It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Just 5 more sleeps until Christmas and it’s finally time to relax and enjoy the festivities!  The last couple of months have been a race against time to get the house clean and tidy post dry rot.  Not only that, but I’ve had a mass clear out and got our front room clutter free for the first time in years!  Unfortunately this room became a bit of a ‘dumping ground’ while I was unwell and anything that I worried about would be locked away in there.  It has taken a lot of mental strength and determination to sort through everything and I feel immensely proud to have finally achieved this!  I have some before and after photos that I will share with you at some point – but I will save that for another day!

As the end of this year is looming I have been thinking about the events that 2016 has brought. Although there have been many difficult times (loosing my job, the dry rot returning) the positives of this year have far outweighed the negatives!

Aside from completing the Mount Everest Marathon one of the major highlights of this year has been reuniting with my brother.  This has brought something into my life that at one point I never thought I would have back.  We now have a better relationship than ever and I couldn’t be happier.  It has also had a massively positive impact on my parents and this was especially poignant when me and my brother took my Dad to watch Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium for his 70th birthday.  It was amazing to see the happiness on his face at seeing his two sons together again.

On the 16th of December my brother and his wife came over to our house for the first time in over 6 years!  This was a momentous occasion for me and Helen so we wanted to make it really special. We went all out on a three course meal and a gin tasting flight and had a wonderful evening!  We are so looking forward to many more evenings like this to come!

Christmas Day will be extra special this year as the whole family will be spending it at my brothers! My little niece and nephew are so excited which makes it all the more magical!  I just can’t believe how things have changed since last year!

Despite the down points of this year, I really wouldn’t change anything that has happened. The saying goes that ‘all things happen for a reason’ and in my case, this couldn’t be more true. When I lost my job I thought my world was falling apart but I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I have come to appreciate the important things in life and I am now a much happier person.

I couldn’t be more grateful to Helen for continuing to work so hard and even putting in some overtime shifts.  I really can’t wait to start working again and this will be my main focus in January!

I’ll leave you with some photos of our house that our good friend Cas very kindly took for us!

Merry Christmas everyone!  Here’s to new beginnings and a very happy New Year!

Time Flies!

A lot has happened since my last blog post and I can’t believe how much time has passed!

Firstly, as some of my Facebook friends may have noticed, I have accumulated a new piece of artwork – in the form of a tattoo!  For a long time now I have wanted to have a full length sleeve depicting the light and dark side of mental illness and my own personal journey/battles – it has just been a case of finding the right tattoo artist to do the job!  Finally I came across David Jorquera from Chile who was doing a guest spot at a tattoo studio in Cheltenham and I knew that he was the right person to start the ‘dark side’ of my sleeve. He did the whole thing free hand and I absolutely love the result!  I can understand that it is the sort of tattoo that you would either love or hate but I don’t think anyone could not appreciate the skill and detail that has gone into it!

Secondly, I have set myself a new challenge that will take place next August!  I have registered for the Ultra Great Britain – a unique 200 mile Ultra Marathon following the Trans-Pennine Trail from Liverpool to Hornsea!  It may seem a bit of an outrageous thing to do, but it will set me in good stead for my 470 mile ‘Three Peaks’ challenge in 2018.  I must say that it feels great to have another extreme challenge to focus on!

Since my Everest Marathon I have kept in touch with OTR and I am currently working alongside them to produce a new campaign which should be up and running very soon!  They have designers on the case to produce a caricature of myself that will promote my fundraising exploits!

Unfortunately, after having my tattoo done I had to avoid excessive sweating or areas which may introduce infection so I had to give up the gym for a few weeks!  I have inevitably put on a couple of kilograms as a result of this however, I am now back to it and I feel as motivated as ever!  I had really missed regular exercise and the energised/positive feelings that it brings!

Other than that I have been filling my days with odd jobs – it makes me wonder how I had time for work!  Me and my Dad are currently painting the back of the house and cleaning and replacing the guttering to make it more water tight.  We are doing everything we can to stop the dry rot returning once it’s sorted this time!  The countdown to Christmas has now started and nothing is going to stand in the way of us getting the house finished in time this year!

That’s all from me for now.  I promise not to leave it so long before my next blog post.  Good bye!

Return Of The Rot!

Just when I thought I had been dealt enough bad luck to last a life time the dreaded dry rot has yet again reared its ugly head!  As you know from some of my previous posts, back in October last year a nasty strain of dry rot attacked the doorway between the utility room and the kitchen and spread into the bathroom causing a vast amount of damage.  We thought we had seen the last of it but little did we know that it was festering again under the floorboards in the kitchen.  The first we knew of it was when a tiny amount of orange mould appeared on the skirting board in the utility room.  We got a specialist to come out and have a look and lifted up the floor boards to find that it had yet again taken over a corner of the void beneath the kitchen floor.

Thankfully the work that was done previously is under guarantee so it will be sorted out free of charge, however it still means that part of our newly decorated wall and floor will have to be destroyed as well as the tiles in our utility room which were left in place last time!  I just can’t believe that with everything we have going on at the moment, we now have this extra problem to sort out!  When will life finally give us a break?!

All this said, things have been going quite well.  I have a few things in the pipeline on the job front and I discussed my dismissal with a solicitor last week.  I have been continuing to run and go to the gym regularly and I played in a 24 hour charity football match for OTR last week.  I only played for an hour but that was enough as I haven’t played football for years!  Despite this I soon found my feet and scored 13 goals!  It was great to be involved in raising money for OTR again and they are very excited about my plans for future adventures and fundraising exploits!

Tomorrow we are going away to Menorca with our friends Tony and Sian.  It will be nice to get away from all the stresses we have going on at the moment, have some fun and relax in the sunshine!

It is easy for me to feel hard done by at the moment with everything thats gone wrong, but I have been following the video blog of an ex-colleague of mine in the Ambulance Service and it really puts my worries into perspective.  She is currently battling cancer and going through some aggressive treatment, but her strength and humour despite this is inspiring.  She is an incredibly courageous woman and I desperately hope that the treatment is successful – my thoughts are with you Kath.  Stay strong and keep fighting!

Anyway, sorry for all the doom and gloom. Hopefully my next post will bring some well overdue good news and positivity!

Goodbye for now!

A Heavy Price To Pay!

This week I have learnt that despite the battles I have won against my mental health problems, they are still coming back to haunt me.  On Thursday, after a very long and drawn out process, I was given the devastating news that I have lost my job.

This whole saga started prior to my Everest marathon when I had been back at work for 3 months and I was told that I had to attend a formal sickness meeting.  I knew that this would be serious but having recovered from my illness and returned to work I didn’t think for a second that the outcome would result in my dismissal. However unfortunately, after much debate, it was decided that due to my sickness record I was no longer able to continue working for the ambulance service.

Despite this gut wrenching news, I kept focused and stayed strong because I knew of the incredibly important task that lay ahead of me.  So, I channelled all my mental strength and determination into fundraising for OTR and my Everest marathon, knowing that on my return I would be whole heartedly appealing the decision.

On the 11th of August I attended my appeal hearing.  I was completely open and honest about what I had been through and how I had developed coping mechanisms to deal with my illness and would now be able to attend work regularly without episodes of sickness. However, unfortunately this was not enough and I received an email on Thursday to say that my appeal had been declined.

I not only feel gutted for the loss of the job that I love, but I also feel deeply saddened at the lack of understanding surrounding mental illness, particularly amongst healthcare professionals.  Yet, rather than let this set me back it has only made me more determined to talk openly about mental health and put a stop to the stigma surrounding it.

It has been an incredibly difficult period of time, made more difficult by the fact that until now I have been unable to talk freely about my dismissal and how I am feeling about it as I didn’t want anything to jeopardise my appeal and I was hoping that the outcome would be positive.  I can now openly say that I am extremely disappointed at the way South Western Ambulance Service have handled the whole situation and I now plan on taking legal action.

Despite the obvious lows of the situation that I find my self in, I have taken comfort in the knowledge that I have been able to cope so well with what has been a very stressful event in my life.  I have been able to continue to function without anxiety taking control and this in itself demonstrates the progress I have made.

It put it into perspective when Helen said that when I was really unwell she would have taken me losing my job any day if it meant that I would be better.  We have been through so much that this is just a drop in the ocean in comparison!

I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been tough though.  There have been times when I’ve felt very lonely and isolated without the structure and social interaction that work provides.  However my family have been amazing and I have some incredible friends that have helped put a smile on my face when I’ve felt low. It’s at times like this that you realise who your true friends are!

Statistics show that OCD is ranked in the top 10 of the most disabling illnesses by lost income.  In fact on average a person with OCD loses fully 3 years of wages over their lifetime (OCD UK)!  It is sad to think that having already had many months of zero pay and having lost my job I am now part of those statistics.  It just shows the devastating effects that mental illness can have.  It’s just a shame that this had happened just as I had managed to turn my life around.

However, rather than see this as a negative step in my journey, I have decided to see it as a positive.  The world is my oyster and I will use this ‘opportunity’ as fresh start, to meet new people, make new memories and to continue to show that no matter how much you may have suffered, there is still hope – you can recover from the grip of mental illness.

Treasured Memories!

This week I finally got round to sorting through my photos from Nepal.  This had taken a while, firstly because we haven’t got a computer so had to go to Helens parents house to use theirs and secondly because I had taken hundreds of photos and had to whittle then down to a more sensible number!  Looking at them again brought back all of the incredible memories from my travels.  It’s hard to believe that only two months ago I was trekking back down the mountains having just completed the Mount Everest marathon!  It was an adventure that I feel so lucky to have had and an experience that I will treasure forever!  I have now uploaded the photos onto Facebook but for anyone that can’t view them I have included a small selection below!

Last week I was nominated for the 22 Pushup Challenge so I have been doing 22 press ups every day and posting a video of this on Facebook to raise awareness of the high number of veterans who choose the path of suicide as a result of PTSD.  As part of the challenge I have to nominate someone everyday to take part, so you had better get practising your press ups as you could be next!

Today me and Helen were lucky enough to be invited to a pre-opening lunch at the new Clifton Ivy.  We had a delicious three course meal free of charge, the service was fantastic and the decor is stunning!  We would highly recommend it!

Tomorrow we are heading to the Brecon Beacons to walk up Pen y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales!  Helen is making us a picnic of homemade sausage rolls, sandwiches and cherry and almond cake so hopefully we will have good weather!

I said in my last post that I would fill you in on the details about the significant task of clearing my front room and spare bedroom, but I still have work to do on this so I will save that for my next post!

Enjoy your weekend everyone, there will be more from me soon!

Third Time Lucky!

On Monday I had a lovely day out with Helen and her parents at the beautiful National trust village of Lacock.  When I was unwell we would often plan days out but not actually end up going because my anxiety levels would be too high to leave the house or by the time I managed to get out and about it would be too late to go anywhere too far away.  Lacock was one of the places that we planned to go to twice but we never made it so it was brilliant to finally get there.  It reminded me of how far I have come and it’s an amazing feeling to know that I am no longer held back by OCD, I am free to do the things that I want to do, when I want to do them and I will never take that for granted!

I have been keeping going with the exercise and although I’ve been eating what I’ve wanted (within moderation) I have managed to maintain my weight. Over the next few weeks I plan to step up the exercise and reduce the calories again in a bid to reach my target weight!  I am going to run the Lacock half marathon on the 7th of August, which will give me a challenge to focus on, although I’m hoping this will feel like a doddle compared to the Everest Marathon!

I am also focusing on clearing out my spare room and front room at the moment so in my next post I will fill you in on the details around why this is such a significant task!

It’s supposed to be a sunny weekend so me and Helen plan on making the most of it and getting out and about!

Goodbye for now!

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Don’t Stop Me Now!

This morning I made my second appearance on BBC Radio Bristol with John Darvall!  It was great to be invited back onto the show to talk about my marathon challenge having now completed it.  I also took the opportunity to announce the next challenge that I have set myself.  For those of you who weren’t able to tune in I have decided that in spring/summer 2018 I will be doing the National Three Peaks challenge!  ‘That doesn’t sound like much of a challenge following the Everest Marathon’ I hear you say!  Well, it isn’t going to be the ordinary Three Peaks Challenge as I plan to run the whole of the 470 miles between each of the peaks as well!  Jamie Ramsey currently holds the record of 13 days, 23 hours and 40 minutes to complete this and I plan on challenging his record!

For those of you closest to me, you will know that my Everest marathon challenge played an instrumental role in my recovery and it is important for me to have something to focus on and keep me motivated.  I have got the bug for extreme challenges and now that I’ve started I don’t want to stop!

I met some incredibly inspirational people while I was away, each with an amazing story to tell, and this along with my own achievements has taught me that with enough hard work and determination anything is possible.

I have chosen to wait until 2018 to do this challenge as I am aware that it will require a lot of planning and organisation.  I also want to incorporate visits to schools to talk about mental health and my story in-between clocking up the miles in a bid to raise awareness of mental health and help to break down the stigma.

Part of the reason that I have chosen to do my next challenge in the UK is so that my friends and family can be involved in some way, whether that be to cover some miles with me or just to be there at the end!  I would also love for some of the amazing people (Team ‘B’ for ‘best’!) that I met in Nepal to join me where possible in my challenge – I will be getting in touch soon guys and girls!

My current fundraising campaign will be ending on the 1st of July and I can’t wait to present OTR with the money raised!  I was lucky enough to join the OTR Mentality volunteers for a BBQ a couple of weeks ago and meet some of the people that my fundraising will have an impact on.  I am so happy that the money raised will be going to such a worthy cause and I can say for sure that OTR will always be my chosen charity for any funds raised in my future challenges!

And on one final note, as we near the end of my fundraising campaign, please, if I have inspired you in any way or if mental health is a cause close to your heart, don’t forget to donate before it’s too late! This is my final time of asking before my next challenge (I know you must be sick of me nagging by now) so I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone again for their generosity, together we have raised a phenomenal amount of money that really will make such a difference!

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If anyone missed it and would like to listen please click on the link below:

My radio interview (hit play and fast forward to 2hr 13m).

Family Guy!

Hi everyone, sorry it’s been a while since my last post.  Since returning from Nepal I have been busy catching up with family.  On the 11th of June it was Helens grans 90th birthday so we travelled 300 miles to Tynemouth in North Shields to celebrate with her.  We were joined by Helens uncles and cousins at The Grand Hotel for a lovely afternoon tea.  Gran was a bit overwhelmed but happy to see all of the family together.

Today is another ‘big’ birthday!  It’s my Mums 70th!  Last Saturday we went to my brothers house where he had organised a chef to cook a four course meal as a birthday surprise!  We had an incredible meal of scallops, venison and panna cotta, washed down with lots of champagne and good red wine – delicious!  My Mum was a picture of happiness, not only because it was a lovely way to celebrate her special birthday but also because, believe it or not, it was the first time we had all had dinner together as a family for almost 6 years! This is because unfortunately the relationship between me and my brother broke down, however just before I went to Nepal we put this behind us and met up for the first time since we fell out all those years ago!  I am so happy to have my brother back in my life – it is another piece of the jigsaw that has fallen into place since I have recovered from the grip of mental illness.  Tonight we are all getting together again for my favourite – an Indian take away!

Since my Everest marathon I seem to have caught the bug for doing extreme challenges, so I have already been planning my next adventure!  I have another radio slot on BBC Radio Bristol with John Darvall at 11am on Friday and I plan to announce what I’m going to do then!  I think it might raise a few eyebrows!

Make sure you tune in to find out what it is!

Home Sweet Home!

I walked through the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport to see Helen running towards me holding a sign saying ‘Welcome home Robert Lippiatt after completing the Mount Everest marathon’! She flung her arms around me – I had missed her so much and it felt so good to be back!

My parents had come to pick me up and we were all in tears as we hugged and the emotions of the last few weeks hit us

We made the journey home as I talked none stop about my adventures and all the incredible things I had seen and done. It was unbelievable to think that less than a week ago I was at Everest Base Camp waiting to run the Mount Everest Marathon!

I arrived home to find that Helen had cleaned the house from top to bottom – it was sparkling!  I also had my dream cake waiting for me (cherry and almond) and a beautiful gift from Helen – a silver compass with the inscription:

‘Keep climbing that mountain, the summit is in sight.

Everest marathon 29th May 2016

All my love forever and always.  Helen’

She had given this to me not only as a gift for completing the Everest marathon but also to symbolise that my life has taken a new direction.  What a special gift!

I gave Helen the gifts I had for her from Nepal, which she absolutely loved and I showed her some books and postcards that I had gathered on my travels!  By this time I was exhausted and in need of my bed so we had a cup of tea and a piece of cake and I hit the sack – I was asleep before my head hit the pillow!

The next day I was awake bright and early!  I was interested to see whether I had lost weight so I jumped onto the scales and was amazed to see that I had lost over 5kg since being away!

To ensure that I could have a few treats without putting the weight back on I headed to the gym that afternoon for a run!  I felt good apart from my ankle playing up a bit after an injury I picked up during the marathon – but there’s no stopping me now!  I plan on keeping up my fitness and losing even more weight!

The following day was spent catching up with family and friends.  It was a beautiful sunny day so we met Helens parents for an ice cream and a coffee before walking along the harbour side to meet my brother, his wife and my niece and nephew for a few drinks.  It was great to see everyone and tell them my stories.  It made me realise what a truly incredible experience the last few weeks had been.  I had seen and done so many interesting and exciting things!  We were later joined by our friends Ellie, Chris, Sian, Tony, Jen and Chris.G.  I had great fun telling them all the gory details of my trip, particularly the dire toilet situation as most of us were healthcare professionals and more than happy to discuss those kind of things!  As with all good nights out it ended with a delicious curry which was greatly appreciated after the food in Nepal that mostly consisted of potatoes, pasta and rice!

I felt a little worse for wear this morning, but it had been a great night and it felt so good to be surrounded by my friends and family again!  My time away has made me realise even more how important they are to me.  I’m so happy to be home!

Journeys End!

The day after the marathon we had the morning to rest so a few of us went to have a drink and do some souvenir shopping in Namche Bazaar.  My muscles were feeling surprisingly good after the endeavours of the previous day and I was still elated from completing the marathon!  A couple of the guys had Irish coffee, but because I don’t like whiskey I decided to have a celebratory gin and tonic, however this ended up being two straight gins at 10am as they had no tonic!  That afternoon we made the short descent to our lodge in Monjo where the owner had summited Everest 4 times from both the Tibet and the Nepal side!

The next day we trekked back to Lukla to reach our final lodge of the trip.  We arrived at around 2pm and decided that it was time to celebrate the end of our adventures!  A group of us headed to a Scottish bar for some drinks and to play some pool.  I took advantage of the fact that they had burger and chips on the menu – it tasted so good after the food we had been eating during the trek.  Everyone let their hair down and all the English members of the group signed a big English flag that they had in the pub!

We returned to our lodge at around 6:30pm and got together to present the porters and Sherpas with their tips.  There was also a lucky dip of equipment and clothing donated by people in our group. They were overjoyed by the gifts and it was so special to see the excitement on their faces.  It was like all their Christmases had come at once!  We also presented Tom (our guide) with a card and a weekend away to Rudding Park Hotel and Spa as Matt (one of the members of our group and one of my closest friends on the trip) is head chef there!  Tom had been planning on running the ultra-marathon, however he had to sacrifice this to organise getting a poorly member of our group air lifted from base camp! Understandably, after training so hard for this, he was a bit fed up so the gift gave him a much needed boost! After the presentation, Matt and I had a chat over a few beers before heading to bed ready for our 6am flight to Kathmandu the next day.

I woke up in a panic at 5.20am having overslept following the previous night’s beers!  Thankfully the airport was only just outside the lodge so we made it just in time and the weather was looking good! The day before, no flights had left Lukla due to bad weather and there were some people in the same lodge who had been waiting for a week to fly out as if your flight doesn’t go on the day its scheduled you become less of a priority.  A group of us had already decided that should this happen to us we would club together to get a helicopter out, however this would have set me back $500.  I was grateful that it didn’t come to this!

Airport security consisted of a quick pat down without even checking your pockets, even if there were obviously items in them! We were even able to walk onto the runway to take photos prior to our flight!

Take off was just as hair raising as the landing!  The plane accelerated down-hill along the short runway before taking off a couple of metres before a dramatic drop into the valley below!  It was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time!  We left the peace and tranquillity of the mountains behind us and arrived back to the chaos of Kathmandu!  It was a bit of a culture shock!

We were transferred back to the Shanker Hotel, where we had first started our trip, and I had a lovely breakfast of omelette, bacon, tomatoes, ham and cheese – delicious after only having a choice of porridge, toast or boiled eggs for the last two weeks!

My bag was coming on the next flight but luckily I had some clean clothes at the hotel which I had left there before departing to Lukla.  The hotel room was like luxury compared to the lodges and I had a much needed shower!  It was very hot in Kathmandu so I changed into my shorts and t-shirt.  It was strange to think that only a few days before I had been wrapping up in my thermals in freezing temperatures!  I then joined a guy from our group called Mike to walk into the centre of Kathmandu.  Mike had previously lived there for almost a year so he was keen to show me how the locals live!  We went to some very old temples with incredible architecture and he showed me where he had been staying when the earthquake had hit!

We then had dinner in a local Nepalese restaurant which Mike recommended.  It was nothing to look at but the food was amazing!  I had a local dish of buffalo mo mo in spicy sauce which cost me a mere £1.30!  I then did a bit of souvenir shopping before heading back to the hotel!  We had a couple of drinks by the pool before going back into the centre of Kathmandu with the rest of our group for a not so local dish of pizza!  We then spent the evening having a few drinks in an Irish bar and back at the hotel.

The next day was my last day in Nepal.  We spent the morning relaxing by the pool and packing before our end of trip party which was typical Kathmandu style – total chaos!  This started off with some official speeches and a buffet dinner before everyone let their hair down at the free bar!  I was very restrained and drank very little as I didn’t want a hangover before my flight home!

I am now at the airport awaiting my long flight home.  Although it’s been an amazing experience and an incredible journey, I can’t wait to get home to Helen, my friends and my family!  The trip has been life changing on many fronts – I have achieved my ambition of seeing Everest and conquering the Everest marathon and I have made some friends for life!  I feel content that I have done what I set out to do – I have left all my troubles on the mountain and I feel at peace with myself and ready to come home and relax back into everyday life.

Thank you to each and every one of you for the support you have given me, it really helped to give me strength when the going got tough!

See you all soon!