Mole Hills into Mountains

May 21, 2017 at 12:58 pm

This blog was originally written by a BIMHN member and shared on their blog.

I remember the first time I climbed the highest mountain in South Wales, I got to the top, refused to move and had a bit of a cry as I didn’t want to carry on to the next hill as it looked ‘too scary’ fast forward 6 years and I was winter climbing the north face of that same mountain!IMG_2368

I started going outdoors from a young age, enjoying hill walking with my parents and walking with the Guides. As I got older I became obsessed by music and going outdoors took a bit of a back seat. When my daughter was born I was isolated and alone. I was a young parent with poor social skills, I found being with other parents unbearable and was probably what I now recognise as quite depressed at times. As she got a little older and started to spend her weekends with her Dad I found myself with time on my hands, I began to organise walks for a small group of friends, somehow walking was socially easier, conversation about what was around us came more naturally, there was no great focus on me- I didn’t need to look people in the eye and there was no pressure to talk. We followed a walking guide book initially and I got everyone quite lost at times! I soon started to purchase maps and plan my own walks, although I am still not great at navigation I am a lot better than I used to be.

I am an anxious hill walker. I worry about getting lost, about my daughter falling, about being far from help, I’ve always been terrified of exposure. There have been some walks in the mountains where the levels of anxiety has been too much and I’ve had to turn around, but where I have been able to battle through I’ve felt so much better for it. The hills are my quiet space, my safe place, a place to discover and learn. We’ve seen some incredible things in the hills from historic ruins, to rare wildlife and things created by weather such as ice formations.

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I’ve lost count of how many bogs I’ve fallen into, how many times we’ve been beaten back by the weather, times where we have under estimated our route and marched for hours in the dark (with our head torches), time spent wandering round in Scottish forestry wondering why it doesn’t match what’s on the map. We’ve had a few scary experiences, once where I had to abort a walk due to the beginnings of hypothermia – we dropped down off the mountain into the wrong valley on purpose to get out of strong winds and had a really long walk back to the car, once I’d warmed up enough in a ruined building to continue. Other occasions the weather has turned on us, which can feel pretty frightening in the winter. The bad times build memories though, they strengthen me mentally, they keep me fighting another day. We’ve helped others when we’ve been hiking, on two occasions returning lost children to their parents, giving lost people directions, returning lost items to their owners and even rescuing a chicken and a dog – my daughter loves to recount the stories of those particular adventures!

I enjoy the spontaneity of being able to read a map and to walk off path to go and explore something which looks interesting- I’ve had many outdoor swims in the mountains and have also camped there too. One of my favorite ‘dips’ was on Snowdon- we walked up it on a really hot day, starting quite late in the day to go up the Watkin Path, we came down the South Ridge and went back over another smaller mountain (Yr Aran) to pick up the Watkin Path again to take us back down. The Watkin path has a river running beside it and although we’d forgotten our swimming stuff the temptation on a boiling hot evening was too great. On the busiest mountain in Wales we stripped off and jumped into the icy pools, that memory of pure exhilaration will always stay with me. That’s what mountains are about, surprises, adventure and building memories for those bad times when the dark thoughts get the better of you.

I’ll end this blog with a photo from my my best days walking – the snow was crisp, it was bitterly cold (-10, back when we had actual winters) The sky was blue all day long and we felt so lucky to be out in the hills.

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May 21, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Member Blog

Five Days to Wellbeing #MHAW17

May 3, 2017 at 7:34 pm

This year, the Mental Health Awareness Week theme is Surviving or Thriving and across Bristol, the focus is on the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Organisations across Bristol are running events between the 8th and 12th for Five Days to Wellbeing with each day having it’s own theme.

Connect     Be Active     Take Notice     Keep Learning     Give

Here Amelia, BIMHN’s Membership Engagement Officer, shares what she will be doing for the Five Days to Wellbeing.

Monday – Connect

Hands up who spends too much time staring at a screen…*raises hand nervously*. Thought so, I’m not the only one! On Monday, I’m going to stay away from the screen, ditch social media and go talk to people instead of messaging or e-mailing them. There is so much research highlighting the negative effects of technology so a “digital detox” is probably what I need! (Followers – no pressure but you need to make sure I do this!)

Tuesday – Be Active

I am one of those sheep who own a FitBit (other fitness trackers are available!) and one of my favourite features is that you can host competitions with friends. For “Be Active” day, I’m going to host a competition, smash my goals/beat my friends. (Head over to Bristol Walk Fest for walking based events.)

Wednesday – Take Notice

I try to practice mindfulness regularly, I realise this isn’t for everyone but it is something that works for me. On Wednesday, weather permitting, I am planning on going to the park by my office to meditate and take notice of what is going on in my head whilst being surrounded by nature. You can find out more about mindfulness over at NHS Choices.

Thursday – Keep Learning

I love learning! I’m always looking for new opportunities to develop my skills and knowledge. Last year I discovered the amazing range of free online courses the Open University offers. I’ve been feeling a little too busy to get round to finishing a sociology course titled “Problem Populations, Problem Places” I started last month so next Thursday, I’m going to get it done!

Friday/Saturday – Give

Ok, so I’m doing this on Saturday instead of Friday but I’m attending a charity pampering event in Cardiff raising funds for the Samye Foundation – it’s an organisation which has supported a very close friend and helped her through some really tough times. I’m pretty excited to get a some self care time with her…and meet her new puppy! (You can find a blogpost she wrote about how Samye helped her overcome her anxiety here)

There are loads of events taking place across Bristol between the 8-12 May, you can find all the information here.

May 3, 2017 at 7:34 pm | News

How running has changed my life

April 21, 2016 at 1:15 pm

As part of Depression Awareness Week, BIMHN’s membership engagement officer Becky writes about how she has used exercise to help manage her mental health. Here is what she has to say…

It was early autumn 2014 when I decided to go out for a casual jog around my local park. Apart from the occasional sweaty five-minute burst on the treadmill, this was the first time I’d attempted to run in quite a few years. Twenty minutes pounding my local streets culminated in me curled up in bed, with a flannel on my forehead, feeling a bit queasy and vowing to never run again.

Running changed my lifeBut I did. A few weeks later, my boyfriend had persuaded me to go along to the Ashton Gate parkrun in South Bristol. Again, feelings of nausea came back to haunt me as I dragged my sorry, red-faced self across the finish line. It had taken me so long to get around the hilly course that my boyfriend (who received a serious dose of silent treatment upon my return!) thought I’d got lost along the way. But amid the humiliation, exhaustion and sore knees, I also noticed something much deeper within – a profound feeling of fulfilment and accomplishment. I realised running made me happy, and the more I did it, the better I felt.

From that moment on, I have used running as a way to manage my depression, which I was diagnosed with six years ago. Before taking up running, my depression had got a point where I was plagued with constant tiredness, zero motivation, and sinking feelings of guilt and self-loathing. Life felt like it was continuously overwhelming, and I lacked any desire to socialise. But running has helped towards minimising those ‘bad days’ – I am now sleeping better, I am seeing friends more regularly and I am better managing overwhelming thoughts and feelings. For me, running is mindfulness. As soon as I put on my trainers and step out the door, my focus becomes on the wind brushing against my face, my feet navigating the ground and my heart pounding in my chest. It’s my escapism and I love it.

Running changed my lifeI have even been coaxed into several races over the last year – including the Greater Manchester Marathon. It was no easy feat, I tell you! There were tears, laughter, substantial amounts of pain, and maybe even some projectile vomiting (I blame the energy gels!). But 26 miles offered a good few hours of contemplation, and towards the end – with the finish line in sight – I couldn’t help but think of the run as a reflection of my journey with mental illness, each mile representing the years of my life (I’m now 26).

I started out well, remaining focused and strong, despite various aches and pains along the way, and then at mile 20 – the age I was when depression struck – I hit the proverbial wall. The following four miles were hellish. I thought the race was never going to end, as I scrambled through country roads with the sun beating ferociously down on my head. Retreating to the roadside and giving up seemed much more appealing than carrying on. But before I knew it, I was passing the 24-mile marker with a renewed sense of energy and hope – the end was near! Clocking the finishing line in the distance was like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel – me finally making sense of my depression and mastering ways to best manage my mood.

I’d like to say that crossing the finish line marked the end of my depression, but that would be wishful thinking. Instead, I look at it as marking the start of a new chapter, where I am the one now taking control, not the depression. Running has changed my life – it has strengthened my mind and body in inconceivable ways – and I’m so glad that I gave it a go.

April 21, 2016 at 1:15 pm | News