I was on the tail end of a severe depressive episode when I decided to go and sleep in a cave by the sea. My friend Jon and I were on our way to Cornwall for a multi-day hike and we found ourselves homeless in Dorset for our stopover, so we smuggled ourselves into a quarry pit with the waves crashing just outside our sleeping bags.
We were in fact bed-less for the next 5 days. Because with only our tents and food supplies, the next day we set off from The Lizard on a wild camping hiking mission to Lands End.
The journey posed some challenges for us. The first day consisted of walking along some of the most beautiful coastline in Britain… except we were in the fog, so couldn’t see any of it! The second day we scrambled our way across a 4 kilometre beach whilst the tide was making its way in. On the third day we had trouble pronouncing the Cornish village names (Mousehole= Moozhool?). On the fourth day we ran out of gas so all we had to eat was dry hot chocolate powder.
On the fifth and final day, we made it to Lands End and celebrated in the only way one should… by purchasing matching mugs.
For someone coming out of a pure state of sadness, it was a dream. Distracted by my weighty rucksack, Jon’s ramblings and having to put one foot in front of the other, I was able to let go of the obstructive self-damaging thoughts that had occupied my head for months. I felt a boost of self-confidence with every step I took and had a cathartic release of conversation with my walking buddy.
The wilderness of the south west coast constituted a kind of ecotherapy for me.
Immersion in nature is all about recognising that there are bigger things than you out there- mountains that you cannot move, streams that carry on flowing regardless, ascents and descents that you have no choice but to work with, much like your own mood fluctuations. Not to mention my beast of a backpack!
The ego gets pushed to the side as technology disappears and social media networks are broken down. Solitude sweeps over you and though you may then be faced with your demons, the demands and pressures normally battled with in everyday life can be shaped into gratitude and appreciation for smaller things. Stuff like my next boost of energy from an item in the “choc pocket” or the accomplishment of lighting the trangia stove with my flint fire striker.
This is even without mention of the bonds you can form with the people on the adventure with you. Joint achievement has certainly brought me and my former-Jesus-lookalike friend closer and I suspect he feels the same way, despite having to put up with my constant go-pro-ing, my critical comments about him snoring and my white girl rapping along the way!
I have edited a video together summarising our unforgettable and much needed experience:
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2018. I will be posting daily blogs and videos. Please “like” and “follow” my blog and subscribe to my YouTube channel for vlogs. Help end the stigma by wearing a green ribbon and start up the conversation around stress and mental illness. Happy MHAW2018! @ali_blatcher