22 pushups is hard. Very hard. I glibly accepted a nomination to take part, thinking ’22 pushups in one day is nothing. A doddle. Loads of other people do it’. It is anything but a doddle. I am on day 7, with 15 days to go. I have 330 remaining.

Every Single Pushup Hurts.

For those not in the know, 22pushups is an initiative hoping to raise awareness of mental health conditions within the Armed Forces. These can be any of the so called ‘invisible illnesses’, ranging from anxiety and depression to PTSD; at its  most extreme resulting in self harm or suicide. There are some dreadful statistics testifying to how many men and women end their lives when they are living with a mental health condition. The challenge itself was started by a member of the forces, who decided to make people mindful of these issues by performing one set of 22 pushups a day, for 22 days. He filmed himself doing them, then broadcast them on social media.  It is a simple but clever way of helping people to talk more about something that sadly is still taboo in our society.

Mental health can be a frightening concept, whether a person lives with a condition or has no experience of one. It is a strange, multi-faceted and ever changing area of research, experience and discussion. Every person that  I speak to about it  has a different attitude or opinon, and therin lies the rub: it can present, or appear, in any form whatsoever. An unsettling concept. Many people who live with mental health conditions describe an isolation that comes with it. Ironically, with 1 in 4 people in the world experiencing it in some form, there is precious little being spoken about mental health. This is why #22 pushups is so valuable, if only to prompt the question ‘why on earth are you putting yourself through that’?  It has got people talking. About time too.

I cannot speak for others, but personally I have found the experience of the challenge thusfar to be fascinating. I am among the 25% of people who experience a condition, and I see so many links between the challenge itself and the conditions that it hopes to raise awareness of. Many people describe their conditions as something that they battle. Often this is phrased as a battle against one’s own mind. Sometimes a daily battle, with minor or major skirmishes. In a similar manner, the challenge requires a person to battle the physical pain of the exercise, whilst confronting the mind that says ‘just stop. Give up. Nobody will know’. Furthermore, mental health difficulties can be paralysing and suffocating, rendering a person numb and incapable of movement or communication. Guess what? The challenge insists upon a few minutes of focussed, intense activity, spurred on by the knowledge that others are going through the same exertion. I find this both moving and inspiring.

What impresses me most is that the exercise itself is beneficial to those doing it. As awareness is raised, people are strengthening themselves. Bodies are changing. Becoming toned. It does hurt. I hurt. In several places. Yet there is something very attractive about the ache that the pushups leave me with. I endured something in order to achieve. I confronted a difficulty. Of the many people I have spoken to who have also experienced MH conditions, many say that the road to recovery (often a long one), lies in taking small and steady steps to build up confidence and coping strategies. It is a gradual strengthening of the mind and body. What better analogy can there be than this challenge? I genuinely find it to be a true reflection of what a person goes through when confronting an MH difficulty.

My mind is odd, and often very unpredictable. At times, it needs a focus in order to function as it should do. Tomorrow is a new day, with new challenges, as it is for everybody. I am thankful that for a few brief minutes I will be calm and collected, and engaged in something positive, along with other people who think that mental health is a topic that should be discussed and understood much more deeply than it currently is. If even one person reads this and is intrigued, or moved to talk about mental health, then I shall be delighted, and all the more enthusiastic about my set tomorrow morning. Goodnight, all x


© Tom Tide 2016

One Comment Add yours

  1. Definitely strikes a chord with me – the point which particularly does so is the very many different attitudes and opinions. Everyone is an ‘expert’ and very few people actually are. For me, it’s paralysing anxiety which no amount of reasoning by others can alleviate. Time does. That’s all. Good luck with everything and stay as strong as you can. Thank you for raising awareness by your writing and the press-up challenge – the latter not for me though! I shall continue to do what I do and hope that works. xx

    Liked by 1 person

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