Yesterday afternoon, once I had finished my morning volunteering, I was excited, nervous and could feel the tension.
It might surprise you, but I’ve never camped, never slept outside and I wanted quite simply to experience sleeping rough for the first time.
When I was on the bus heading to the event, I could feel eyes looking at me. Why does that guy have a holdall and a sleeping bag? Is he homeless? Is he a rough sleeper?
The Big Sleep Out before I go on, isn’t an event to experience homelessness. The event was to raise awareness of sleeping rough. We can’t comprehend what people go through on a daily basis, and we were provided with a safe environment throughout the evening and night.
What you see in this picture is what I used throughout the night. My holdall had 2 pillows inside, quite a lot of food (including a pepperoni pizza), along with cardboard provided by Trinity.
We had the option do what we wanted with the cardboard. Some people decided to build shelter, whereas I decided to sleep on it. I made jokes about being a big guy and forming a shelter wouldn’t have worked for my build, but in reality, it’s not a laughing matter.
There are people struggling out there and sleeping outside last night was the start of a new journey for me. The road to raising awareness of mental health and how they can appear in different situations.
In the photo below, there’s a blanket I used throughout the night and during the time of my childhood mental health, it was a blanket I would have slept with.
I slept with the blanket, as I wanted to put more meaning into what I was doing. It wasn’t quite simply a sleep out, but an experience where I was standing up for mental health. I was using my past battle to help others with theirs; present and future.
Once I was set up for the night, I decided to warm up. Last night wasn’t the warmest night, and with temperatures dropping by the hour, I was ready for the 10pm lights out. Within my pre-sleep activity, I wanted to figure out what side to lie on. Is it more comfortable lying on your back? Did I need more cardboard?
I might seem sort of happy here, but I was unaware what I was in for.
I was joined last night by friend and fellow volunteer, Jessica. I mentioned to Jessica, I’m wasn’t sure how I would have felt doing it on my own. How would you feel doing a sleep out on your own?
Snuggling up with my pillows and figuring out how I was going to sleep on my side, the reality started to sink in…things were about to get real and very raw.
The picture above is what I saw above where I slept. I slept under a tree, as it made me safe, but I was still wary. Throughout the evening, I was constantly checking my surroundings and gaining an understanding of how uncomfortable you can feel sleeping outside.
Sleeping out was drawing closer and my fear of being out in the dark was being put to the test. I don’t know how the fear of the dark came about, but during the evenings, I tend to be at my parent’s house. I feel very uncomfortable being in an environment I’m not use to.
I say this, but before I knew it, it was time to sleep. It was time to snuggle up and to see what the night had in store…
Tossing and turning for quite a few hours, I woke up at 2.30am, FULLY AWAKE! I thought to myself that I wouldn’t get back to sleep, that I’d be lying there for 3 hours with nothing to do, no-one to talk to and the feeling I wouldn’t manage the rest of the night.
I thought, I wouldn’t complete the challenge.
I took a walk into the Cathedral to use their toilet and it sunk in that I had an opportunity here. Not many people are provided with an opportunity to sleep rough and to raise awareness of it, and the moment I thought I wouldn’t complete the challenge, there was a glimpse of why I was doing it.
The challenge wasn’t about me. Getting involved wasn’t to any benefit to me. It was to showcase the struggles of sleeping out and how even a guy with the love to raise awareness can struggle.
I was struggling with the aspect of time. Time was going slow, and I wasn’t getting back to sleep.
5am arrived, and I woke up. I managed to get back to sleep! I can’t contemplate how happy I felt completing the challenge, and also knowing it was over. Sounds bad, but I wouldn’t do it again. I struggled BIG TIME! I struggled knowing without the facilities we were provided, I probably would have quit.
It’s reality that there are people doing this day and night, for days, weeks, sometimes even months. I didn’t even cope for a day, how would I cope for longer?
WE NEED TO RAISE MORE AWARENESS!
More of us need to experience a night sleeping out, so more of us can raise awareness. Charities like Trinity Winchester are doing incredible work supporting residents through various services, and a big thanks Trinity Winchester for having me along for the ride.
It was a wake-up call. That’s all I can say about it really. The bags under my eyes here don’t show the aches and pains I’ve felt today, the want for me to sleep whilst standing up, and how amazing a nap felt this evening.
When you see someone sleeping on a street, remember this blog post. Remember how I struggled, and how someone else might be feeling. I was in a controlled environment, where a bacon roll was welcomed this morning, and it’s not always that way.
I brushed my teeth in the Cathedral’s toilet, slept with several layers on, and felt wind coming into awkward locations.
Your messages of support last night, kept me going. So, thank you all!
It was a hard night, but something I needed to experience. I needed to experience this to now take the one night further.
Keep an eye out in the future for what I have planned and how you can help me to raise more awareness.