Emotional and Physical Preparation

In 2002, I was very fortunate with being awarded a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship and my dream of not only wanting to see Everest but Trek to Everest Base Camp, became a reality in October 2003. Below, you can read an 'honest and open' example of my journal entries, recorded at the time when I was preparing myself emotionally and physically for the trek. The preparation both ‘physical and emotional’ was an often arduous 'trek' in itself.

I have always been 'visual' with my thinking and treat my sometimes strong 'visual experiences' as an expression of emotion and I believe, should not be seen as a symptom of illness. It is just me expressing myself to me!

I had become more or less 'housebound' since my diagnosis in 1996. So, forcing myself back into the 'outside world' did challenge my emotions greatly and push me way beyond the boundaries of safety I had tried to build. I was on a personal journey, not only challenging my diagnosis and the stigma attached to it but to also try and discover 'me!'

January 10th 2002. Today is make or break for me. I have a meeting with the Churchill Fellowship in Kensington at 11:40 am. There is a great doubt in my mind. I feel that my weight will go against me rather than the Schizophrenia, in deciding whether I get the fellowship or not. For some days now I have been feeling extremely nervous. It is a stressful yet exciting time. It is a possibility that when I reachLondon, I could decide to return home toDorset without attending the interview. But there is an inner drive within me. I want this trek. I want this dream. I feel that I must succeed. There is more than One Mountain to reach and climb here. I am 160kg. Self-doubt is also within. My physical fitness will be tough to gain and maintain, my mental fitness will be tougher. My feet are already sore and cracked from neglect. My mind is already full of doubt and the trek is not a reality yet. The dark forces within my mind laugh at the possibility of me attempting and succeeding with such a task but my heart is on the plane and mind waits in theHimalayas.

January 11th. I am totally exhausted. Yesterday I arrived in Kensington with about one minute to spare. This was good for me because I spent most of the journey wondering if I would arrive on time. As the taxi pulled up outside the Churchill offices, I felt extremely nervous and it was at this time I could have turned around and headed home. But I didn’t, I found the strength to go forward and with this strength, my anxieties were put to the back of my mind. I was put at great ease by the warm welcome I received from the Fellowship staff. I was very conscious of my nerves and once I had got through the door and sat down in the waiting room, I was aware my nerves were starting to take control over my steadiness. I was handed a list of the interviewers and told that the interview would start when I was ready. I glanced quickly over the names such as Sir Henry Beverley, The Duke of Marlborough, Nick Danziger and Sir Peter Harding Chief Air Marshall to the RAF. I was asked if I would like to read over their details before I entered in to the interview. I knew that if I read the information about these high-powered men, then that would only feed my nerves, so I declined and asked to be shown to the interview straight away. I was escorted upstairs and greeted at the door by Sir Henry Beverley. During the interview my whole philosophy was truth. I had learnt a long while back that covering up my weaknesses with tales of strength was in fact a weakness in itself. After about 20 minutes the interview came to its end and I felt exhausted. I was told that I should hear of the results mid February.

On reflection.

During my wait for the results of my interview, my emotions were very up and down. I wanted to believe so much that I was going to be awarded ‘A chance of a lifetime’ but the dark forces within my head would not let me believe it. Luck and achievement like this just did not come my way and if it did, I believed that there would be a failing somewhere along the line to counterbalance the good. This was evident in my thoughts, when on some occasions; I believed that I was going to be successful with the interview and trek to Base Camp, but only to die there in some tragic accident.

As February approached, I began to feel more and more negative about the pending result. I could not make myself believe that such an organisation would award its fellowship to someone like me. I was a no-hoper, a risk, someone with a diagnosis of schizophrenia who could not walk through his own front door at times. But then again, the Churchill Memorial Trust is known for encouraging as many people as they can and without any discrimination. They are used to seeing the good and potential in possible fellows but I just could not believe they would see any good in me. I was torn but one positive moment happened when cleaning out my rabbits in the back garden. I looked up and in my ‘minds eye’ I saw Everest reaching higher than any cloud in the sky and for a couple of seconds, I believed that it was my destiny to go, and until I was to receive notification, it was this couple of seconds belief, that would keep my hopes sometimes high.

February 12th Today through the letterbox came an envelope with the bold words ‘Churchill Memorial Trust’ in red, stamped on the front. At first I did not want to open it, I did not want to read the rejection.

I can’t believe the post. I’ve been waiting day after day expecting rejection. But today a magnificent day, I have been awarded a 2002 fellowship. I almost won’t let myself be excited. I’ve telephoned Rebecca and my uncle John and I am waiting for Paul to return my calls. I just can’t believe my luck!

Afternoon.

My day was full of emotion. I felt nervous at the task ahead and in slight disbelief that it was going to happen. Everybody offered congratulations. It was not long after that I felt as though my confidence had taken a step upwards and on that same day as receiving the good news my mind was already organising the trek and preparing a fitness regime. For the first time in many years, I suddenly felt the world was on my side and for a little while my troubles had lifted way into the sky. I soon returned to Earth and found myself muttering that the task was too great for me to achieve. I just could not believe that I could get fit enough and what about all the preparation, all the gear, who to book with, what special equipment was needed? I worried about communication. It was warned that each fellow might have to give interviews to the press, either national or locally and part of the fellowship was for the fellow to use their travelling experience in benefit to their local community. This meant talking to people. Facing people and holding conversations with them. The description of my fellowship is about learning to ‘live and cope’ with mental illness and this is what would be sent to the national and local press. Suddenly, my personal experiences were to be put out in the open and this at first made me skeptical. But although I was nervous, I knew that it had to be done. I was tired of the old and archaic views from all towards my diagnosis. My aim is to try my best to get a new ball of understanding rolling, in the minds of all. Just want to do my bit.

March 11th I was weighed at the doctors a few days ago. I am a bit disheartened as I have managed to do even greater exercise over the last month but for some reason I have only managed to lose ½ pound? I am so disheartened by this. I am doing as much walking per day as I can cope with. If I carry on losing weight at this small loss I surely won’t be fit enough for Everest? I surely won’t be able to find the gear to wear. I am struggling with diet and find that on some days I am eating more than before I started my fitness campaign. I seem to crave chocolate and ice cream. I have been told that my fat is turning to muscle and soon the weight should drop off. I am walking with Beau in the forest and have managed to walk nearly one hour for most days. No hills yet but focusing on length. I probably walk for three days and have the fourth and sometimes the fifth off to relax my painful legs. When I first started walking it was for a total of around twenty minutes a day. It is hard on my legs and my calves and shin hurt a lot, as the muscles learn to cope with the exercise. I have received lots of information about my fellowship and have been awarded a provisional grant of £6000.

I have completed an interview for the local press about my condition. The report in the newspaper was very good and was not the nerve racking experience I envisaged.

March 18thWhere has all my new energy gone? For the last week I have found walking extremely tough. My legs are very heavy and are in pain when I walk. It’s all so depressing at this moment and my weight is not going down and my body is tiring. I am having difficulty with dieting. I am still eating much chocolate and lots of bread and I feel very hungry after any exercise. My mind is dark. I believed that having something so good happen to me, would somehow end my troubles and I would be cured but things seem to be going wrong for me. Energy gone, walks are shorter and my mind is unhappier. I have great doubts about the trek and whether I will be fit enough, mentally and physically. Tomorrow I will try and wake with new enthusiasm in the hope that the rain will ease.

April 9thI walked in Puddletown Forest, up some steepish hills, steep for me anyway. I have not attempted this walk for a few weeks. Last time I did it my legs were left feeling very weak and painful. Because of the pain, I decided to concentrate on more flat level walks in Morton forest and build up the length. But today I attempted the walk again, to see if I have improved. And I am relieved to say that I managed the walk, the easiest to date. Although I am getting fitter, I am fighting constantly within my mind. It is such an effort to do this, to actually leave my front door and then walk in a forest that is alien to me. But I must do it, it is these first steps that I believe will make or break me. It is within these few months that I will know if my goal is likely to succeed.

During my walk I came across a few stones on my path. Although the path is wide and the stones are insignificant in size they caused me to come to a halt. I stared at them and became confused as my mind filled with incomprehensible questions. I wanted to kick the stones out of my way, but I was frozen. In my head they resembled my life. I wanted to just boot them away, I could have held them in my hand and thrown them into the bush but I had to leave them where they were…It was the law…In my mind I found myself asking what would be the stronger, either if I moved around them or if I stepped over them. For some reason I had noticed other little stones along my path, it all seemed to build up to these final three stones. I think I understand what my mind was telling me, but it’s confusing, yet somehow I know…Anyway, I chose to slowly and surely step over the stones and then walk on. I wasn’t allowed to turn and look back at the stones; if I did, I knew, what was just conquered, would somehow lose its significance?

April 10th 9am. A Beautiful day. Another walk in Puddletown forest. Started at Beacon corner and set off into the forest and up the hill. When I last attempted this route, it left my legs very painful but today I have managed it a lot easier. Still in my mind I want to give up. So so often I am worried that I am just too unfit and obese to complete the trek to Base Camp. I have read that ideally a person attempting this type of trek should be able to walk 12 miles a day. At this moment I can’t see myself achieving such a long walk…Maybe once a week but every day! I have taken a photograph of where the black horse and rider comes to a halt within my mind. For a little while, since walking this route in the forest, I have often felt their presence and seen them in my mind galloping up behind me, not to harm me but to let me know they are there. I feel their presence so much that sometimes I actually get out of their way in fear of being trampled.

Black Thunder. I am split between reality and fiction. I tell myself that nothing is there, they don’t exist; yet what I sense is so strong that it leads me to believe of their existence. The key for me is to acknowledge them, they need to be acknowledged and once this has been done both horse and rider just seem to trot behind me as I walk and then stop and disappear when I reach this one particular post. At first when I didn’t acknowledge, what I was seeing in my mind, the rider would shout at me and the horse would constantly rear up and stamp its feet until they’d both got my attention. On another trail I often would meet with an 18th Century French soldier that would speak to me in broken French/English, he too seemed only to be able to walk within certain boundaries. My feeling is, that as long as I do not feel threatened by these thoughts, then I do not mind the experience of them. There was once a feeling of unhappiness with a Victorian lady I saw on a walk…I can see her now in my mind as I write and I remember that she had no face, her head was covered but her face was in darkness and she was unable to look up at me. I did not feel threatened but felt as though she was letting me know of her unhappiness in life. These inwardly sightings are within my mind. Most of what I call psychic events happen as if they are as real as life itself, these events that I write about now, are in my mind and I am unsure exactly what they are and what they mean.

Although at the time they are real to me and cause me to act physically towards them whether it’s waving hello or goodbye or getting out of their way, they still are not as real as other events. It all could be Schizophrenia; some may think that it is psychic. I am split in half. I realise that these images are in my mind only, yet other senses cause me to react, as though there is a reality attached to them? One day it might be helpful if I researched the possible existence of these people. I would probably never do it; deep down I think I know what the outcome would be.

Note-As I write this diary and think about what has just been written, I am sure that these images have a link with my schizophrenia and the stress I feel when out walking. Paranoia about being out in the open and challenging myself. My mind playing tricks, giving me messages I need to interpret and try to understand. I am very visual in my thinking, more so than words, I may see images in my mind which represent words, so I believe this type of experience with Horse and rider are messages to myself, a representation of emotions?

Not psychic. More a vivid imagination. Not illness either. I am never threatened by what I see and in my thoughts it could be happening to toughen me up mentally? Preparing me for future surprises that I may have to face? Right now as I write I have a Scottish voice swearing away and shouting at me from the deep dungeons of my mind. I know who he is and what he represents, he represents my family. I believe we all have these voices within us. It’s just that mine seem to have bigger and stronger vocal chords than most. Stress related. It’s the way I communicate with myself. A way for past fears and negative experiences to show themselves, whilst I, try my best to lock these negative experiences away.

April 11th. Did not walk today. Due to stresses with the purchase of our second hand car. When things go wrong or out of line, I do feel very much so that the forces of life are against me. It is at these times that I feel as though I am haunted by bad luck. Bad luck seems to come in many forms. I do believe that if anything good happens to me then there will be something that happens which makes me unhappy and reminds me that with happiness comes sadness. But when I experience sadness more sadness seems to follow. I am learning to sit down and calmly question my thoughts. First thing I have got to do is to think more positively and see the good things that happen and not concentrate on the negative all the time. Paul my rethink carer focuses on the same issues with me. It is so easy to be negative and such a task for me to be positive.

April 20th One thing that has happened today, which is positive, I have bought myself a watch. It cost £25. You may think, so what? but after many years of not wearing a watch because I wanted to psychologically disassociate myself from life, buying one today, was a massive symbolic gesture to myself. It symbolized my new strength of mind and I was feeling better with life and so psychologically I wanted to take new steps to re-associate myself with life once more. I did purchase a watch nearly two years back but I never really wanted to wear it and it felt very difficult on my wrist. I can remember forcing myself to wear it for a couple of hours and ended up wanting to cry because of what it symbolized to me. Since having my diagnosis I have forgotten time, I have not wanted to know the time, nor the date. I believe that I feel better now because of the right medication and the support I have had with my thought sorter ‘Paul’ and being selected as a Churchill Fellow of 2002 has increased my confidence and helped me to believe that there is a good life for me to have in the future, rather than just being an obese mentally ill person that sat at home each day. I have always felt that my life would get better but I never truly believed it and was never able to see the source that would provide me with the frame of mind to improve my life. Today I am not just somebody with Schizophrenia; I am not the mad man who can harm others. I am not just somebody with Schizophrenia. I am not this man who the psyches make me out to be.

May 3rd. Did long walk yesterday on the 2nd in the forest for about one hour forty minutes, up and down steep hills. Went up one particular hill in Puddletown forest in one go, usually takes at least two stops walking up this hill. I am getting fitter. In my mind when I am walking up hills, I sometimes picture a big carthorse in front of me that pulls me up the hill with its reins. On the odd day, I sometimes imagine that I have Ted Hughes Iron Giant who pulls and encourages me up hills. It works. Guess what …I even talk to them!

Afternoon. Just completed very good walk in Puddletown forest. Managed to walk up one hill that I had always avoided, because I knew I wasn’t fit enough to do it. This led me on to doing another extremely hard hill, which I had thought I wouldn’t be able to do for sometime but I managed it, with only one break for breath. Very very good. I did it and I am extremely happy. Happy things like this can only ad to my hardware. Walked for about an hour and three quarters with just a few minutes break overall. One of the hardest walks I have ever done. Also, today whilst walking alone on a forest path I thought there was an alien ship hiding amongst the clouds, which was spying on me. I usually get scared about this type of delusion but instead of being anxious, I just stopped, looked up to the sky and waved hello. Anyway completed the walk very well. The time is 4pm.

May 9th. “Beautiful spring”. Today whilst walking in Moreton forest, amazingly in front of me about six inches away from my feet I saw my first ever adder snake. So wonderful, I have never seen one before, I quickly stepped back out of its way. The markings on its back were striking. When walking in Puddletown forest I have come across deer eating leaves on the path or just standing among the trees – fabulous. My weight has gone down a little – I am trying to eat less. I am now around 152 kg and I am walking 2 hours a day or 4 ½ to 5 miles in one go. I am now reaching distances that I only dreamt about when I first started walking. To actually reach such distances is amazing for me. I can still clearly remember sitting on my sofa two years back thoroughly depressed thinking that the only future I had was death. I really could not see any positive way forward. Each day I would think about the afterlife and would often just sit on the sofa firing imaginary arrows in to the sky with messages for angels asking if they would come and take me away from this life I was living. I could see no future but maybe the only way forward was in death and suicide. Thankfully my life today is somewhat different.

Sunday 12th May. Felt well this morning when I woke. Last night for the first time in a long while I lay in bed and tried to focus my happy thoughts back to myself in the past when I was more depressed. I projected my feelings now to a time when I was laying on my bed in my flat inLondon. To let myself know things will get better. I did feel there was a connection. Last night I remembered one particular time in the past when I was searching for the future, so I started to project the future how it is now back to the past, hoping that in some way I could pick up the positive things in my life, which would help me through my unhappiness back then. This brings me on to time travel. I really do believe that we can travel into the future and past through telepathy and the power of thought. Emotional travel and be in touch with ourselves! In the future I believe that we will eventually succeed with machinery but I believe that we can do it by thought. I remember back when I first knew Rebecca. I really do not understand why she did not run miles away from me? I can remember standing with her in the garden at Meshaw and telling her that I knew it was possible to travel in time and I knew how it could be achieved because I did it my self.

Often, I have believed that it was this type of thinking that helped to see me through some very rough patches of my life. I can’t remember when I first had the idea to try and pick up emotions from the future but it was probably in the 1980’s at a time when I was first feeling very isolated and depressed. Does it matter? It helps me. A delusion worth having?

Did brief 2 ½ mile walk in forest near Milton Abbas. Beautiful bluebells. Saw two deer. My eating is getting better and I am eating much more low fat food. With my physical fitness I seem to be getting a fitter mind too. Having greater confidence is helping me to have a greater life. Finding confidence in myself really does make me feel that I can achieve great heights. Yet still, on some days, I fear life greatly and have such horrible paranoid thoughts especially about my death whilst trekking to Everest.

Wednesday 15th May. Had a break the last two days. Followed a trek on Abbotsbury, which took about two hours. After nearly a quarter of a mile and being typically me and not reading the map correctly, I realised that I was reading the map the wrong way around, again, but was determined to get it right, so I turned back and did the route properly and walked up and along White Hill. I look forward to doing it again.

One thing that does give me confidence and gives me strength within my mind is the achievement of getting from A to B. So much of my illness and my life has been starting something, whether it be an Adult education course or trying to write a story or whatever, I have never really been able to see something through to the end. But since I have walked I am learning to achieve goals and see things through and getting from A to B-This I believe improves my mind. There have been many routes where I have wanted to give up, but time after time, I have pushed myself not to ring Rebecca but to finish at my front door and now it is paying off.

Friday 24th May. Abbotsbury – White Hill to Hill fort. I have managed some excellent walks, especially around the Abbotsbury region. Walked the other day for three hours along the ridge from White Hill to the hill fort. Extremely happy with my fitness and the fitter I get the more the walks are becoming more enjoyable. Whilst at the hill fort I met an American briefly, I did not really want to talk to him and our conversation was “hello” and he replied “awesome up here” I agreed and walked on. On my journey back, I experienced some paranoia and was thinking that he was CIA and that he was placed on the hill fort to question me about the psychic war I believed in. I spent some time looking over my shoulder to make sure he wasn’t following me. The whole meeting just seemed strange to me. It is this type of paranoia that I must still fight and have more control of, so that it does not influence my daily routine any more. In the past I am aware that this situation with the American would have just stayed in my thoughts and I would have forever believed that he was CIA and that I was being spied on but now I can sit down and start to view things in a different way and say to myself that he was just an American on holiday in Dorset. It has taken a long time for me to view such thoughts differently but now I think in a more realistic way.

I have recently managed to up my walking to six miles from five miles and it feels good that I am pushing myself a bit more. It is so wonderful to walk the back roads ofDorset. Nearly every walk I see, either deer, foxes, hares, buzzards, kestrels, sparrow hawks, all of which look so healthy and look so wonderful in their own back gardens.

I weighed myself two days ago and I seem to have broken the 150kg barrier! My new weight is 148.1kg this is such good news for me. I have managed to lay off the chocolate in a big way and have started to eat Alpen for breakfast instead of bread. I have also had 5 days off from walking and started back on the sixth with fresh legs and a fresh heart. The break did me good and although it was a bit hard to start up again, I soon realised what I had been missing. The only trouble I found with my break was that my feet were in pain during the walk, aching pain. It has been grey and wet for a couple of days now, roll on summer.

June 15th. 5 ¾ miles today. Felt weak after end of walk so I asked Rebecca to drive me to the shop and get some chocolate. I needed it - I ate four big bars. Sometimes I seem to lose so much energy and end up exhausted and shaking with a desire for chocolate. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes not so long ago, can’t quite remember, the shaking and desire for something sweet may be the diabetes. During my walk nearMoretonForest I began to hear what I thought were Roman Troops banging their shields in my mind. I found myself drifting into a conversation with a roman soldier about weapons of the future. I don’t intentionally start these strange conversations they just seem to start up and at first I am not even fully aware that I am holding such a conversation until I just drift along with it and start to speak aloud. And once I speak to myself aloud, I realize I am doing it and then stop!

Then I have to shut up and look around making sure no one else can see me talking with myself. But they can be extremely interesting. I told this Roman soldier that in my time if we were to go to battle against the Romans then we could destroy everybody here without harming one person on our side. I had somehow slipped into roman time amongst a battle area, I was like a ghost to him and he was like a ghost to me and we had met in the middle. I told him I was from the future and he just accepted that. As my walk went on the image of him faded. It brought me back to a time when I had been walking onMaidenCastle. On that walk and in my mind I saw two people walking towards us, I heard them speak to each other and then come to a stop. I believe I was a ghost from the past to them and as I walked on, I passed them and they just slowly turned their heads looking at me amazed at what they were seeing. It is greatly possible that things we do now, as we live, will be seen in the future as ghosts of the past. Sometimes when I am walking or doing something in the house, I feel that for some seconds I have left an imprint of my actions for the future to see. It’s a feeling in my head and my body, I can’t really explain it. Are these thoughts delusions are they my Schizophrenia at work? I am split when I have these thoughts, they are so real at the time and although I am aware of my body being in today’s time, my mind is fixed in the past or the future, it just seems so real to me. Now as I am learning more about my Schizophrenia and know the many tricks it holds in its cupboards, I do put it down to the delusions of my condition, or is it?

I must buy snow gaiters!

June 21st My diet is still getting better, I am managing to cut down a lot of bread. Since I have stopped eating so much bread, margarine and marmite sandwiches I have not been so tired and do feel better for it. Weighed myself today 146.8 kg. I feel fit, much fitter than I ever thought I could be again. In my mind I have seen Black Thunder again with rider.

December 3rd. Tragic news. Just returned from a good day inLondon, Rebecca receiving her accountancy certificates at the Royal Festival Hall. Waiting was a letter from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust informing me that they will not be funding my trek in February because they believe it is too dangerous to travel toNepal at the moment. I am devastated and felt all my energy that I had gathered over the months, drain from my body. My emotions were so up and down and depressed and for some hours I just sat up reading the letter over and over, wanting to cry. Last night I had a dream that something very dear to me was going to be stolen. I told Rebecca that something was going to be stolen. During the day I’d been trying to work out the dream and then in the evening, after our trip toLondon, I had my answer. I just do not know what to do. All the training and mental strength building, I just do not know what to do. As I write, I feel as though the evil powers that have surrounded me in the past and that have wanted to bring me down have succeeded.

December 5th. Today I looked in the mirror and I asked myself – “who are you?” and I answered “ nobody, I am not even Stuart Baker-Brown, I am nobody!"

I keep thinking that nothing really exists but I don’t want to think this way because my thoughts are so powerful it may cause me not to exist. All night I was worrying about the theory above and I am trying to put it out of my mind. I don’t want to not exist.

December 11th. Have managed to change trek dates to 22nd October 2003. Have contacted the Winston Churchill Memorial trust and they have given the go ahead. I do realise how supportive they are and that they cancelled my February dates for my own protection.

December 24th. Today for the first time in a few weeks I did a 5 ½ mile walk around Melbury House, park and gardens, with Rebecca and Beau. It felt good. My sadness has lifted and although it was hard work, we got very muddy, I am glad I did it. There was a lovely deer park there. My heart is still travelling to Nepal in February but my mind is slowly easing me to October. I’ve just started to sleep well again after a few bad experiences over the last few weeks.