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"In adventure I found a purpose"

There was a time when I was a younger man that nothing really made sense. To the outside world, I had it all – at 25 I had a university education, a job, a home, all the trappings of what should have been a happy life.

But I was just that – trapped. I felt depressed, unfulfilled, overworked and lonely. I had dark moments but couldn’t understand why. I felt no purpose in life and would lose hours in simply blankness. It was difficult, I kept up a façade to the outside world and very few people knew, or I felt understood, what I was going through. 

I remember talking to a doctor, who asked me about my general wellbeing, I talked about not seeing the point of life, that I felt as though nobody understood me. If I went out with friends, I would feel more alone than if I stayed in on my own. I was pushing those closest to me away and at work I began losing control of my emotions. I was diagnosed with depression.

A chance conversation changed all that. I was given the opportunity to ride a motorbike across Iceland (the country not the shop!) and that moment changed my life. I realised that to feel fulfilled I needed to challenge myself, to try something I’d never done. To push myself to new limits.

It was an extraordinary experience – seeing volcanoes, crossing deserts, swimming in hot lakes and rivers and campaign under the sun, not knowing what tomorrow would bring. It was like being dropped into a real-life issue of National Geographic.

I realised that to feel fulfilled I needed to challenge myself, to try something I’d never done.

In this adventure I had found a purpose; the purpose that had been so lacking in my life.

Within a month of returning home, I decided to complete the ultimate adventure and cycle around the world. Cycling, I had learned, released endorphins and the idea that every day was a challenge, that every day would bring a new experience – sometimes life threatening, sometimes exhilarating – kept me focused and happy.

What was supposed to take two years in the end took seven, but when I returned to Derby in 2017, the world had changed, but so had I.

My restless spirit soon took over and my next challenge is this one – to complete the Guinness World Record’s fastest cycle across Europe, east to west, currently held at 24 days. 

But at the same time, I want to do some good and raise awareness of mental health issues. I wouldn’t change anything because look at the life I have but if I have one regret, it would be that I had to hit rock bottom to realise that I could achieve anything I wanted. I had to accept that an unfulfilling life is “normal”; I had to learn to talk openly about my struggles to friends and family. But by doing that, by realising that I had control of my life and could do anything I wanted (even if it was a bit extreme!), those difficulties can be overcome.

Charities like MQ are crucial to helping people do this, which is why I’m proud to support them.

Leigh is raising money for MQ to go towards vital mental health research. Visit his page if you'd like to donate

Last updated: 14 September 2018

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© MQ: Transforming mental health 2016 | Registered charity in England / Wales: 1139916 & Scotland: SC046075 | Company number: 7406055