Story Untold: “The Biggest Thing That Holds Us Back in Life is Fear”

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A few short years ago, Amy Tunstall was a self-described prisoner to her own bed. Today, she’s travelled over 17,000 kilometres across three continents by bicycle, raising awareness for mental health.

“I was lucky, because I found a way to cope through the outdoors — but I always have my ups and downs,” says Tunstall.

For the 24-year-old from Niagara, Ontario, the importance of mental health became clear early on in life, after losing her father to suicide at the age of five.

“It was a really hard process for me,” says Tunstall.

“Mental health is something that a lot of people don’t fully understand. And when you deal with suicide, it’s a really hard death to try and cope with. My whole life, I’ve grown up with people who don’t understand or don’t care.”

“I think the biggest thing that holds us back in life is fear: fear of what other people are going to think, fear that we’re not going to make ends meet. If I let fear get the best of me, then I never would have done the things that I’ve done.” – Amy Tunstall

Tunstall found her element — and a release for her own depression and anxiety — when a friend suggested they bike across Canada together. By the time she finished in 2015, she had rediscovered a love for the outdoors and a newfound confidence in herself:

“I ended up in St. John’s, and instead of it being this super joyous moment of ‘I just completed something huge,’ it was more of ‘What now? What do I do next?’”

In the two years since, Tunstall has biked across New Zealand and South America. This fall, she plans to hike the Bruce Trail — a total of nearly 900 kilometres — raising funds for the Canadian Mental Health Association. A trip across Cuba by bicycle is also on the horizon.

“I think what drives me is just that need to go explore,” says Tunstall. “There’s so much out there that I haven’t discovered yet.”

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