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

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. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

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

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.


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