It’s hard to explain camp to those who have not experienced it. Over the Wall is a charity that provides free life-changing activity camps for children affected by serious illness and their siblings, but what they forget to tell you on the website is that it isn’t only the children’s lives that are changed. It is fair to say that without OTW, I would not be in the place I am today. When I first attended camp, I was still recovering from my worst period of OCD, about to return to uni after eighteen months off, and scared as hell. For someone with hyperresponsibility issues, being put in charge of a team of eight 14-18 year old girls (some of whom had complex medical needs) could have gone badly, and yet it didn’t. It was the best experience you could imagine, a turning point in my recovery and just a wonderful week of fun.
Since that camp, I have returned to others and they have all been fantastic. That being said, this summer’s camp was different. I don’t know whether it was the group of amazing people that I was working with, the fact that I had a seemingly neverending supply of glitter and paint or that what I needed more of all was a week of silliness, but this year’s camp made me think.
I spend most of my life feeling like a failure. I spend most of the time feeling not good enough, not clever enough, not anything enough. This year has been long and hard and I haven’t been particularly happy. I’ve made some silly decisions and ended up using totally unsustainable coping strategies, and most of all, I’ve been sad and I’ve been scared.
My first week at Over the Wall this year changed all that. When I am at camp, I am myself. I am everything – the best and the worst bits – and I am good enough. At camp I feel full and not gnawingly empty; like I belong and not like I am lingering at the edges of life; like I have a future and not that I am hopeless.
And feeling all that, even just for a week, is enough. It’s enough to give me the kick up the arse that I need to ensure that that Bellsie doesn’t stay at camp with the facepaint and the silly songs, but that she puts on her sensible clothes and slots into daily life. It’s enough to remind me that I am fine as I am, that I am not useless or stupid, that there is something in me that has inherent value. And it feels pretty good.
So thank you. Thank you to all of you at Over the Wall – the fantastic staff team and the amazing volunteers, the brilliant med team and the unforgettable campers. You see, camp is life changing for us all, and we are so very lucky to have it.