Through the Darkness…

There’s not a huge amount of automotive daring-do in this latest blog post I’m afraid, but there’s a reason for this – all will become clear by the end of the post!

ndysnh

‘While everyone else relaxed in the courtyard, preparing first popcorn then dinner on the stoves, I sat silently, my mental faculties effectively shut down by the deluge of negativity which had flooded my mind over the previous six hours. I wasn’t considering how to fix the car, or whether to sell it. My thoughts had dried up, being replaced by a cycle of depressed emptiness as I stared into space. I was dead to the world, dead even to my own attempts at rational thought. Finished.

The car and I had a lot in common.’

 – Survival of the Quickest, Chapter 9, p.232.

Marsabit, Northern Kenya – during the AfricanPorsche Expedition.

To anyone who has read Survival of the Quickest, the book I wrote about my first properly groundbreaking – and carbreaking – road trip, the jist of the paragraph quoted above will be familiar.  At various times during the trip, I was mentally unequal to the considerable stresses I faced, and it doesn’t take an A-grade in psychology to figure out why.

From the moment when the Porsche’s engine spontaneously combusted 17 days before departure, right the way through to our return to Britain 4 months and 15,000 brutal miles later, the uncertain, pressure-cooker nature of the trip never let up.  As the person who’d dreamed up the idea of crossing Africa in a Porsche, shot down the naysayers who said it was impossible and convinced others to join the trip, the more things went wrong the more I felt a burden of stress hanging over me like a cloud.  And, as much as I fought to always be equal to the burden, occasionally I cracked under the load by shutting down as in the passage above, while on other occasions my response to the continuous pressures would manifest itself as an irrationally low mood, sometimes lasting the whole day.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was suffering from depression.  As I had been for a fair few years leading up to the expedition.

Going into detail about the whys and wherefores of depression would be about as out of place as you can get on a generally light-hearted blog about a guy with itchy feet and a passion for cars, but suffice to say that despite its outwardly mental symptoms, depression is a physical illness whose symptoms are most commonly triggered by putting one’s self under an unsustainable level of stress for too long.

Ironically, it was the act of writing Survival of the Quickest – and particularly looking back through my often doom-laden notes from the trip – which first brought it home to me that I was suffering from depression. Prior to the cathartic process of writing the book, I’d always assumed any negative moods I experienced were a direct result of the things happening in my life at the time, rather than an actual illness.  Depression was something that happened to other people, not me, and felt almost like a taboo subject at the time.

However, since accepting it as a fact of my life, and learning to understand it – and even rationalise it through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), I’ve been able to minimise its effect on my life, and on the thankfully now very rare occasions when it does flare, I can at least recognise and understand it for what it is.

So, let’s now fast-forward to the happy ending – four years after The AfricanPorsche Expedition, I spent 5 months driving from England to Singapore and thanks to my coming to terms with my history of depression, depression played almost no part in the trip.  It still raises its head occasionally, but since accepting it as part of my life, it’s never been able to come remotely close to dominating my thoughts like it once did.

So what’s all this non-car related whaffling in aid of?

Well, if you follow this blog you’ll already know that I am currently in the early stages of organising ‘Pub2Pub’, a road trip from the northernmost pub on the planet, to the southernmost.  Which sounds absolutely awesome.  However, I’d like Pub2Pub to do more than simply entertain; I want to use the trip as a vehicle to improve the lives of those living with depression in some small way, and I feel Pub2Pub has the potential to help people currently suffering from depression on several counts:

  • Firstly, I hope it can inspire people who currently live with depression to not let their condition stand between them and achieving their dreams, and
  • Secondly, it’s my intention to use the expedition to raise money to support those currently struggling with depression,
  • And finally, if the expedition can through education, help to dispel some of the myths surrounding the condition, then that’d be great!

So, with the above goals in mind, Pub2Pub is going to be teaming up with the mental health charity… ‘mind’.  It’s my hope that not only will pub2pub be one of the most awesomely stylish adventures to take place in 2016, but it will also change peoples’ lives for the better, whether by inspiring folk to believe their dreams are within reach in spite of everything, helping fund vital support for those who need it, or enabling people to understand and recognise the condition’s symptoms in themselves and others.

Thanks for reading, and because this is a car blog, I feel compelled to finish on something car-related.  So here’s a picture of a 1967 Iso Grifo. Isn’t it simply awesome?!

iso-grifo

Ben

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