A walk that gave depression the boot for a few hoursPosted: January 21, 2014
Clear, bright, calm – that’s the river and the weather in this photo, and the opposite of how I’d been feeling in the days before I took it.
It was October 2011 and I was off work with depression. A stressful couple of months had slowly, sneakily reversed the progress I’d made since having counselling for my first bout of the illness. One night it came back with a vengeance.
My brain felt so full that it might explode. I was angry, confused, miserable and shattered. This mental turbulence kept me awake at night and my tired brain couldn’t cope during the day – a cruel and exhausting cycle that trapped me in darkness.
I vowed to myself that I would get out of the house every day and go for a walk, partly to get some exercise and fresh air and partly for a change of scenery that might distract me from the cyclone in my brain. My dad must have recognised this was what I needed too, because he arranged to take me out for a hearty walk by a canal out in the countryside.
Looking back on that outing, there were a number of small things that helped me.
It was in a place I didn’t know, so there was a sense of exploration and discovery – a new experience and the best kind of distraction.
It was a bright, sunny autumn day – one of those crisp, cool days that makes you want to take deep breaths, which helps you relax and appreciate what’s around you.
Being a keen birdwatcher I had taken my binoculars, and remember some of the birds I saw that day, and where I saw them. As we got out of the car, there was a great-spotted woodpecker that flew from a tree and landed on a telegraph pole a few yards away. Further along the walk, near the river, we saw a sparrowhawk zipping low along a line of bushes. And we saw fieldfares, which had arrived from Scandinavia for the winter.
My memories of that autumn are otherwise pretty murky, but these images are crystal clear in my mind even now. I think that shows the value of trying to do something you enjoy, however small, if you can muster the energy.
The fact my dad had organised the day helped too. I didn’t have to think – just take it in. And the company certainly helped. Being able to talk to someone you trust and who understands you is so important, and the different setting took me away from my problems somehow, and gave me a boost that defied my weariness.
There’s a reason holidays are marketed as a chance to ‘get away from it all’. It’s because that chance is something we all need and crave. This walk wasn’t a holiday, of course, but the change and escape was what I really needed.
* I wrote this post for Time to Change. Read more about them here