John O’Groats to Lands End. 1200 miles. Three months. Three countries. Three mountains. No car. No bus. No trains. Not even a bicycle!
Sounds impossible, right? No living person could possibly manage this?
Well, one of our recent fundraisers, Tom Clancy, is proving us wrong! It's 45 days since he set out from the northernmost peak of Scotland, and he’s already made it to Liverpool. And he's showing no signs of stopping any time soon.
Tom has spent the last 11 years of his life utterly consumed by OCD, and tormented by everything from contamination fears to health anxiety to intrusive thoughts about being a terrible person. With the help of Let’s Talk Gloucestershire and OCD Action he managed to get CBT and is doing a lot better, but he still struggles with intrusive thoughts and crippling anxiety.
All of this makes his decision to walk the 1200 mile stretch from John O’Groats to Lands End “to change the perception of OCD and to help those suffering from the mental illness” all the more impressive.
When he set out from John O’Groats after a freezing night in a tent (having had little more than a bowl of buckwheat for breakfast) Tom knew he was in for a challenge. On top of the walk itself he would be camping nearly every night, carrying his own equipment (20kg plus water!) and cooking his own food. He’d also be climbing the Three Peaks of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Mount Snowdon (even though the latter would involve taking a detour to Wales).
Tom has kept us frequently updated on his journey on his Twitter account. It’s well worth a look, as it really gives you a sense of just how tough, varied and inspiring his journey is, though no doubt it only captures a fraction of what it feels like actually doing it!
He’s been through a lot. He’s had to deal with a lot of unpleasant weather conditions, from the wind and rain of the highlands to the stifling heat of the last week. He’s dealt with unforeseen problems, like the support ring in his tent collapsing, or finding out a few of his planned campsites actually didn't exist, forcing him to camp in the wild. He’s battled the midges of the Great Glen Way, the twisting pathways of loose stones of the West Highlands Way, and a very angry cow in Cumbria. He’s had blisters on his feet where he “didn't even know you could get blisters” and dealt with aches everywhere in his body. So it certainly hasn’t been easy.
But the main sense one gets from Tom’s Twitter is one of a moving, exciting, utterly life-changing experience. There’s a tone of optimism, adventure and enthusiasm for discovering the country that shines through despite the adversities. He’s encountered stunning views and been to beautiful places like Lanark, the Lake District, Loch Lochmond and the Lancaster Canal.
There's also a real sense of adventure. He’s frequently described how he feels like he feels like he's on a quest straight out of Lord of the Rings or The Legend of Zelda.
And he’s kept a wonderful sense of humour throughout the whole thing. At one point he reacts to an excruciating pain in his achilles tendon by saying “At least [it] detracts from the relentless ache in my shoulders!”, and at another point he laments the fact that he turned down an offer of a room for the night by saying “I'm an idiot and want to do this the hard way I guess”.
What’s most inspiring, however, is how open Tom is about his own struggles with OCD during the journey. As somebody with contamination OCD, spending three months walking through the countryside while often going days without a proper wash is no easy task, and that’s to say nothing of using public toilets, showers and washing machines or doing his cooking on the dirty ground. And for someone who suffers from intrusive thoughts, the hours of long walks with nothing but your own thoughts for company can’t be any easier. But Tom keeps up his sense of optimism and pushes on regardless, proving that OCD can be overcome.
He’s also taken the time to meet up with other people affected by OCD on his journey. He climbed Ben Nevis with two other people with OCD (below, top) and plans to do the same for Scafell Pike and Mount Snowdon. One of the highlights of his journey was his stop off in Glasgow, where he met up with members of the local OCD Support Group and Young Persons OCD Support Group (below, bottom).
He’s planning to meet up with many more people on his way, and would like as many people as possible to get involved, so if you’re anywhere on his route just let him know via this link! He'll also be climbing Snowdon on 31st July, and would like as many of you as possible to join him.
If you’re inspired by Tom’s quest, just remember it’s only halfway done and you still have time to donate. He’s already raised an absolutely STAGGERING £1608.35 (including Gift Aid) for OCD Action and two other mental health charities, so just imagine how much he’ll raise by the time he’s finished! So don't forget to visit his Virgin Money page and help him raise even more.
Would you like to do a fundraising event to help people with OCD? It doesn’t have to be on the scale of Tom’s journey, but every little gesture goes a great deal to help people affected by this debilitating disorder. Just get in touch with Charlie at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office on 020 7253 5272 and we’ll be with you every step of the way.
Thank you so much Tom for everything you’ve done for us, and we wish you the best of luck with the rest of your journey.
And just remember…