ODB Guide » Walking For Life

My Journey

    • 10 posts
    November 25, 2019 11:28 AM NZDT
       My Journey

        My name is Ivan and I am Walking For Life.

         On February 9 2019 I embarked on an ambitious mission - to walk around Aotearoa New Zealand, from top to bottom and back to the top again, capturing towns and communities on both sides of each island to raise awareness around mental health issues and suicide, while raising funds for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.

       During the last nine months I have connected with literally thousands of people, opening conversations around these issues, sharing my own journey through trauma and mental illness, my recovery, and listening to the stories of others too.

        I have walked over 3200 km, walking through towns and cities down the west side of the North Island, before crossing the Cook Strait and walking down the east side of the South Island and through the Catlins to Bluff.

         I spent a few days in Stewart Island and walked the Rakiura Track before returning to the South Island.
    I traveled through Riverton, heading north to Tuatapere, Manapouri and Te Anau before walking to the Divide and doing an Alpine Hike over the Routeburn Track to Glenorchy and Queenstown, Wanaka and Makarora before heading out to Haast and the West Coast, where I am currently.

        I plan to head North up the West Coast and back to Picton before crossing the Cook Strait once again and embarking on the longest leg of the journey - the East Coast of the North Island, which is over 2000 km.
    During this time I have walked along beaches, roads and tracks, sleeping in my tent, camping in layby's on the side of the road, staying in backpackers, holiday parks, DOC huts, pubs and hotels, as well as accepting the warm hospitality from strangers who have followed my journey on my Facebook page and have extended the hand of kindness.

        I have documented all of my walks with stories telling of the beauty I see every day, as well as writing of challenges I face and how I negotiate my way around them, and how often these challenges can be used as an analogy for life.  

        I also take photos on every walk, as a way of showing people that it doesn't matter where I am, or what season I am in, I can find something beautiful or good in every day.  
    We live in an astonishing country and there is beauty to be found everywhere.  The more we look for it, the easier it becomes to see.

         In my early thirties I suffered a major breakdown, was hospitalised and put on a gruelling merry-go-round of pills - anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilisers, and tranquillisers following diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and anxiety stemming from childhood sexual abuse.

         I struggled to stay alive during this time, was unable to work, and as I disconnected myself from friends and family I retreated to the small confines of my room, hiding under a veil of shame.

         I never thought I would recover, but through intensive counselling and therapy I fought to regain my life.
    A turning point was when I enrolled in an art course, and I found I finally had structure back in my life, something to get out of bed for, a small social group, and an outlet for expression - I could take what was inside me and put it out, on a canvas, or into a sculpture or piece of writing.

        I embarked on a degree in Arts and Media, majoring in Creative Writing, and one by one I was able to take myself off all of my medications, while engaging in holistic therapies such as DBT (Dialetical Behavioural Therapy) and using tools such as Mindfulness exercises.

       My recovery picked up momentum and I returned to the workforce, stronger and happier than I had ever been, even before I got sick.

        Today I am walking for life and sharing my story as a testimony that it is possible to recover from a very dark place, even when it seems permanent.  I walk to show people the potential in each of us and the strength of the human spirit, wanting to inspire hope in those who may be struggling in the same dark place I was stuck in for years.
        I am not a doctor, or counselor.  I am not a clinician or expert.  I can only share my story and the strategies that I found helpful in my recovery.  

        But I also believe it is time for those of us with lived experiences to share those, to talk about these issues and get them out in the open in a bid to break the taboo and stigma around mental illness.
    It is time to connect.  It is time to talk.

    This post was edited by Milka Oliveira on November 25, 2019 11:28 AM NZDT
    • 10 posts
    December 4, 2019 11:26 AM NZDT

    Follow Iva's journey on the map bellow