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IODPA Tour de Force – Inspired by the Upledger Community Programme

We interviewed Mark Rawlins, one of the people who was treated at our Intensive Programme last November about his new focus. Mark was so inspired by his experience on the programme, that he is undertaking a Tour de Force cycle ride from John O’Groats to Lands End, to raise money to support more people with PTSD to benefit from intensive CST treatments with us.

We know our community have already added a huge amount of support to the Intensive Programme, but Mark’s willingness to get on his bike (literally!) has certainly inspired us to dig a little deeper – do donate if you can.


Mark’s Story

I was a serving Police Officer for 27 years, with Avon and Somerset police on the front line.  I worked in the public eye and my normal day included coming face-to-face with death, serious injury, suicide and all the other nasty bits of life.  The environment was macho and although we were surrounded by mental trauma, we bottled things up and just got on with it. 

In 2010,  I attended an incident which changed my whole life. A situation arose which I waded into without a thought. It was what we are all trained to do as police officers. You get on and deal with it. I think probably every single police officer, serving and retired, can relate to that. However, on this occasion, it went wrong and I was attacked. 

That day, I went home, went to bed and didn’t wake up again for 20 hours. I never went back to work.

The way I felt was really confusing to me.  I was constantly in tears, I was shaking, and other things kept popping up in my mind.  I didn’t understand why.  My GP told me I was suffering from shock and referred me to a consultant psychiatrist. It was only then, that I was given a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD.

I couldn’t work and was retired from the Police Force due to ill health in 2011. I thought that I would heal, that now I was away from the stress and trauma, everything would get better and I would recover my health.  I was being naïve – that’s not how PTSD works.

By 2014, I was punching walls.  I broke my hand.  Although never aggressive to another person, I was full of anger and bouncing off the walls.

My lovely wife arranged for me to go into a police rehabilitation programme for a week. But it didn’t help.  I tried counselling, but felt it was impersonal.  The counsellor watching the clock.  The box of tissues on the table.  It wasn’t helpful to me. They didn’t have time and didn’t understand.

The Injury on Duty Pensioners Association (IODPA)

I joined the Injury on Duty Pensioners Association (IODPA) which is a charity that supports injured police officers going through (and after) the ill-health retirement process.  It came as a shock to realise that most of the people in the association were suffering PTSD, just like me.

It was after this that I met Caroline Barrow from the Upledger Institute, UK, through the IODPA, and we started talking about the Upledger Community Programme’s Intensive Programme – a week of intensive CST therapy, designed to help, support and heal people suffering with PTSD. It changed my life.

The Upledger Community Programme – Intensive Programme

I hadn’t ever come across CranioSacral Therapy before (CST), and I was admittedly a bit sceptical.  I worried about the time – a whole week. I couldn’t see how it would work. But I knew I had to try it.

On the first day of the course, I walked into a room with five other PTSD sufferers and was overwhelmed to see 30 other people there.  When I asked who they were and why they were there, I was told that they were the therapists.  These people had given up their time and energy to help us. 

That first morning, I was so full of emotion, I couldn’t speak. By day three I could speak and did, and by the end of the course, I had stopped crying and was writing poetry about the experience (you can read it in January’s Therapeutic Pulse), that made everyone else cry.

The intensive CST has helped to change my outlook on life.  This is what people need, it’s what they want from therapy.  We need human touch.  We need genuine care and compassion.  I felt love in that room – and I loved the Upledger approach, the therapy and the people. 

After the Intensive Therapy Programme

I came away from the course feeling more positive about my future than I have done in years. I still suffer from nightmares, chronic anxiety and depression, but I now know that I have people I can turn to rather than deal with this alone. My local CST therapist, Jo Harris, has been an amazing support for me. 


The intensive course has given me comfort in finding others who really care, but also, it has created a community for me.  I am in touch regularly with the other PTSD sufferers treated on the Intensive Therapy Programme, and we often get together or just share our thoughts and feelings. We’ve had a Christmas do and a few of them met for a curry last week, although I couldn’t because I was in training.

Because we all went through the programme together, we are the people who ‘get it’ –  we can contact each other at any time – even the wee small hours.  When you might think no one else is listening, we are there for each other.

Spreading the word

I have a new goal in life, I want more people to benefit from the course and to experience CST.

I know CST isn’t for everyone, but I also know it can help people to cope a bit better, sleep a little longer, feel a little better.  I Personally believe that everyone could benefit from CST, but especially PTSD sufferers and I’m passionate about getting it out there to more people.

IODPA Tour de Force

I decided to do something to raise money to put more people into the Intensive Programme, and my plan was to do it via a Tour de Force of the UK.  On my bike!

The tour is a two-week, 940-mile, cycle ride from John O Groats to Lands’ End (that way around because its downhill, right?).

We start on Friday 25th May and I have a fabulous team behind me. I haven't had to organise a thing. It has all been done for me to take out the mental worry. I have a team of six people supporting me. My thirty year old son is cycling with me. Without him by my side, I would not be able to even think about doing it. Being away from my home for even a day causes me great anxiety so knowing he will be my support system, gives me hope that I will achieve this. I have a trained paramedic joining me along with a medic, a nutritionist and a sports masseuse, and a pair of good friends who are bringing their camper van along to act as my go-ahead vehicle. They will be checking into hotels for us, cooking my meals and doing my washing. I can't thank these people enough; giving up two weeks of their time just to support me. We have even had a support van paid for by Staffordshire pensioners, to enable the paramedic to be with me every pedal of the way. I  am incredibly humbled by people's kindness and generosity. 

I am fortunate that members from IODPA are helping me to fundraise. We raised £500 at a bingo night last week and we have a My Donate page set up too, where we have just passed £4000.  We’re also selling miles, to those who want to sponsor me, and have corporate sponsorship from Haines’ Manuals and our solicitors for the IODPA too. Our aim is to raise more than £10,000 and I feel very positive that we can do it!

What I am looking forward to (and not so much)


I’m looking forward to Scotland – the beginning.  The bleakness of the landscapes.  It surprised me to learn that it will take a full week to get to England!  On the other hand, I’m not looking forward to the urban areas, or the bits where there is lots of traffic.

Devon and Cornwall will be hard, as it’s hilly, and I’ve been struggling with the cold, so I hope it’s warmer next month.  By the time I am down in that part of the route, the end will be in sight, and I know some of the guys from the Intensive Programme will be there supporting me, so I will be keeping an image of them in my mind. And essentially, I am riding home, so it makes sense to me. I’m also really looking forward to riding with my son. 

I know it will be physically painful and that there will be accidents and incidents, but I’m ready for it. I’ve never done anything like this before but feel hugely positive and excited about it. Upledger CST has given me a reason to achieve something that will benefit other people and I am determined to make it happen.



Just this week, we have secured a wonderful patron.  Pete Conway is the father of Robbie Williams and has already donated signed books and photographs of Robbie for us to auction.  Pete himself is an ex Police Officer, so has a real understanding of what we are dealing with.  We are thrilled to have him on board.

Follow us

You can keep up to date with me on The Tour de Force Facebook page, and I will be posting to it with daily updates throughout the ride. We’re also on Twitter – do follow us and give us a retweet!

We are thrilled that not only has our Intensive Programme inspired Mark to do this ride, but that a portion of the money he raises will be used to directly enable other people to benefit from the programme too and to spread the message of CST much more widely! 

Mark’s ride starts on the 26th of May – we will be following him (and sharing updates on our own social channels too). 

You can also contribute on the Tour de Force My Donate page.

Such an inspiring story and a wonderful outcome for Mark and his group from the Intensive Programme.