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Huffing and puffing is a big part of a half marathon, the
preparation, the thought of the preparation and then there’s the Ecclesall
Road, Sheffield. Stainless steel country; the city of 7 hills. When
you sponsor a person, it’s not just for the race; it’s for their effort, and
the cause they are so hopeful about.
I’m often asked why the Sheffield Half Marathon? If you just drove it, you would
understand. On the way up it’s
relentless and on the way down I’m far too tired to appreciate the way
down! Last time I clocked the elevation
at 300 metres and the view in the Peaks is worth it.
The charity I raise money for, EnCourage, is based in the
Peak District in the appropriately named Hope Valley. It offers subsidised therapy to people who
have been subjected to coercive control and manipulation.
When I came out of a group (which was full of many fine
people), I struggled enormously blaming myself for not being a’ good member’,
as I was not willing to take in fully the commands that were given to me. Sometimes it was put across as though I was
completely able to make a free choice, when in fact I wasn’t.
People who use
coercive control are ‘influence professionals’ who know how to tie others in
knots. Some of you may have a vision of
a cult as austere, physically controlling; one that even has a sign up stating
“We are a cult, please be aware.” I have not met one person who thinks they
could be influenced into a cult. No one
joins a cult; they join an organisation or a person that has given them
something to believe in. And for many it
can go seriously wrong. For others they
may not be aware there is any other life because they have been born into such
an organisation. Breaking free is both
enlightening and terrifying.
When I entered specialist therapy in this sensitive area to address
this high influence control, I was confused and frightened of the thoughts in
my own mind. I was isolated and of
course blaming myself for the stupid mistake of giving my own power away. It never occurred to me back then that people
and teachings I believed were a power for good, could drive me to the
edge of sanity by doubting my own wisdom.
When there is mass confusion in one’s mind it is excruciatingly
uncomfortable and that is the moment when a person is at their most vulnerable.
Nothing is as terrifying as doubting your own mind in my opinion. It is always perceived to be the recipient’s
fault and responsibility, never the person giving the instructions. I think it is an inherent fault of human
beings to think we have far more control of our lives than we actually do
have. We want leaders but not to be
led. We want influence but not to be
influenced. We want to be open but not
to be turned inside out.
It took courage both on my part and on the part of the therapist
who helped me out of that quagmire. Sure
I was desperate, but I also had hope and hope won.
I would never want anyone to encounter a group or a person
who is going to use coercive control/gas lighting against them. But it continues to happen. However, when it does, I like to believe
there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I wouldn’t be doing the Ecclesall Road if I didn’t!
A Testimonial from a person who was helped by encourage
through sponsorship last year
“I can’t put into
world what EnCourage has meant to me. As
a survivor of a high-demand organisation, I have struggled with every aspect of
my identity from relationships to friendships and family; careers
PTSD and depression, financial difficulties....
Without EnCourage, I would have never been able to access much needed
specialist help. Until then, I lived
through disaster after disaster without direction. Afterwards, I was able to gain insight into
my experiences, and develop a sense of safety and stability.”
I am so grateful for the sponsorship I have received in the
past for this event and I would love you to donate to EnCourage and to help me
get up the ECCLESALL ROAD!