Scafell Pike – My First Mountain

After 3 months of walking up hills it was time to tackle a mountain, granted a very small one but a mountain none the less. We had climbed Haystacks and Fleetwith Pike the previous day and with my poor eating habits I was seriously lacking in energy.

It took ages to get there from our chosen wild camp spot, walking back the country mile then going the wrong way, eventually we arrived at Wasdale Head.

The walk pretty much started with up and continued up. I felt truly awful; all the energy was drained from my body I honestly thought I was going to collapse, this in turn just made me awful about myself too, I’m so bad at this who am I kidding thinking I could one day climb any sizeable mountain. Every step got harder and harder I just wanted to cry.

My friend made me drink a lot of water and this seemed to help. So I continued upwards and after a lot of effort and many sit downs got to the top.

I’ve got to be honest I have no recollection of feeling good or any sense of achievement at all when we got to the top, I just felt like a tired failure who just holds everyone else up and spoils things. It just made me realise all the things that I wasn’t and could probably never be.

The way down was a new challenge, down to Mickledore and then down the scree. This was my first experience of scree and it really wasn’t fun, probably due to the fact I was feeling so bad about myself to start with. I was scared I would fall and just keep going or that I would somehow be swallowed by the mountain. We eventually arrived back at the main path and then back to the bottom of the hill.

Definitely not my best day ever, but at least I climbed a mountain and I didn’t give up.


A Country Mile…

My second wild camping experience was certainly not as enjoyable as the first. After parking at Stonethwaite we were advised that camp spot was a mile away, myself and some others in the group had not yet invested in larger backpacks so we had several bags full of stuff and added a good bit more as after all it’s only a mile.

I’m sure we walked for an hour although that may be my mind over-exaggerating the situation. We were struggling to carry everything we had brought, bags hanging from ever possibly place on our bodies, falling over, struggling through gates and over styles.

Eventually we reached a saturated piece of ground by a small waterfall which I now know to be called black moss pot and the tents were pitched.

It was damp, cold and raining slightly. My friend invited me to stand a dry tuft of grass with him and gave me a pat on the shoulder; I think he knew I was a little bit sick of things by then. So there we stood on our tuft looking longingly at the guy who was making us a fire (we didn’t carry all those logs for nothing!).

Eventually we got warmed up around the fire and I manged to eat a whole half a packet of noodles, I was starving but my fussiness meant there wasn’t really anything else I could manage to eat so I just kept quiet. Soon after it was thankfully time for bed, I was tired from a day’s walking, cold from sitting in the damp and hungry because I couldn’t eat, sleep was a welcome relief.

We awoke in the morning surrounded by very loud sheep!

I do look back on this one and laugh at us carrying all those bags and will never forget standing on that tuft of grass! But at the time it didn’t really feel like much fun.

DBT – TIP Skills

The aim of TIP Skills in the DBT distress tolerance module is to change our body chemistry and in turn our emotions.

Using these skills in times of distress can be incredibly helpful but I’m certainly no expert, please look for Marsha Linehans book, DBT Skills Training Manual, for a more comprehensive explanation of these skills and how to use them.

When I think about the TIP Skills there is one in particular I have found helpful and that is; TIP the Temperature. It always seems totally effective in making my thoughts stop allowing me to return to some kind of semblance of normally before my anxiety or anger consumes me.

The idea is to fill up a bowl or sink with cold water, hold your breath and put your face in to the water for 30 seconds this activates your bodies dive response which diverts the body’s resources allowing your mind to calm and your heart rate Lower. Changing the Temperature in other ways can times of anger and anxiety, run hands under cold water, take off your jumper/coat, have an ice pack in the freezer.

Next on the list of TIP Skills is; Intense Exercise. This is one I usually fail at when I feel distressed. I’m either too anxious to go outside or even leave my room or to angry and just don’t see the point in such an endeavour.

Basically this skill is engaging in intense exercise for a short period of time, running, skipping, jumping, lifting weights anything you want I suppose. This can help to expend the body’s energy in times of stress and I’m sure we have all heard about the benefits of exercise on depression and mental health in general.

Number 3 on the TIP Skills list is; Paced Breathing. Deep breathing is something I do often it seems to be intermittent in its effectiveness for me, sometimes it seems to calm and others it seems to me struggle to even breathe at all.

I have talked before about the benefit of meditation, paced breathing works on a similar theme. Concentrate on breathing slowly 5-6 breaths a minute and try to keep your focus on your breathing, breathe out more slowly than you breathe in. This will help calm the mind when anxious or stressed.

Last on the list is; Paired Muscle Relaxation. I have to admit I have not found this one helpful, although I know others in my group did. I think my body is just so tense all the time in just can’t let go of that and this exercise always make me feel worse than I before.

Another breathing exercise of sorts but instead of just focusing on the breathe you tense the bodies muscles in various different places such as hands, arms, shoulders, face, back stomach, legs when inhaling and relax them whilst exhaling, this is supposed to let go of tension.

The Walking group – 3 Months Later

After 3 Months of being in the walking group I was really starting to enjoy myself and felt like I was making some good friends. My weekends which were so empty before were now taken up with hill walking and even the ones that weren’t I felt more motivated to get out and just do something.

I had walked up many of the Cheviots, walked in Yorkshire; wild camped for the first time and walked the furthest I ever I had. I had been out to wild and beautiful places and genuinely had fun with new friends.

I felt as though these people actually wanted me around which was a scary thing to allow myself to think. I had been closed off from the world for a very long time and it was frightening to risk the disappointment that I would feel should I be wrong. In honesty allowing myself these thoughts and the possible distress they can bring probably takes more courage than a slippery rock or large drop off.

I was now signed up for many future adventures with the group and it seemed I was making good progress towards my goal of standing on top of a very large mountain. I was slowly getting fitter, more able and maybe just a little bit more confident.

I still had my fear of falling to contend with, and it made me think it would be impossible to ever do more and still does sometimes make me think the same thing. But I have done a lot more and I know I can still do things even when I am scared, it just takes me longer than other people which is a different mental battle altogether.

Being brave enough to take that first step of signing up and asking for a lift had payed off, my previously empty world had expanded a lot. For once I felt like I might actually be able to change things for the better, empowered in some way by my new experiences and the fact I had overcome some of my anxiety or at the very least got better at pretending it’s not there.


The Mask I Wear

Most of the time in life I wear a mask, I pretend everything is ok and try hard to appear normal in social situations. Wearing a mask is hard but it seems easier than the truth most of the time. This tends to mean everyone thinks I’m ok until I’m really not ok.

When the mask falls off its distressing, when I can no longer hide what lies inside me, the anger, sadness and fear. It’s easier to withdraw from life, to hide away and cut myself off from all human contact, not because I want to but because I am so afraid if people see what is behind it they will not want me around anymore.

I wish someone could really see me and still want to be in my life but I am unable to show anyone and that’s probably for the best as I know they would want to run far away if I told them what really goes on inside my head.

I have been told by people they would not have known when they met me that anything was wrong, that I appeared normal even confident. This makes me wonder if anyone could ever really like me for the disaster I am. How am I supposed to get closer to anyone if I’m scared to tell them who I really am? I long for human connection but don’t know how to trust another person.

It’s easier to put the mask on and smile and pretend when someone upsets me, even though its tearing me apart inside I will be nice, don’t want to rock the boat and risk any kind of rejection. I think this means that people can walk all over me and I am so afraid they will leave I just let them do it while smiling.

Sometimes I wish I could express my anger instead of keeping it inside and turning it into sadness and self-hatred behind the mask.

What’s the point of wearing the Mask? I seem to get further when I wear the mask and pretend everything ok, I get further at work and I seem to get along better with others, but it seems  a little pointless at the same time as I am denying my real feelings and people only like me because of the lie.

The mask is a fake version of me created to protect me from the world outside and most days I can wait to get home and take it off, so I don’t have to pretend anymore, so I can just stop, because constantly pretending to be ok is a thankless and tiring exercise.

I don’t want to be a fake person anymore but there doesn’t seem to be any other way to survive.

Climbing Outside

My experiences of climbing outside have not been in anyway fun or productive. I have only tried bouldering and I just find it terrifying I constantly think I am going to fall, as soon as my feet are a metre off the ground that’s it I’m done.

My First time outside with a friend we went to a popular local crag called Shaftoe. It was a sunny spring afternoon and armed with a guide book we set off for the crag. When we arrived it all seemed pretty intimidating, everything looked high and I was so scared and anxious about trying to climb anything.

Times like these in my life make me feel really stupid, I can talk a good game about how I really want to do these things but when it comes to it I can’t get over my fears or maybe I just don’t try hard enough. These times make me question if I should really be trying to do any of this outdoors stuff, I will probably never be any good at it.

Certainly the only things I can list which I have achieved in outdoor climbing are marked failures, looking incredibly stupid and feeling even more stupid.

The first route we tried was awful the rock was like gritty sand paper just waiting to rip my skin open so we moved round to another area. My friend climbed some routes successfully but as I had become accustomed in life I was going nowhere.

On one route I just totally freaked out and my friend ended up holding me by the wrist while pointing out if I fell a metre I would likely be ok. I’m just so awful at this. Yet again my fear gets in my way.

My total inability to push past the fact I am scared I will fall leaves me seemingly incapable of bouldering both outside and in, even in the climbing centre I will choose to come down at the slightest hint of doubt.

I really want to try climbing outside with ropes, I seem to feel safe when I’m attached to something and I really need to build some better climbing skills and try to get over my fears if I ever hope to climb to over 6000m. But right now thinking about this and how it makes me feel, I doubt I will ever get anywhere near that mountain.

My First Wild Camp

After a day in the woods with the walking group it was time for my first wild camp. A friend from the group had kindly lent me a tent and sleeping bag so I would be able to come as I still didn’t have any camping gear at this point.

I was excited and nervous as I had not done any camping since I was a teenager. I was worried about spending this much time with the new people I had met, what if they realised they didn’t like me? What if I struggled to cope with the new situation? It felt like a very big step to take.

After arriving and setting up our tents and a tarp to shelter us from the wind and occasional rain we made an amazing fire which kept us so warm. It was still early spring so the night was cold and damp. We had hot drinks and food, everything provided by the more experienced in the group.

I sat mesmerized by the fire and content in the peace of the quiet cold spring night. Still in back of mind was worry and doubt but I tried my best to silence those thoughts and managed to do a pretty good job of telling my head to shut up. I felt looked after by the people I was with, like they really wanted to be my friends and for once I didn’t actually feel frightened by this prospect, unfortunately such feelings rarely last long in my mind.

After hours of talking, eating and watching the fire it was time for bed. I felt warm, cosy and safe inside the tent which was a surprise, I had assumed I would be uncomfortable and cold but it really was a great night’s sleep.

In the morning the sky was beautiful as we had hot drinks and packed away our camp. We went to a local town and had breakfast and spent another enjoyable day together on a local moor.

While it’s certainly not the wildest spot I’ve stayed its easily accessible and has a great view which makes it a winner, I have stayed there several times since and it’s always been a nice experience.

All in all I had a great first time wild camping, despite the nervousness and strong anxiety I had felt I still definitely felt better about myself when I got home.