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Category Archives: Camping

Reflections 2018 week 44

Whilst being on a camping holiday alone, to try and work out a routine/pattern of living in a tent for walks next year, I faced some of my ‘daemons’.

This years camp was more flexible than before and it was to create coping mechanisms whilst camping, allowing Spot and myself to do multi-day walks next year as part of my healing, not far to start, but the aim is to increase over the year.

However one knew that there could be challenges with my anxiety and depression, so after a visit to my new psychologist, one went with a new drug to have with me as backup. But this in itself created a new problem.

Spot was with me, and my ‘deal’ with myself was to not to do a lot of running around to different places, but rather work around the tent and the sea side at camp. A chance, one hoped, to get to a mindful place and quieten my internal voices. My voices apparently did not like this idea, and my insistence of taking all my equipment that I may use, again this was to hone my ‘main kit’ for the multi-day waking trips next year, became known as clutter. Car camping allows one to take far, far too much stuff. Coupled with not knowing how kit like the sleep system would work, with the expected low temperatures, multiples of ‘just in case’ items were taken along.

Anxiety or panic attacks, depends on who you talk to, are common, also, are the feelings that are associated with them. One has been on the back of an unbroken horse as the horse does everything that it can to get you off it, and yes, the ground hurts when it succeeds. And an anxiety attack is just like being on that horses back, out of control, trying to stay on, and trying to avoid the shuddering jolt of hitting the ground.

The main difference between them is – the horse is on the inside for anxiety.

So yeah, they were fun.

But this holiday one  had something new – not an anxiety attack but more of a depression attack. Frustratingly I do not know what to call it for when I next see the psychologist, if I do not give it the correct name, they do not listen and dismiss it. Parts of what I say are cherry picked…Paranoid?

Here is something that I have said…

I go to weekly NON CLINICAL group workshops, that is workshops not connected to or regulated by my mental health psychologist, something they cannot measure,  that help to examine negative perceptions one might have to life, these have been created by a lady that is a qualified counsellor.

Gets turned to…

Attends weeks counselling sessions.

Never have they asked what qualifications she has, or what method she uses. For all they know she uses lumps of coal to suck the depression out. They heard counsellor and figured that they are off the hook for non drug treatment, even if they did not think this, it is what it feels like.

Now the attack, and how it differs from the anxiety attacks.

Think back if you can to when you first learnt to swim. Think back to feeling of drowning, the swallowing of water as you tried to breathe, the pressure on your body from the water trying to pull you under (this I know is the panic thoughts and in reality when relaxed you would float) and the hopelessness of the situation when sinking below the waters surface.

Now sit and watch the clouds drift over the distant mountains, no thoughts in your head, relaxed.


And your drowning, calmly drowning. Swamped by the hopelessness, the utter despair, and the need to cry. It snuck upon you like a mugger in a dark alley, it chose you with no apparent reason other than you were there at that time.

As you sit in the near paralysed state, trying to work out the cause so as to reason it out, with nothing coming to mind as the catalyst, crying uncontrollably, confused, dazed and lost. You realise that it is most defiantly not an anxiety attack. There is no wild ride of a bucking horse, it’s more a calm sinking of a small boat on a still pond. There is no erratic heartbeat or breathing to get under control, no shaking or sweating, the only physical response is the crying, the uncontrollable crying. Even Spot was caught unawares of the changing mood, she is my depression barometer, usually noticing a dip before I do, changing her reactions and thus alerting myself to the approaching change.

Half an hour later and its gone; for a couple of days, but it returns twice more.

Now I did mention that I had new drugs with me for if I struggled. However the last drug I had to ‘take the edge off’ left me not giving a s@!t about anything, so I was too afraid to take them with no support network around to help me if I had a less than favourable reaction. With wind chill the temperature went sub Zero (deg celsius) not giving a damn could lead to hypothermia. And thus a battle of fear began…

Fear of not taking them and having the depression and anxiety attacks or taking them and placing Spot and myself in danger. So long as the depression did not go down the road of suicide not taking them seemed to be the safest option and was the one I took.

Now it is just a waiting game…

Are these new attacks isolated, or are they a new symptom?

I hate this game.

Post Camping Musings, Shell Island 10/2015

originally posted on my previous site Nov 2015.

IMG_0111This writing malarkey is all new to me, but after reading the posts by a fellow artist Anika Badderley
I think I will give it a go, if nothing else it will fulfill a past desire to write…..something.

Shell Island 2015, my own experiment in returning to camping as a solo (+ dog, Spot) and since the “illegal function” my brain decided to do a couple of years ago, unfortunately a brain replacement and software reinstilation us out of the question so it’s up to me to re-evaluate  life as I now perceive it and formulate an updated user manual. The steps in the camping exposure were thus;

  • Complete the packing process
  • Journey into the unknown ( and yet slightly familiar)
  • Keep myself sustained ( Meds, Food, Water)
  • Find out what OCD type routines are now required
  • Rediscover what it was about camping, I have a distant memory of, that was so enticing.
  • Oh and most important…STAY till the END!
  • It looks like an experiment which requires a lab coat and clip board, but this is presently ( don’t you just hate it when due to your phonetic spelling, a word has to be changed due to auto correct  going “What???”) how I have to introduce or re-introduce changes to my schedule or lifestyle.

And off we start with the packing, I know through fishing that this was going to be awkward. Each time I have a fishing trip the bag has to be completely unpacked and then repacked with everything in its place the day, not the night, the day,before. Each container of assorted pellets, opened, checked and topped up if required, even if never used, ever! It took days to get it originally sorted. With this in mind I gave myself eight days, this I posited, gave me ample time to pack, and repack, whilst trying to grasp at virtual straws of memory past as to the best way I did it.

Now, memory recall requires quite oft a trigger, but the list of new had been growing over the two years of stalling, “I can’t go because I need such and such”, so much so the list of potential triggers had become:- the tent, my old Trangia and my rucksack, which I believe was new, and may never have been used, but has remained with me for over half a decade so therefore is old. Not good. Every day, pack unpack, werrit, consult the list. A list! Formed to try and extrapolate a near mathematical formula for the most efficient placement of equipment whilst still keeping the centre of gravity close to the back and low down. I might as well been given the order – you are leaving to live on Mars in the morning, pack what you think will be required, here is your box. I could not work it out, could not tap into prior experience and knowledge. The box became the car!

Now the itinerary. Simple, follow a rote similar to that of one taken a month ago. Has to bypass Wrexham and Llangollen, not go directly to llanbedr but instead go via penmaenpool bridge, a 136ish year old wooden bridge that has become part of my routine of going to the Gwynedd coastal area, even if it adds time onto a journey. The wooden thunkity thunk resonating below the sticky rubber tyre sound going over the Jenga style blocks now signals the beginning of a holiday, as the mind and heart race a little at the thought of the wood just collapsing under the weight it now holds. It never does of course, but my inner child will play. The difference this time is I am not meeting family at the destination and I have the tide to race against or wait three hours on the wrong side of the causeway and crossing in the dark. I just knew it would be close as delays would be inevitable. Every slow vehicle between Stoke and Bala on the road that day was in front of me, time sped past so fast that at Bala I gave up trying to get there for the tide and decided to enjoy the Autumn scenery of the journey and stop at Barmouth for sausage and chips for me n spot and a cup of tea, which we did. Only after the first bite of a chip did I look at the phone, the clock! The bloody clock is wrong, the car one has to be altered manually,last night was the clocks going back an hour, the sausage and chips were placed aside, much to Spot’s disappointment, and the race with the tide was back on. It was close, an inch spare or one wee wave before it became impassable, now to find a place to set up camp.

It would be wrong of me not to mention that Shell Island is informal in placement of pitching a tent, there are some no dogs allowed fields and then there are areas in between fields, trees and dunes that you can look for a place to fit your tent. This is my kind of pitch,  a little more private and less people.

I panicked as the light was quickly fading, I had totally forgot how dark it got with no light pollution filling the sky. It was down to two choices as  I had no more time to search, one offered more protection from the strong winds I could remember flattening tents, the other more privacy, but might be more of a slope. That was it my mind went into a mini meltdown, it could not find the knowledge it knew was there. Back and forth I went ,site to site, this angle to that. Car headlights shining on potential tent positions, time ticking away. “This one, I will go with this one!” Spoken so loudly that anybody walking by would have thought it directed toward them. Got to try and slow down, mistakes will happen if I panic, too late as the tent inner went up it became clear the position I chose to sleep was 90° out and the tent doors would either be over a hole or in the bushes, adjust the tent and hope for the best. The tent was erected by the light of car headlamps in the end, sleeping mat down, self inflating mat down on top, it is October end, sleeping bag unpacked, done for the night! Head pounding, as often occurs with over stimulation comedown, I just wanted to slide into the bag and go to sleep, hide from what is oppressing, even though it was quarter past six. Time for a rather cool sausage and chips with an even cooler cup of tea.

In the morning after an awful night of little sleep, the tent was moved to the other location.

Food taken was as follows:-

•Salad potatoes, a bag of, rather than a few as they were reduced.

•Six sweet peppers, enough for a couple of days.

•Six courgette.

•Six red onion.

•One garlic bulb.

•One celery.

•One large punnet of cherry tomatoes.

•Pre bagged cup worth of rice (3) and macaroni pasta (5)

•A selection of camping foods (6), pre done meals in a bag you can eat hot or cold. A taste trial/ backup plan.

Water was taken in the farm of a five litre bottle, this I concluded would then be used as a refillable water carrier with handle when empty. The Meds were in my weekly slotted container as usual this itself in a waterproof bag.

The plan was simple one meal would be tomatoe based stir fry with either noodles or rice plus whatever meat I picked up that day and one would be stew using the remaining meat, breakfast was eggs. Nothing fancy, I was after all getting reacquainted with the cooker, plus it’s newer version, son of Trangia. Just in case of really wet and or windy weather, my flameless cooker was taken. My hypothesise being I could use the camping meals with them, open a minimal amount of door to slide it out, close door,wait for the time on the packet, open the door enough to slide it back in and eat. Breakfast ended up Brunch, Dinner, well Dinner ended up mid to late afternoon and Tea started at dusk. After picking up more supplies from a not so local supermarket, Breakfast went from humble eggs to eggs,sweet pepper , garlic, onion and tomatoes, with bacon for three Days and baps  for three more! It didn’t matter that the sir fry was repeated twice a day, I was enjoying the sweet peppers too much. And so with a change of bacon, sausage, burgers and a chicken breast, the meals went to plan. A flask was prepared at the afternoon filled with green tea, enough to last till hot chocolate time. And so a shakey routine of sorts was created to help feel more in Conrol and less like the leaves been blown from the trees. On overcast days my Teatime meal was prepped an put into the pan ready at the same time as my Brunch. This sense of preparedness added light to a dull day.

That was the first OCD type of routine to help me cope, I call it OCD type as I have never been give any other name from psychiatrist to psychologist to therapist; it is recognised, wrote down then ignored. Leaving me feeling like I’m just on the edge of the line that crosses over to it being crippling rather than enabling to get by. Like heading to Rapids without a paddle to steer with. “If he gets through a little worse for wear but generally ok then fine, but if he hits a rock and gets broken, we have some medication for that and therapy” I imagine them writing. Down stream medical care I have heard it called. I can add to the list of “for next time” more kayak bags or dry bags. I have a few, various colours and sizes, but now I want more! I can colour coordinate the bags with there contents and arrange them by size in the tent, thus knowing the smartly organised interior is easily processed. And an empty one for the washing. They keep smelly sock odours in, they are in fact just brilliant.

It took four full days to come to a rather relaxed blend in with nature moment to remember what it was I used to get out of camping, a real eureka  moment. It was that simple, just listen, take all you could in and become part of. My anxiety has never been happier, it could do what it does best without having to fight or run, just be aware, knowing this natural state of noise is safe. So far unapproachable in the man made world. A rediscovered foundation on to which I build this new me? Maybe not but, it is a place to start.

STAY TILL THE END! Why? What is so important about staying to the end?

Shell island has for many a year held a firework display on the last weekend of the season. This brings with it an increase in the number of campers from the Thursday  onward. More people more noise, more social interactions. Hell! Throw into the mix a Halloween party in a marquee on the Friday night and all soothing nature sounds get drowned out. A time to run. But if I can manage this weekend of tribulations, I will have freed my mind, to the possibilities of a normal campsite in the warmer weather of next year,insitu for a better placement for some hill/mountain walking, that are out of day trip feasibility. Toilet trips were uncomfortably timed till after they had been cleaned, shop trips were dashes and of the daytime? Friday was spent up a mountain looking at a waterfall and Saturday was spent in the dunes, trying to find and then follow a footpath I know is there, but failed to find a significant portion of it all with light of the sun setting to a deep red. A mad scramble to the camp left me soaked and wheezing, even poor spot was panting, we had heard, still deep within the dunes a blast of music. The fire works already? I had planned to record the event but we were no where near a place to film it, and the tripod was at camp. But it was just a sound check. Relived, I decided it was time for something to eat before the event, not in the mood for cooking and knowing a food stall had opened up at the camp enterence, I ventured for a kebab.

With food in our bellies we chose a spot for the display upon a dune not far from camp. In hindsite I should have checked the display times, but there was far too many people to do anything other than act like a thief and get in and out unnoticed, kebab in hand. So for hours it seemed we sat on the cold dune, wrapped in a survival shelter to try and stay out of the now breezing in mist from the sea, we waited. Colder and colder we got, spot inside my jacket for my warmth as much as hers. Butt numb and legs aching we were just about to risk not seeing the fireworks to go to the car and warm up, when “Are you ready for the fireworks?” Boomed from speakers unseen. “Yesss” from the crowd, more interactions from the speaker to the crowd till…”10,9,8,7,6″, time to power on the equipment,”5″, uncover the lense,”4″, press record, “3,2,1”, whoosh went the first firework, “boom, crackle”, the flickering light sprinkled toward the earth. The camcorder recording all….badly! Quickly getting out my camera I pressed record, and so now hands exposed to the damp,cold,air; the event would be recorded in focus, if not a little shaky. Too easy, the low battery sign came up on the display, so a quick change at a suitable lull, enabled, with some future editing, a hopefully watchable video.

It is at this point I should like to point out I am not an experienced photographer or videographer, and for most of the equipment this was its first major voyage. Equipment that has previously been loved by another, was now being asked to do something it cannot and been sworn at. But without experimentation, limits are not found.

After the display ended a party began, and we retired to burn the last of the wood in the bucket fire. Hot chocolate was had and as the fire burnt to glowing embers we retired, warmed by the fire, to the sleeping bag. Sleep on any other night would have come quickly after the energy sapping wander through the dunes, but not tonight, catchy tunes were in in invading  my mind and it danced a wistful dance. Sleep came in the end and I woke with the satisfaction of completing my week of camping.

Now, pack up and head home, in a round about way………