Mark Anthony Ellison

Mark and his daughter Hollie walking together in the Peak District’s Dovedale valley.

Mark and his daughter Hollie walking together in the Peak District’s Dovedale valley.

“For the few hours I’m out walking in the mountains, I don’t stop smiling”

People think the only therapy you can get is from doctors, but my therapy is in the mountains.

When I’m out walking, any worries or bad thoughts are pushed aside. For the few hours I’m out, I don’t stop smiling. It’s my happy place. The views, the people, the wildlife, the silence. I don’t want it to end. I just knew from my first mountain walk, on Snowdon. It gave me a sense of freedom and peace. After being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I made it my mission to plan regular walks into my everyday life.

From being a teenager, I always knew there was something not quite right with me. I worried about everything and was on edge all the time. As I got older, it got worse. If I went out to pubs or clubs with mates, I would convince myself someone was going to beat me up. I didn’t feel I was good enough for any partner, that they would want someone with an amazing body. When I got into my current relationship, I thought all of my problems had gone away. I found a girl who I fell madly in love with, we moved in together and had a beautiful baby girl. I was happy. 

But over the next few years my worrying got 100 times worse. I couldn’t sleep and the dark scared me. I became angry, sad, cried a lot, and acted like I didn’t care. I hated myself, and believed others hated me. I stopped socialising, and rarely left the house. My chest hurt, and I had a constant lump in my throat that felt like my neck was being squashed. Headaches, acid reflux, body tremors, stomach aches, pins and needles, and sweating profusely. I wanted it to stop, but I couldn’t make it. I wanted to die. I hated feeling like this, knowing I was making my family suffer. My relationship was falling apart and I struggled to be a daddy to my daughter. 

The doctors put me on medication, which only helped me for so long. Then I had 16 sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy, and since early 2018 I’ve felt much stronger and happier. I now try to spread the word for mental health awareness and help those who suffer, explaining that asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Being a member of the Mountains for the Mind Facebook group is amazing. When I first started writing about my story and recovery, I wasn’t sure how people would react. But the responses have been phenomenal. To know my posts are helping other people makes me happy, and it helps my confidence to speak to more people. The group has also connected me to people who share my passion for walking, which is something I’ve struggled to find. 

When we first came up with the idea to organise the first Mountains for the Mind group walk, it gave me a buzz but also made me nervous, because the reality of meeting new people meant I’d have to speak to them. I needn’t have worried. Everyone was so nice and the whole day gave me a real sense of achievement. I hope it becomes a regular thing, and that more people join us. 

Oli Reed