Start360 EDGEs Cycle Against Suicide 2018
Posted on 25 April, 2018 Blog
Start360 EDGEs Project (Newtownabbey) works with young people on the edge of care, custody, education and homelessness across Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus and Larne, providing one to one and family support. We are completing a cycle around the North and South of Ireland to break the cycle of suicide and stigma around mental illness.
You can donate at https://www.justgiving.com/fun...
Day ten of Cycle Against Suicide
It just so happens that the last homestay I stayed with is a beautiful woman called Rachel who 100% got my passion for dance therapy! She gave me a beautiful gift of a book about trauma and and the body by Peter Levine and I cried again. This trip has reminded me constantly of what I know in my heart to be true.
We started off this morning as usual dancing and getting everyone motivated and having fun! We listened to another inspiring speaker who reminded us to keep focused on the things that we have, the things we are doing right when we make a mistake or have a day that isn't going our way.
I cycled side by side, shoulder to shoulder with people from all over the country who have shown me that we are all human and capable of great things for ourselves, others and the world around us if we are simply open to them. I turned to the last chapter of the book to read:
"If your everyday practice is to be open to your emotions, to all the people you meet, to all the situations you encounter, without closing down, trusting that you can do that - then that will take you as far as you can go"
And you know what I am going to say - we made it! All ten days, all 780kms/485miles! But more importantly I was blessed to meet all the families, schools, mental health organisations and services who opened their doors and welcomed us into their communities. They shared something of themselves and were open to accepting us into their lives. Thank you to every person who was open to hear the message ITS OK NOT TO FEEL OK AND ITS ABSOLUTELY OK TO ASK FOR HELP. Thank you to every person on the cycle who worked to make each day possible for each other. And lastly every person at home who got in touch with encouragement and donations for Start360. Thank you for being open to making this journey possible! Thank you for helping to break the cycle of suicide and stigma of mental health!!
Day nine of Cycle Against Suicide
I woke up this morning, fresh and feeling good. I had another amazing homestay with most resilient, compassionate and interesting family. Bernie shared her story with me and I was privileged to listen. I asked what had gotten her through - family, faith and gratitude!
Today I am grateful to be part of the CAS family that gives me faith in humanity and hope for the future. The legend that is Kate McGoogoo surprised us today! I nearly fell off my bike when I saw her. I owe so much of my journey last year to Kate, we shared a lot together and I was so glad to see her back. It wouldn't be the same without her!
Either the route is getting flatter or I'm getting fitter but today was a breeze. The weather was with us and spirits were high. As I started to think about home I grew excited about what I was so close to achieving. I couldn't help but start making plans and feel elated about the energy, motivation and sense of purpose I was bringing back with me.
We arrived into Mulingar and I was introduced to Rachel my homestay. My wee granny was called Rachel. It was yet another reminder that she is never far away. And I realised that moments like these are what make me feel at home in myself no matter where I am in the world or life.
Day eight of Cycle Against Suicide
So today was breakthrough day! I met an amazing young family who have come through a lot in their young lives and have bounced back. Young Ronan, Marco and Jane brought me so much joy and their amazing parents rocked my world. They have had a lot to deal with, their parents have carried to worry and concern, but they play and run riot freely without a care on the world!
We climbed up into the mountains and sure enough were rewarded with views of the lake and downhill free falls on the other side. I was like a big child. When we stopped at the break my host family had come out to greet us! I was touched and realised that they had been also.
Cormac is always saying "Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere". And today is living proof! I hadn't a care in the world. Days like this make it all worthwhile! As we sailed into Carrick on Shannon in the sunshine I could not have been happier!
Day seven of Cycle Against Suicide
So it's a week in and I've exceeded my own expectations! I did not think I would have come this far. We had an amazing night with our host family, so much energy and fun. We won the pub quiz and woke up and went for a dip in the sea this morning!
I loved the sea as a child! I love the beach all year round and today we cycle along the Wild Atlantic Way! I wish I could say today was easier, but it wasn't. My knees felt they were at their limit. The bus was calling louder today than any other. It was a long day. The longest yet - 130km/80miles.
The old doubts crept in and I wondered if today would break me? I had already reached my 5 day goal anyways. My body was starting to reach breaking point. But I kept going. Again the support I had around me was unreal. And whilst I felt I was struggling I never once ended up at the back, I was doing better than my body and mind wanted me to believe.
And I got to thinking about all in life that potentially could have broken me. Abuse in childhood, living in a family with addiction, almost going into care, watching friends and family die young. But it hasn't. I am still here. In fact whilst I wish none of it on anyone, it's what has given me the belief that I am capable of anything and a strength and confidence in myself. It's has fuelled my passion, care and compassion for others. I know that in every painful experience there will be a time the pain will end. I have had days where I feel afraid, panicked, overwhelmed and frozen by it all. Yet I always manage to get myself moving again. I will never be silent or stop moving forward. And that voice inside me whilst it may become very small in the midst of the madness sometimes, it still sings.
We finished today cycling in past Doreen's town. Doreen aka Mummy CAS dished out love and care daily on the cycle in the form of hugs and encouragement. She had fostered and given so much of her life to others. I was proud to know her. Everyone misses her, she touched all our lives and is sorely missed this year. I have never seen so much orange. People lined the streets for miles through towns and villages all the way to Ballina. And just like that what seemed like the longest road ever came to an end and there are blue skies overhead!
Day six of Cycle Against Suicide
So today started very emotionally and evened out quite quickly! Yesterday arriving into Omagh all I could think about was the Omagh Bomb. It had come after the Shankill Bomb and in between that and CC being murdered. I tried to look at Omagh afresh and had a wonderful host family to help me do so. But today in the school the speaker talked about the impact of Ronan Kerr murder on his daughter. And I sobbed. My friend Oonagh O'flaherty decided to join the cycle today and I felt so bad because all I could do was continue to cry when I saw her. I explained, she understood. That's how you know that someone knows you, it's doesn't take many words to get to the point of understanding.
It had been so long since we'd seen each other. We caught up and quite quickly got to talking about our own mental health, our plans and stuff we'd overcome. It was class to be side my side cycling together. Today completely changed. I looked around and I could see Clare Bowes, an inspiring example of resilience and determination cycling shoulder to shoulder with us. We listened to an amazing speaker today, Zoë O'Connor, who spoke with honesty and passion about loss. Something that has impacted on us both. One of the counsellors spoke:
"It's not about letting go, it's about finding a new way to hold on". Dealing with loss of my Granny and Granda, who had stepped up to look after us, hands down had been the toughest thing I'd ever faced. My Granda had cycled through a triple heart bypass, back injuries and all sorts. His sense of adventure and stubbornness to not give up drove my Granny mad! I am so grateful for everything I've learnt from them because the thing about loss, about the troubles, about adversity is that some of us survive and refuse to simply hold on. I looked at Clare, she is a beacon of hope for Omagh. Oonagh, an example of someone who had faced and overcome the loss of both her mum and dad and is living her life to the full everyday.
And myself, I refuse to be defined by my my troubles. My grandparents were my lifelines, they gave me the foundation of safety and love I needed to thrive in spite of adversity. They also taught me the importance of adventure, love, compassion and community. And that has made all the difference for me. I refuse to simply hold on to life. I am grateful for every day I have the chance to learn something new, to make difference, to make this world a safer, more caring and adventurous world for the new generation of young people growing up here. They do not see Omagh and think of the bomb. They are sitting exams, making plans to travel and make a difference. I see them and I have hope that the troubles will not define us. We are warriors as Zoe said today, but we are human first!
Day five of Cycle Against Suicide
Today got me thinking about leadership. My boss Ronan McGinley joined me today. 5 days in and I was feeling good despite my struggles on the bike yesterday. We had a great speaker who reminded us: We are lovely, lovable and loved! I left on a high ...
And soon came back down to earth. Despite my stretching and preparations my legs felt sore and stiff, straight into another hill and I was struggling before we even left the town. With winds and a lot of climbing today, it felt like another day I could end up on the bus.
But Ronan kept on with the encouragement. He knew the road and he was honest but focused and helped me look at this challenge with perspective. Micky Heart made an amazing speech at lunch time to set me off again with some energy and determination. Whether I was at the front or the back of the peloton Ronan stayed by my side today. And I remember reading a quote a few months back when my world had been turned upside down: "love words, trust actions".
It resonated with me because the people I respect, value and look up to have been consistent in my life. They have been doers not talkers. So knowing that Ronan (who is flat out with so much) had taken the time out to cycle in my shoes as it were made all the difference today! He made it look so easy but I knew he was setting aside his own stuff to be present and supportive to me. Andy McGirl appeared with his tunes, energy and zest for life as usual. He can be relied to to appear just when you think you have nothing left in the tank to prove you wrong! And the marshals rallied around me again today when the going got tough. I am so grateful and in awe of each of you everyday.
And as we headed up into Pomroy, exposed high up on the hill, having to strike out on our own, I could feel the wind pushing and shoving at my bike. I got to thinking that leadership can sometimes be a lonely place and people often get more fleck than credit for the difficult job they do. People who take on the responsibility of leadership often have to take the full brunt of the headwinds as we tuck in on their tail to get shelter. They are resilient people who are able to lead by example and set their own struggle aside to make the journeys of others possible.
I am lucky to know such people, they are my colleagues, my family, my friends and new found community of people at Cycle Against Suicide. Together we will lead the way in breaking the cycle of suicide and stigma of mental health across the north and south of Ireland.
Day four of Cycle Against Suicide
If there is anything that today has taught me it's that highs and lows are part of life. I have overcome some struggles in my life but today as I rode out of Belfast, away from family and friends, legs aching I wondered why I was putting myself through this by choice?
I have faced so much in my life and I get scared when I'm tired because I've always had fight in me. Today I had to look under fear, self doubt, exhaustion, and feeling physically and emotionally overwhelmed to find that fight. And I didn't have the energy or emotional stamina to go looking alone today.
But I was lucky to have been welcomed i by my wee mummy, partner, friends and colleagues last night and waved off by my brother, Daddy, young people and colleagues I work with today. Michaela Rafferty and the young people of Hazlewood Integrated College blew me away!
I was lucky to have JoJo O Cearnáigh and Mairead Grego by my side as we set off into the rain! Jojo sped off at the speed of light with Mairead not far off her heels as I dragged myself behind them. Today I repeatedly ended up at the back of the peloton, twice my chain came off and I had to catch the peloton up, I balled my eyes out at lunch at the talks and lost my glasses. I struggled to focus, I couldn't stop my head from dancing all over the place. My body wouldn't do what I needed it to do.
Finally one the the marshals suggested I get on the bus and THEN I found my fight. I can doubt myself but rarely will I let any one else doubt me because I am stubborn and ready to prove the world wrong. As a "wee girl from the Shankill" I was told repeatedly as I grew up that I wouldn't amount to much, sometimes indirectly and other times very directly! I was not going on the bus! Not yet! And all of a sudden one turn of the pedals after another I was catching up, on the downhills I was riding like a deamon. The marshals and my fellow cyclists (did I just call myself a cyclist?!) cheered me on!
And you know what happened ... yes I made it through day 4!! With tears in my eyes and relief in my whole being!!What you don't know is that I was greeted by my sister and niece!! It was so good to see them! 'Leaving of Liverpool' one of my favourite songs played by a trad band on the background!! I felt like I did in Liverpool - at home away from home. And to top it all off I have had the most amazing homestay along with a fellow cyclist who is 70 and has cycled every year, every day and every kilometre! We ate drank and shared stories tonight. Laughed, cried and dreamed. And that's where the revolution happens, that's where the "fire in our bellies" as Michaela said, faith in our hearts and hope in our minds is rekindled and tended. I will never forget today or the people who have helped me through it.
Day three of Cycle Against Suicide
The best bit about CAS is that it focuses on building connection and community!
I couldn't have gotten started today without Michaela Rafferty, she blows me away every day, absolute legend and inspiration!
Today the Start360 Team became 3!! Mairead Grego joined us at Newry. She had cycled from the bus station already, her enthusiasm and huge heart hanging out of her as usual! Then Gary Simmington from Lighthouse appeared and young people from Ardoyne Youthclub and Springboard! They are absolute legends and lead the cycle all day.
We were homeward bound to Belfast which was excited but a wee bit of pressure seeing as I wanted to make sure our wee team made it in one piece. It was the toughest day for me so far, muscles fatigued and sore and emotions running high, but having Mairead and my sister Nicky and a whole army of people in orange by my side made the difference.
For the first time this year I got a push, something my wee independent soul found it hard to accept I needed last year. And what a difference a year has made! Because I welcomes it with open arms today!!
I had the privilege of riding shoulder to shoulder with a friendly, kind and inspiring man today. We talked and we listened to each other's story. Mainly about the importance recognising we are human and allowing ourselves to be sad, angry and afraid in the face of loss.
And finally we were on the home straight - me, my legend of a sister and friend. We felt like the three musketeers up front with the young people and youth workers of Belfast making our way through Belfast. It felt good to be home, the sun was shining and to see the faces of family, friends and colleagues again reminded me that we are all in this together. People came with banners and supplies. The support, care and love overwhelmed me. Thank you every last one of you, I was so proud to be connected to Belfast, my family, friends and Start360 arriving in tonight!!
Day 2 of Cycle Against Suicide
We were waved off by our amazing homestay Colin, Aoife and baby Aine who stepped up at the last minute and welcomed us into their home. We had great talks this morning and spirits were high. Then we set off and cycled double what we cycled yesterday with more hills, many many more hills. And then the rain. Oh my goodness it lashed on us!! We had to stop to get rain jackets on, at times the hills were so prolonged we were off the bike, walked it to the top of the hill and back in it again!
When we stopped for lunch we had a talk from a Guard who lost her father to suicide six months ago. She was raw and I wept with her and had so much admiration for her to stand on the stage and inspire others to talk, to be human and be ok with being vulnerable. The same woman is also a champion cyclist! We also heard from another young girl who lost her sight from bullying and she blew us away with her 'fight song'.
And you know what I was raw the rest of the day as I watched my sister battle hill after hill in the soaking rain. I was emotional with pride and concern for her. Most of all I was full of gratitude for this amazing woman I get to have as my sister. She is human and so am I. We know each other inside out and we loves and accept each other warts and all. She has battled the same hills as I have and she is resilient and caring and absolutely hilarious and full of life despite it. She is the best mummy I know. And today she blew me away. In fact she left me for dirt a few times! I pushed her and she pushed me.
So remember when the hills and the rain kick in, just keep going. When you don't have the energy to peddle, walk. Because after the climb there's always a descent and eventually you'll be freewheeling again! And if you're lucky you will have a sister or a friend to cycle shoulder to shoulder with!!
Day 1 of Cycle Against Suicide! So as we made our way towards Dublin today both my sister and I were a mixture of excitement, nerves and emotion. I told Nicky stories of last year, she couldn't believe she was doing it with me this year and we talked about the reason we were doing it. We remembered our Granda Alex, an avid cyclist and how shocked but proud he would be of his two granddaughters setting off on a cycle around Ireland. We remembered our uncle John who lost his life to suicide almost 20 years ago now and thankfully how much more awareness and services there are now.
I was full of emotion as the reality hit me that just this week as has become the norm for me I worked with young people on the brink of "giving up on life". Despite the advancement in services and awareness we still need to break the stigma of mental health and shame surrounding suicide and asking for help. We arrived and started to see familiar faces, people who had made last year so life changing and amazing for me. And we were back on the open road cycling together, singing and laughing and sharing stories. My new cycling buddy explained he had broken his hip and gotten back on his bike seven weeks later. And he was completing the whole cycle!
These people are my everyday heros! People came out to wave us on and encourage us from young to old. This is what it's all about! Great weather, great people and great cause - Start360. So happy to be cycling shoulder to shoulder with my amazing sister who took to today like a pro! Proud sister moment!! Please sponsor us at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/start360edgesteam
So this day last year was my first day with Cycle Against Suicide and what a roller coaster it was!!
I met amazing, inspiring, determined, caring and resilient people along the way and was so proud coming into Belfast! From Twinbrook to City Hall to Boys Model we had a welcome that makes me proud to be from Belfast ... epic, challenging, inspiring and emotional day.
Two more days until #CAS2018 kicks off and so proud to be doing it for Start360 - such a worthwhile cause! and to be joined by family and colleagues this year!
Where do you find hope? If you ask yourself anything today it should be this question! Fill up everyday on all the things that give you hope in yourself, others and the world around you.
Ifind hope in a cup of tea, a walk on the beach and my sister to name a few. Why tea? Well because it reminds me of my granny. A woman who had faith that nothing in the world could not be sorted over a cup of tea. And she was right! There's no situation that is utterly hopeless. Even Northern Irish winters give way to sunshine and bright nights!
Magz asked me last year to take part and I didn't know then what I am letting myself in for and still don't! Suicide has a huge part in my heart. Now is the time to use that experience, hurt and pain and put it into good use and raise awareness of this taboo subject.
With your help let's get the word out there, try to make a difference in people’s lives and let them know that there are people that care and want to help - “It’s OK not to be OK and it’s OK to ask for HELP”.Thanks for your donations and kind words!
46 Days to Go!
... and I think some of us are still in shock at what we’ve signed up for! Suicide unfortunately is something that has touched us professionally and personally and we are so excited to be able to complete this challenge as a team. We want to thank our family and friends for supporting us - including those joining the cycle! We couldn’t ask for more than that!
Please share our page and let’s get those funds raised to ensure much needed support services continue to support local young people, families and communities!!