Rai Waddingham

Rai's Epic (Virtual) Trek - from Lands End to John O'Groats in 80 days

Fundraising for National Hearing Voices Network
raised of £750 target
Donations cannot currently be made to this page
We provide information, training & support to help voice-hearers & their allies


Whilst I've never been super-fit, years of struggling with my own mental health (some of it as an inpatient, prescribed so much medication I barely moved) took its toll and I am currently classed as a morbidly obese* middle aged woman.

* cough ... does anyone else hate the way the medical profession and media describe those of us who have many reasons to have a complex relationship with their own body and food?

Having recently withdrawn from psych drugs and struggled through the post-baby madness (emerging with a beautiful and terrifying warrior child named Thea Mae), I'm ready to face facts. The changes in my lifestyle prompted by this global pandemic (hours on end sitting in front of my computer reading, typing, zooming and staring into the abyss) are showing few signs of abating. If I'm going to feel connected to this body of mine, and find a way of being a home-working PhD student / trainer who is active enough to run around with my toddler tornado - something has to change.

I was inspired by the Trussel Trust's Step Up September - the idea of walking the equivalent distance of John O'Groats to Glasgow (280 miles!) got me thinking ....why stop there? Why not go the whole hog and take on the iconic walk from Lands End to John O'Groats?

For context, I made this decision at around 6.30am, so I'm not entirely sure its wise. But wise or not, it's a challenge - and I need one of those.

The Plan:

I will begin on 17 August (and all being well*, complete the challenge on 5 November)

Over the next 80 days, I will walk an average of 11 miles a day (that's 17.7 km) until I have racked up a total of 874 miles.

I'll track the miles using a GPS-enabled wearable and an app that will let me share my progress with anyone here who cares to look. I won't be able to fool it by sitting down, having a cuppa and waving my arms around enthusiastically. I want to do this properly.

Along the way I'll be checking in with updates, photos (imagine me, trying to study, walking and juggling a toddler or a #Newfie pup)

Most importantly, I will be 100% honest. I will share updates whether I'm feeling downhearted and barely make it out of the gate ... or whether I'm crushing it (and everywhere in between). There is a distinct possibility that I am biting more off than I can chew (in which case 80 days may end up being 100 ... but those 874 miles are going to get travelled ... even if I have to crawl some of it.

*If I end up with Covid, or some other illness / accident which means walking is impossible and I can't wheel myself around I may have to stop the clock and recuperate. But the point is that as soon as it is medically safe to do so, I'll be back out there.

So, why am I doing this for the National Hearing Voices Network (HVN)?

When I went to my first Hearing Voices Group (in Leicester's Adult Education Centre) back in the early 2000s I was a different person. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder, taking high doses of medication to suppress my voices/visions/beliefs and reconciled to spending the rest of my life as someone who was in the 'severe and enduring mental illness' category. I had no dreams. No hopes. No friends. I felt like a zombie.

Going to the group - a peer support groups for people who hear voices/see visions - saved my life. I met people, made friends and - most importantly - felt like part of something again. The group helped me explore my experiences and find ways of dealing with them. Over the next few years I slowly began to make sense of why I hear voices and found ways of relating to them and dealing with them. I got into training (something I know make my living from), found some supportive housing (thanks to Network for Change) and got back to college (thanks for Access To Music). I began to gig on the Leicester Music Scene and found out that I'm not mentally ill. I'm a human being who has been through some tough stuff. I'm a survivor.

In 2018 my life got even more crazy (in more ways than one). After giving birth to a beautiful little girl (Thea Mae), I ended up struggling again after 10 years off meds and about 6 years out of services. Happily, 2.5 years later I'm beginning to find my sense of balance and am started the next stage of my own healing. Dealing with my body is part of that.

Life remains challenging. I still hear lots of different voices and have times when my realities diverge from those around me in ways that can be pretty challenging. I can be anxious, at times, and I can feel so low I'm not sure I can continue. I also have times of connection, energy, love and creativity. This, for me, is life. We live in a crazy making world, after all. Being sane isn't such a badge of honour.

However, I can honestly say that I do not think I would still be alive today if it was not for the support of that first Hearing Voices Group. It was like a travel brochure, showing me worlds that I never knew existing at a time when I felt most hopeless and dejected.

More about the Hearing Voices Network

The Hearing Voices Network is a tiny national charity with no statutory funding. We try to share information, resources and hope - connecting up the 100s of different peer support groups out there across the country. We manage a website, support an online forum, distribute newsletters, answer emails/calls and work to stimulate and support new developments in parts of the country that don't yet have access to Hearing Voices Groups.

There's so much to do. But, with such little money available, every little really does help.

This is going to be a long road (quite literally), so if you'd like to encourage me as I plod my way forwards - please do. I welcome messages of support, donations and your help in spreading the word (about the fundraiser and HVN more widely).

You're welcome to make donations whenever you like throughout this journey. Some way want to give donations at specific markers (e.g. every 100 miles). Others may be trusting enough to make a donation in good faith, encouraging me on as I hit my low points and reminding me that this is for a cause that is easily worth a few blisters and aching quads.

Thank you!

About the charity

The National Hearing Voices Network is a charity that is committed to helping people who hear voices, see visions or have similar experiences. We aim to raise awareness, challenge stereotypes & help create spaces for people to talk freely about their experiences without fear of judgement.

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