Last Saturday, the 23rd of June, Last Man Standing took place. 6 hours on pole number 16 at the Markermeer lake. A super hard challenge. And a real rollercoaster ride of physical discomfort and mental breakdowns and revivals.

MIND Young Academy

I participated to raise money for the MIND Young Academy. A project that educates schoolchildren about mental health. A project that stimulates openness, sharing and talking. And that is so very important! When I was young, there was little to no information, no openness and a lot of taboo. It was a black hole. My life was black and alone. There was help to be found, but only if you searched for it. Thankfully, I did. With ups-and-downs. But there are a lot of people my age, that start only now, because now there is more information, the subject is discussed more and more, and there is a little less taboo on certain subjects. When we can give our youth this growing sense of awareness, so they can talk sooner, so they can see that it is something you can struggle with but also can get help for, we give them a head start in life. A head start for healing and/or finding balance and acceptation. So they have a bigger chance on quality of life.

Pole-standing

I did not participate alone! 150 other very brave human beings stood there. People who participated because they themselves have (had) problems and challenges with their mental health, or because they have a connection with someone who faces/faced these problems and challenges every day. And that says something about strength and perseverance. About personal leadership. Because, standing still for 6 hours, on a little pole that is smaller than the size of your feet, does not only require physical perseverance, but, much more so, mental perseverance.

It is a rollercoaster. As your body and mind try to end this weird situation, you try to reach your goal. You are doing this for a reason, you remind yourself. What is 6 hours, if you’ve been trying to keep your balance all your life already? Right. This is peanuts in comparison to what I have already lived through and survived. I want to keep my balance. On this small pole and in life. And I will succeed!

‘I can’t do it, I want to get off, I want to sit down, you will fall, what does it matter when you stop?, just stop’, my head tells me and tears came. Nearly did I give in. For a moment I could not go on, my eyes scanned for support and strength. Where could I find support and strength? I looked at all my fellow pole standers. They are doing this too. Look how powerful we all are. I saw people on the shore cheering us on. My mouth asked for support. I called my mother to tell her how hard it was right now. I told the volunteers of MIND, who were by our side in the water, that I was having a hard time. I got cheered on. It cost me 45 minutes to recover from this major breakdown. To silence the voices in my head who wanted to give up. To feel lighter on the pole again and to get through the last hour. With everybody. Together. And we made it! What an accomplishment.

Strength and perseverance

Strength and perseverance. That is what people who climbed on a pole Saturday displayed and have. And that is also because of who we are and our lived experience. Having mental health problems requires a lot of personal leadership. You, and only you, can take charge of yourself and your life,
with or without a handicap. And how fitting is this metaphor of standing on a pole! Trying to keep your balance through the elements, on a tiny pole. It’s a big challenge. And it makes us who we are. So much more than a label. So valuable through lived experience. These people are leaders. These people are an example. You are heroes.

We raised 51.000 euro and this amount can only grow bigger. You can still donate through doemeemetmind.nl. I want to thank everybody for their support, donations, sharing of stories, enthusiasm and perseverance.

See you next year! X Bouwke

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Bouwke

NiceDay Writer. Organizational and work psychologist. I love nature, traveling and photography. I like to move and exercise, especially tennis, pilates / yoga and walking. With my story I am committed to more openness about mental health and I want to reduce stigmas around these topics. You can find me on Instagram: I am one Movement and backpackingbouwke and on Twitter: @iambouwke

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