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Mental health/hillwalking

Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby iangpark » Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:38 pm

I'd agree that for some (myself included) it is a good way to 'fill the void'. I had only climbed a handful of hills before my first year in university and after what was by far the worst year of my life, plagued by a constant influx of depression/neuroticism/idleness/sedentary living (some stuff a bit too dark to post here), I knew I was going to need something to keep me busy in a social environment I wasn't used to. Other people were definitely the most important thing I got to get me out of a 2-3 year rut (after going 19 years without a solid friend group, I had no idea what I had been missing out on) but hillwalking greatly helped too, and continues to when nobody else is about. I don't think it actually calms me down, or allows me to focus my thoughts (as I do that far better at home) but it keeps me physically fit and provides a purpose/challenge, which I seriously struggle with going without. I continue to find living with my neuroticism hard, my actions becoming less frequent but more dangerous when they happen, but hillwalking gets me out the house, the sweat dripping and the worries temporarily subdued!
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:56 am

iangpark wrote:I'd agree that for some (myself included) it is a good way to 'fill the void'. I had only climbed a handful of hills before my first year in university and after what was by far the worst year of my life, plagued by a constant influx of depression/neuroticism/idleness/sedentary living (some stuff a bit too dark to post here), I knew I was going to need something to keep me busy in a social environment I wasn't used to. Other people were definitely the most important thing I got to get me out of a 2-3 year rut (after going 19 years without a solid friend group, I had no idea what I had been missing out on) but hillwalking greatly helped too, and continues to when nobody else is about. I don't think it actually calms me down, or allows me to focus my thoughts (as I do that far better at home) but it keeps me physically fit and provides a purpose/challenge, which I seriously struggle with going without. I continue to find living with my neuroticism hard, my actions becoming less frequent but more dangerous when they happen, but hillwalking gets me out the house, the sweat dripping and the worries temporarily subdued!


That sounds tough!

While I've never experienced anything like what you describe, I certainly feel that the hills have benefits in our stressed society - a few personal thoughts:

[list=]readjustment of values / perspective. That report that needs to be written, that sales target you so fractionally missed, that promotion you could have got if you'd said something different... among the hills, those things matter less

silencing the inner voices - in my experience, when people aren't talking (or "talking" via social media) then they have an inner dialogue running. Silence is the healthiest sound in the world, and you can hear it better in the hills

focus - decisions become simpler (albeit sometimes more life-threatening). Do I follow this vague path in the mist, or keep to my compass bearing? Modern society creates a morass of tiny choices - but the hills allow you to forget them

the sense of challenge. Achieving a goal that you set yourself does a lot for self-confidence in a world where marketing and peer pressure are cleverly devised to tell you that personal goals are always around the next corner, just out of your reach (buy this, they say, and you'll be happy. Oh no, you need to buy that too!... And upgrade your smartphone - what, you're still using that old thing?)[/list]

But for me, there is one that is much bigger than all those.

[list=]the beauty of the hills and the connection with nature. Ever since, aged around six, I saw Tryfan, I have been obsessed with the hills, with scenes of wild beauty. Aged fifteen, I finally got to climb a hill, Cnicht. All around me I saw a wonderland of snow-capped peaks above the endless sea. That sense of magic is always with me, and always will be, when I go into the hills.[/list]

As Wainwright said about his guidebooks "They are, in truth, a love letter".
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby mynthdd2 » Thu May 02, 2019 4:38 pm

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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby rgallie » Sat May 04, 2019 11:19 am

No other solo walkers find themselves singing out loud or talking to themselves then? :lol:
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby regedmunds » Sun May 05, 2019 9:49 pm

I've often wondered if there is a distinction between depression and sadness? Is it possible for example, if a person who believes she or he suffers from depression, could this sometimes be confused with sadness?

About three years ago I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc and on one camp site I noticed a lady camper who appeared tp be suffering from a mental health problem. Upon enquiry the camp site manager told me that in certain locations in France the local health or social work people would supply an individual with a rucksack and all the gear and encourage them to go hiking. At the time I thought that for some people that could be a good idea.
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Ghotay » Mon May 06, 2019 4:19 pm

rgallie wrote:No other solo walkers find themselves singing out loud or talking to themselves then? :lol:


Oh constantly. If I have a quiet hill to myself I will happily talk to myself for hours. Often really getting into issues in my life and working them out. Always feel better for it

regedmunds wrote:I've often wondered if there is a distinction between depression and sadness? Is it possible for example, if a person who believes she or he suffers from depression, could this sometimes be confused with sadness?


Yes there is a distinction, and the difference is time. Sadness is an emotion, it is natural and it comes to us all. It can be likened to the weather. Everywhere has rainy days, but the clouds will clear soon. Depression is a persistent state of low mood. It can be likened to climate. It's like living in a place where the sun almost never come out.
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby LukeTully94 » Tue May 07, 2019 8:47 pm

I’ve suffered from mental health problems for years. Last year was probably my lowest point, where I didn’t see much point in living anymore. I had made a lot of bad mistakes and continued with bad habits and therefore didn’t see a way out. I was lucky that 2 of my closest pals climbed hills and as a way to help, they invited me along to their next one. We climbed Ben Ledi and while they were fine, I really struggled and realised that I was nowhere near the fitness levels I should be at. Despite struggling physically, I felt great mentally after reaching the top. The views were incredible and the sense of achievement was something I had been lacking for ages. It was at that moment, I decided to cut down on bad habits and focus on getting fit. I’ve since climbed 18 hills including 14 Munro’s with many more to come. I’ve never felt better both mentally and physically and even know I still make the odd mistake, Munro bagging has equipped me to rectify them.
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Wed May 08, 2019 9:40 am

LukeTully94 wrote:I’ve suffered from mental health problems for years. Last year was probably my lowest point, where I didn’t see much point in living anymore. I had made a lot of bad mistakes and continued with bad habits and therefore didn’t see a way out. I was lucky that 2 of my closest pals climbed hills and as a way to help, they invited me along to their next one. We climbed Ben Ledi and while they were fine, I really struggled and realised that I was nowhere near the fitness levels I should be at. Despite struggling physically, I felt great mentally after reaching the top. The views were incredible and the sense of achievement was something I had been lacking for ages. It was at that moment, I decided to cut down on bad habits and focus on getting fit. I’ve since climbed 18 hills including 14 Munro’s with many more to come. I’ve never felt better both mentally and physically and even know I still make the odd mistake, Munro bagging has equipped me to rectify them.


What a positive and inspiring story - a great read. Thanks for posting!

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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Essan » Wed May 08, 2019 4:26 pm

regedmunds wrote:
About three years ago I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc and on one camp site I noticed a lady camper who appeared tp be suffering from a mental health problem. Upon enquiry the camp site manager told me that in certain locations in France the local health or social work people would supply an individual with a rucksack and all the gear and encourage them to go hiking. At the time I thought that for some people that could be a good idea.


And in Scotland ......

Scottish GPs to begin prescribing rambling and birdwatching
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby mynthdd2 » Wed May 08, 2019 7:07 pm

I find all the replies here inspiring and honest - when it stops raining I am ready - my rucksack is packed (but should minging weather stop me?)
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby spiderwebb » Fri May 10, 2019 11:19 am

mynthdd2 wrote:I find all the replies here inspiring and honest - when it stops raining I am ready - my rucksack is packed (but should minging weather stop me?)



I think the answer to that is no, it shouldn't stop you. Some of my best days have been in the worst weather and the numbers of days I would have missed, had I accepted the forecast and stayed home and too many to mention, so basically I never held back due to weather. That said I had a fair few retreats, but until you're out in it, you just don't know.

In some ways walking in rough conditions is similar to the issues you may be facing, its a battle, and on the hills in bad conditions it can be tough, life or death in some cases. But for some strange reason I have always felt at home, maybe at peace in these situations. I guess its like my cathedral out there, my church and when feelings of low self worth hit, it seems to be the only thing I can recognise as being good at; worthy of. But sometimes it can be impossible to get out, an overwhelming need to stay behind closed doors and shut ones self away. The only way I can describe it, is that it feels as though I cannot look forward to anything, and its easier to stay home in my safe place. If I can overcome that barrier of getting out, I almost always enjoy myself, have a good time. It is as if the ability to sense the emotion of happiness has been lost, in the same way as you may be unfortunate to lose memory after head injury, it just isn't there, you cannot process it, which is why people telling you, you are a good guy etc. can reduce you to tears, you just cannot grasp it, and it hurts :(

I am lucky in that I have many very good friends who understand all of this, or maybe don't fully understand (I don't myself) but accept it. They will always ask me out, but without pushing, and knowing that I may cancel at the last minute. Sometimes I just have to shut myself away.
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby Pastychomper » Fri May 10, 2019 1:11 pm

spiderwebb wrote:... But sometimes it can be impossible to get out, an overwhelming need to stay behind closed doors and shut ones self away. The only way I can describe it, is that it feels as though I cannot look forward to anything, and its easier to stay home in my safe place. If I can overcome that barrier of getting out, I almost always enjoy myself, have a good time. It is as if the ability to sense the emotion of happiness has been lost, in the same way as you may be unfortunate to lose memory after head injury, it just isn't there, you cannot process it, which is why people telling you, you are a good guy etc. can reduce you to tears, you just cannot grasp it, and it hurts :(

I am lucky in that I have many very good friends who understand all of this, or maybe don't fully understand (I don't myself) but accept it. They will always ask me out, but without pushing, and knowing that I may cancel at the last minute. Sometimes I just have to shut myself away.


You almost had me in tears there, that almost perfectly describes a close friend who suffers from depression. That inability to comprehend happiness, and being unable to do anything about it... it's very hard for non-sufferers to grasp, but important for them/us to understand that it does happen, and not to give up.

A different friend, also with a history of major depression, went a bit further and said the depression can become almost a separate personality that tries to protect itself. I don't think he was talking about actual MPD, but a state where (part of?) the mind actively resists any attempts at treatment - maybe because it can't grasp that anything will help, or in some cases (as my friend put it) because getting better means you have further to fall.

I think I have personally come close to what spiderwebb describes, enough to have some small idea how that hollow blackness feels, and (I hope) enough to make me a lot quicker to "do something about it" at the slightest hint things might be heading that way.
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby spiderwebb » Fri May 10, 2019 2:38 pm

Pastychomper wrote:You almost had me in tears there, that almost perfectly describes a close friend who suffers from depression. That inability to comprehend happiness, and being unable to do anything about it... it's very hard for non-sufferers to grasp, but important for them/us to understand that it does happen, and not to give up.



I've thought on it a lot and thats the best way I can think of describing it. In the same sense as you might lose feeling in a hand or arm, from an injury, its a loss of feeling and as its been said, its not a case of just cheering up. There are many quotes but the few I've seen comparing the 'just cheer up' saying, such as : 'You don't tell a blind person to look harder' or a 'deaf person to listen harder' are so very true. Its important to recognise it as an illness, which is easy for me writing this now in a relatively 'good' state, but when at rock bottom (fortunately only twice) that recognition doesn't come easily, not least as you have more or less reached a state where ending it is the cure. It is indeed a cure, but a permanent one to a temporary problem, but you won't see that when so low, in the same way as friends reminding you of your family, friends etc that you have to live for, is like being poked with a stick reminding you that you're ill. You know logically that these things are important to you, but you just cannot process or feel it, and that heightens the impact further.

I have learnt to recognise the signs when I am at that low point and refer myself to help (so far), usually after a week of tears, shutting away and a bottle, to the point of passing out on a floor (and I'm a social drinker, never touch it ordinarily), that and the reminder of the impact to my kids, seems to ring alarm bells and a call to the doctors and its only by being open and discussing this that hopefully others that suffer will be able to recognise it too :D
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby LaurenAlexandraAgain » Tue May 14, 2019 9:15 am

rgallie wrote:No other solo walkers find themselves singing out loud or talking to themselves then? :lol:


Oh, I absolutely sing when I’m out walking and have a long stretch to myself!

People have shared some incredibly moving stories here. All I will add is that being out walking gives me focus and perspective. All of my day-to-day issues fall away and my focus narrows to putting one foot in front of the other, getting where I’m going safely. It also gives me a sense of accomplishment. On the dark days when my negative self-talk is really rearing it’s head, I can answer back and say, “Oh yeah? Well I’ve walked x, y, and z long distance paths and climbed a, b, and c hills, so screw you!”
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Re: Mental health/hillwalking

Postby 37201xoIM » Fri May 24, 2019 11:18 pm

I love this thread and utterly empathise / sympathise with so much of what others have said.

I've suffered from Depression (capital "D" - medically diagnosed) before too - at that stage I did need both "talking therapy" and a bit of pharmaceutical assistance too, and I will admit that I would not have been capable of getting out into the hills - it took a massive effort just to leave my flat. Ugh! Please gods I'll never go back there. Several of you have posted very wise and insightful things about that horrible condition.

These days, while I have not been close to that territory, my job remains very stressful (something about which I "care too much", making it very hard indeed to switch off), and absolutely nothing else comes close to the hills for the effects on restoring my mental balance - to the extent that I am belatedly possibly becoming addicted to it... But then I feel that being "addicted" to something that does you good mentally and physically is probably not too bad a thing...

I would probably have to change jobs (and likely do something I'm less good at, truth be told) if I did not have this pursuit to get things back into balance.

The thread on here about "The Little Things" also has so much about what makes it unique... suffice it to say that I am seldom in a better frame of mind than coming down off a top (even a clag-covered one), feeling my ears pop, making up ludicrous songs*, and musing on whether I might go back by the long route today........

So good (if not unexpected!) to find so many with a similar outlook on here.

* Yep, I do that too, then. Have had a couple of amusing experiences in the Pennines when I thought there was nobody within a kilometre of me.......!!!
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