Go­ing the dis­tance to tell sto­ries that frame the nar­ra­tive of life

Book chron­i­cles Elmira men­tal health ad­vo­cate Clay Wil­liams’ jour­ney, quite lit­er­ally at times

The Woolwich Observer - - LIVING HERE - VERON­ICA REINER

SEP­A­RATED BY TIME AND space, the ghosts of home can still res­onate with us.

While Elmira is the lat­est of some two dozen spots Clay Wil­liams has called home, he takes a jour­ney both phys­i­cal and spir­i­tual to the Manitoba com­mu­nity where he grew up in a new book that gets its of­fi­cial launch June 18. Ten Days to Get Here was in­spired by his there-and-back-again trip by mo­tor­cy­cle to Sher­ri­don, Manitoba.

The 58-year-old au­thor, long-dis­tance run­ner and avid men­tal health ad­vo­cate will be at The Pur­ple Door in Cam­bridge for the event, ear­mark­ing pro­ceeds from the sale of the book to the Mood Dis­or­ders So­ci­ety of Canada.

“Like a lot of peo­ple get­ting a lit­tle bit older, I’ve been think­ing about do­ing some kind of au­to­bi­og­ra­phy – telling my story kind of thing – for a few years now,” explained Wil­liams. “Over the past, prob­a­bly about 10 years, I’ve been writ­ing lit­tle bits here and there. I have an en­gi­neer­ing back­ground, so I di­vided the story up log­i­cally and chrono­log­i­cally. I have lit­tle sec­tions about each of the places we lived.”

The book chron­i­cles his ten-day mo­tor­cy­cle jour­ney out west in the sum­mer of 2017. Each day of the trip took him fur­ther and fur­ther into his past, a per­sonal his­tory that had been in­ten­tion­ally tucked out of sight.

Wil­liams lost two of his older brothers to sui­cide. His wife, older sis­ter and two daugh­ters have all strug­gled with de­pres­sion. Men­tal health is­sues have thus played a prom­i­nent role in his life. The trip west helped him come to terms with some of those ex­pe­ri­ences.

“At about 1 o’clock in the morn­ing, we get a phone call that says a loved one has passed away,” he explained. “And then two or three days later, there’s a funeral. And we’re sup­posed to be able to say good­bye. All I can re­ally say is,

‘holy crap.’ My fa­ther and my two brothers have burial sites out west, so I thought I would make this epic mo­tor­cy­cle trip on a Har­ley for a chance to stop in, see their graves and say good­bye, and say thanks for the in­flu­ence that they had in my life.”

All of the pro­ceeds raised from this book will go to­wards the Mood Dis­or­ders So­ci­ety of Canada’s “de­feat de­pres­sion” cam­paign. This is not the first time Wil­liams has done some­thing to raise money for men­tal health causes, how­ever.

“He is do­ing what we call our De­feat De­pres­sion Canal Pursuit event this year start­ing on Au­gust 15,” said Deb­bie Turner, se­nior pro­gram man­ager at Mood Dis­or­ders. “It’s his fourth an­nual. It’s a 750-kilo­me­tre run.”

Wil­liams ran the marathon by him­self the first two years. The past two years have been more of a re­lay run, which he or­ga­nized him­self.

“He has a Cana­dian flag signed by peo­ple who have had a mood dis­or­der,” added Turner. “He will say to them ‘I am not run­ning alone. I am run­ning on be­half of you.’ And he will carry that flag with him as part of his chal­lenge.”

Ac­cord­ing to Turner, there are three main pil­lars of fight­ing de­pres­sion.

“One is phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, which can help many of the moods from a dis­or­der per­spec­tive more man­age­able,” she explained. “The sec­ond is food. And the third is sleep. He’s fo­cus­ing in on the phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.”

“He’s very com­pas­sion­ate and is very pas­sion­ate about his run,” added Turner about Wil­liams. “And men­tal health. It’s a men­tal health fundrais­ing cam­paign that he’s run­ning. And we do have a web­site where peo­ple can go and do­nate at www.de­feat­de­pres­sion.ca.”

Wil­liams has two messages for those who may be strug­gling with de­pres­sion.

“The first one is if you’re in a dark place, talk to some­one that you trust,” he said. “My two old­est brothers did that a lit­tle, but I don’t think they got into those deep con­ver­sa­tions, and ended up mak­ing bad de­ci­sions. My wife and my daugh­ter and my sis­ter all strug­gle with de­pres­sion and they talk to some­one that they trusted, some­one who had their best in­ter­est at heart.

“The other half of the mes­sage – get up and move around. Phys­i­cal ex­er­cise has been proven to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the symp­toms of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety dis­or­ders.”

The book launch will take place at The Pur­ple Door, 38 Ainslie St. N. in Cam­bridge on June 18 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. To re­serve your spot, email lisa@onet­hou­sandtrees.com.

[VERON­ICA REINER / THE OB­SERVER]

Au­thor Clay Wil­liam presents his Cana­dian flag signed by hun­dreds of peo­ple who have strug­gled with a mood dis­or­der. He car­ries this flag with him on ev­ery race he runs, in­clud­ing an up­com­ing 750km trek. Wil­liams’ run for the De­feat De­pres­sion cam­paign will take place on Au­gust 15.

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