Before reading on, consider taking a moment to look at this article on Anxiety + Depression in the Outdoors.
I went backpacking for the first time this weekend, and I’m not quite sure how it went. Part of me is proud I did it. There were so many bugs, and we hiked 21 miles in two days. I’m impressed with myself. I got irritated once when lunch was awful, and I was exhausted, but five minutes later I was fine. Other than that, I was great. I had fun. Anxiety and depression stayed level for the most part; even though it stayed low, it did not mean it wasn’t lurking in my mind this entire weekend.
Here’s the thing, I’m not a big chef. Cooking does not relax me, and I do not enjoy it. Cooking outdoors is no different. Plus, it’s harder because of the different stoves and bugs trying to suck all your blood while you are trying to cook. Then there are the dishes. Trying to figure out which water I can or cannot use. How clean is clean? Where do I dump water? Am I doing this right? So – I avoid it. If I think too much about cooking and cleaning – I stress out. This sounds like such a “cop out, ” and I get it, but it’s hard for me to build up the willpower to do it. I get scared that I’m going to mess it up, so I do not even want to try. I helped with the tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and hanging our food, but not with cooking. So I failed to help with the cooking, and I failed to communicate why. It wasn't because I was lazy or thought my boyfriend should do it all...I didn’t help because I felt paralyzed and was scared to. I played it off – but it didn’t change the fact that my anxiety was behind this.
Let me back up and explain why this bothers me so much. As always, it comes back to believing I’m not enough and comparing myself to other people. I wish I wouldn’t do this, but here I am. I have thoughts that I’m not as good as those “backpacking girls” or the other girls my partner camps with. I’m a failure. I’m not worth it. I suck. I should have done better. All the other girls would help or do it themselves. He will leave now.
But I still did it. I survived this weekend. I was able to be surrounded by eight other people and be okay with it. I was able to not jump down my boyfriend’s throat about something small. I didn’t complain about the bugs or how tired my legs were. I just pushed through. Yeah, my anxiety and depression showed up at times, like that lunch where I was incredibly irritable, or when I couldn’t bear to help with cooking or cleaning. The first night I almost had an anxiety attack due to intrusive thoughts – but I handled it. When negative thoughts ran through my mind, I was able to push them aside. All these are pieces of the trip. Anxiety and depression will continue to be a piece of me. It did not ruin the journey. I did not cry. I did not run away. I had fun and did it.
I was nervous for this weekend. I was scared about what my anxiety and depression would do. This just goes to show that while anxiety and depression will always be a piece of my life and lurking around in my mind, it doesn’t have to control me, and I can still have a fantastic adventure trying something new.
Take your time, but you can get there. You can have an amazing adventure and enjoy yourself. You can move past your fears and anxieties and not let it control you. It took me a while to get there. I used to have anxiety attacks just thinking about trips like this, but not this time. It’s a learning process. You figure out your triggers and your fears. You learn. You have patience. You do your best. You know your limits. You move forward.
For more information on how anxiety and depression affect millions of Americans, and how experiences in natural environments can help, check out Anxiety + Depression in the Outdoors.
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