Who we are and why we are walking the Te Araroa trail
We are Mairi-Anne (50) and Hannah (15), a mother and daughter team. We live in Tolkien’s Shires, but many of us carry Mordor in our hearts. We are raising awareness about mental illness as well as funds for mental health recovery by walking as far as we can across New Zealand. We started the 3 080 km Te Araroa trail in July 2013.
We are not political and do not represent any organisation. Our journey is a physical metaphor for the endurance required in mental health recovery. Hannah is walking for people with mental illness (see “The thing”). Mairi-Anne, who has recovered from depression, is walking for parents and family members of people with mental illness.
New Zealand is beautiful and we like looking at it, but much of the walk may be tough or tedious. Much about earning mental health is hard, boring slog, being alone and wanting to give up a lot of the time. It is not exciting; it is not about being on benefits and having people do things for one; it is simply damned difficult and means putting one foot forward at a time. That is what we shall be doing.
We are not big fans of tramping or bare minimum camping. We enjoy lying around, talking with friends, reading, eating, music, watching the CI channel and British comedies, and being comfy mattresses for our cats. But the walk will slap us into shape and the endorphins will do us good psychologically. We hope that by walking and writing material that people will enjoy reading, we will help increase understanding of mental illness. If Mind Over Miles can raise awareness and funds to help others with mental health recovery options, we will be delighted.
We’re doing this in both desperation and hope, only because there is nothing else left to do. Hannah has been suffering acutely for two and-a-half years, although she has had underlying depression for much longer than that. We have tried everything to help her get better: private psychotherapy, art therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) with social workers, various medications (both natural and psychiatric), hospitalisation, mentorship, changing schools, intervention from the state psychological services, various positive activities and so on. We’ve met some wonderful professionals who have been enormously kind and have gone beyond the call of duty for us. Various combinations of the above strategies have been proven to make a substantial difference for other people and should have made a difference for Hannah too, but she remains anxious, depressed, suicidal and she continues to self-harm. We do not know why this is so.
Albert Einstein defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” so we have to do something radically different now. Mairi-Anne has resigned from her job to be with Hannah 24/7 and keep her safer, but “safer” isn’t good enough. We want change. Misery and self-harm are habit-forming. It is all or nothing and now or never, and we have chosen “all” and “now”. We hope we shall be changed by our walk; in that sense our endeavour is a psychological pilgrimage; but if we are not changed, then we hope that others are helped in some way by our effort and our story.