…The most important part of preparation for me is being psychologically ready.
Managing PTSD, social anxiety and depression is continual whether I’m walking or not. Some things still trip me up if I am not vigilant, especially if I’m tired and I’m often tired while walking.
Walking, Nature and solitude are wonderful things for our mental health and we should all experience them as often as possible.
Achievements, small and large, boost self esteem and encourage me to keep going. These achievements happen everyday but it takes discipline to acknowledge them and allow myself to feel proud at the end of each day of walking or after a successful interview or listening to someone when they reach out to me for help.
They are slowly being evicted but there are still some deep ingrained self destructive thought patterns lurking in the dark shadows of my mind. They surface when I am in pain, exhausted from extreme physical fatigue, struggling with crowds and busy places, feeling unsupported or struggling with lack of funds and sponsorship.
I am always building my resilience to stress and exhaustion and the walk provides plenty of opportunities to practice and reminders of where I still need work.
The walk is always mindfulness, I am constantly aware of my environment, weather, animals, changing vegetation, sounds and smells carried by the wind, traffic, each foot step, flexing muscles and tight tendons, hydration.
Mindfulness and meditation go hand in hand so I also allow my body and mind to fall into a comfortable pace with breath awareness and fluid consciousness where thoughts come but don’t stay. Sometimes I practice low frequency chanting matching it to deep breathing and the rythym of my walk. This gives me the same pleasant feeling as a purring cat lying on my chest.
For the first month of each walk I use the solitude and open space as a safe place to process painful and confusing memories, especially unwelcome feelings. I’m starting to run out now but it has been like unpacking all my emotional and psychological “baggage” discarding it as I walk. No professional therapist would have achieve as much as this walk.
Walking is healing. I recommend regular exercise for recovery as well as prevention from mental illness and stress. What I do is a bit extreme, the psychological results are huge and I really needed it after trying to suicide 3 times in 2010. However, I committed myself to changing, growing, accepting the process of letting go which is sometimes very painful. The metaphorical path from victim to victor, from giving up to strength, joy and resilience is hard work, as hard as walking alone around Australia, and worth every step forward.
I carry with me this brilliant little saying for the days I relapse “Fall 7 times, get up 8”.
Above all, the most therapeutic and healing part of the walk, what restores my peace is solitude in Nature and there will be an abundance of both this year.
To be continued…