Saturday, July 7, 2018

Trash Stigma... talking about a revolution

Don't you know we're talking about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

Tracie Chapman, Talking About a Revolution

A revolution of love and love.
Photo credit unknown

A revolution begins with a single person, a single step, a single breath. At the nanosecond of its inception it sounds like a whisper.  It begins with an audacious dream and gently evolves into a vision, a mission of sorts.The internet chatter slow builds and concludes with a symphonic crescendo of support and cheers at a finish line on -how perfectly perfect- Garbage Hill.

Where better to trash MH stigma than a place called Garbage Hill. An old landfill that has been capped and holds generations of dirty secrets buried just below the surface.  Like scars of the suffering, angry shards of glass poke through scraping the surface. Wanting out. Held fast by generational shame. Wanting to be seen. Wanting to be heard. Wanting to be loved, but held fast in stigma and shame.

Jon Torchia providing support.
Junel running mile 100 in a tutu.
Donna running alongside Junel

Okay, so Trash Stigma is not a revolution. It's more of a movement than a revolution, but talking about a movement lacks poetic licence and I absolutely adore Tracie Chapman, and hey, it's my blog!

Trash the Stigma is a revolution of kindness and compassion. It's a movement to end the deep scars associated with mental health. Trash Stigma calls for a day when we share our mental health in the same nonchalant manner as we discuss dental health*. 

Trash Stigma raised over $20,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Association. The money is earmarked for mental health education in schools. Over 50 volunteers were involved and approximately 500 people participated in the run at some point over the 30 hours. The vibe was intoxicating. Garbage Hill never looked so good!

Junel ran 100 miles in thirty hours, three minutes on Garbage Hill, Winnipeg, Canada. He ran through intolerable heat, hard rain, thunder, and intense lightening. His crew pulled him from the course at 3:00 AM for 90 minutes to wait out the worst of the lightening. His goal was to compete the course in 30 hours. He came within 3 minutes of this goal after being detained for 90 minutes due to the storm. Not bad, Junel. You can hold your head high.

The support crew approaching mile 99.
SMR providing pace support
photo credit unknown

I was present at the start on Thursday noon, and the end at 6:03 PM on Friday. I ran along his side from mile 90 to100. I whispered encouragement and provided chit chat in the hopes of distracting Junel, to make him smile if even for a moment. I slow danced along his indomitable spirit and I witnessed human perfection at the zenith of its existence. I remain humbled, forever in awe, of the extraordinary determination and the sheer strength of Mr. Malapad.

Junel's wife Donna and his daughter Emily stand vigilant 30 hours at hill top (eldest daughter, Kayla was not able to attend as she is out of province).  Twice over the hill equals one mile.  Two hundred summits of Garbage Hill, two hundred kisses from Donna. Two hundred million steps. Two hundred billion untold stories of fruitless suffering due to stigma. 

Junel, Kayla, Donna, Emily
photo Junel

All cheering. All loving. All believing. It is indeed a revolution, a movement to trash stigma. A movement to love one another and to care. 

Like the shards of glass poking through the surface, we tell personal stories of deep suffering laid low for decades.  We thank Junel, not for our generation where old secrets fester and stew, it's too late for our generation, but for our children and our grand children, there is hope and optimism that we will trash the stigma.

Sunset on GH Junel and friend.
photo credit unknown
There are a million stories.  Here's three of my favourite...

Story # 1: At mile 98 Junel quietly chastised a member of his support crew for not wearing a hat in the searing heat.  It's too hot  he said, you need a hat and he orders him off course to find a hat at the aide station.  We chuckle at the irony. Junel, suffering deeply, is concerned about the welfare of others

Story # 2: As Jonathon Torchia cools his dear friend with ice water sponges, Junel whispers to his youngest daughter Emily ...I love you.  He pecks her cheek while she holds him steady.  Do you love me too? asks Jonathon with a cheeky grin. I poke my head in from behind and add  How about me Junel, do you love me too? We laugh and Junel smiles. 

We have succeed. A couple of cheeky guys made Junel smile at mile 98. All is well. He will make it!

Story # 3: Nick is 12 years old. He spent the entire night on GH with his dear mom, Chantel and his older brother. Nick ran many miles through the night to show his support. I don't know many 12 year olds with such a highly developed emotional intelligence. I also give credit to Nick's mom, Chantel, for gifting  her son the opportunity to be part of the revolution to end the stigma. Well done Nick, well done Chantel. 

Junel says of Nick...
As we passed each other we exchanged high-fives. I feel this young man will be the one. The one guy that remembers the person that ran 100 miles to trash the stigma.
Bonus story: The wonderful Natalie Pirson wheeled 26 km on the same lava-like asphalt as Junel. Those of you who know Natalie understand she is a source of strength and determination not unlike Junel. Her wry humour is contagious. Her leadership is formidable. Strength glistening in her forearms. She remains focussed on the horizon, determined as all hell, strong as iron. We stopped for a fast selfie and a quick hug.  

Junel says of Natalie... 
When I was at the bottom of the hot roadway portion and I would see my dear friend Natalie pushing herself to her limit. I would then be fine

And then this, from Junel...
There was Micheal Bennett, soft spoken accomplished pacer and well experience motivating runner extraordinaire. Micheal was the voice of good. The voice of right. The voice of every one of my family and friends that knew what my goal was. Micheal carried and guided me like an angel! Around the last 10 mile mark I was struggling a bit and when I looked up. Micheal just appeared in the side of the path like an apparition. Yes an angel watching and waiting ready to give me my good thoughts and to keep the bad thoughts suppressed!
I gain strength from the kindness of these generous words. Thank you Junel.

With love and love and love, and infinite love...
It's a good day for a revolution. 
It starts with a whisper.
It's a good day to be alive.


* Mental health/ dental health reference attributed to Howie Mandel.