need to name anyone? I’m sure you know who you are. Special thanks, though, to the publishers of Icefall, Coventry House, for giving me the opportunity to tell the story. Also Westgrove Group, who have pledged their support for the next stage of my journey.
So, what resolutions will I be setting in 2016? Giving up coffee? Listening to music more quietly? Not crashing my bike? Going trainspotting in Milton Keynes? Don’t be absurd…
When I’ve aimed for the stars, life has had other plans for me. It owes us nothing. Like the Icefall, it can come crashing down at any moment. We all need goals to achieve, but my biggest goal, is to fulfil my purpose. That way, all I can and will do, is get myself back up again, no matter what goes wrong. Then, I’ll see where that spits me out, and what it taught me. That’s all I’ve done, and I’m liking where it’s taken me so far.
Why wait for the 1st of January and give yourself an alcohol headache to do something? Every day is an opportunity for change, and I’m not one to believe that good things come to those who wait. I struggle to believe anyone can get different results next year by doing the same things they always have. But when you’re putting yourself on the edge and defying convention- you’re gonna’ have to learn to ride the waves. Let’s see what happens in 2016…
Well, there you have my cheesy inspirational quotes. Now for a night in front of the TV with green tea and a box set of Songs of Praise…. No, don’t go, I’m only joking!
Paul Arnold says
Cracking final blog bud… spot on. I’ll be glad to see the back of YOUR 2015 too!
Colin Wallace says
Great read Alex! I wish you all the very best for 2016.