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  1. #1
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    Default Hiking with clinical depression/anxiety

    I suffer from moderate depression and anxiety which I mange with medication. I'm hoping to through hike next year and am wondering if there is anyone else who has clinical depression or anxiety has also through hiked. I'm not asking for medical advice -- I will consult with my doctor before embarking on the journey -- I'd just like to hear other people's stories. While I'd like any input, I posted on the female forum because I'm hoping that there are other young women like myself who I can talk to and get advice from.

    Thanks!

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    Christine 1cre8ive1's Avatar
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    Although I myself do not suffer from the debilitating condition, my boyfriend does. He will not be going on the hike next year with me due to career constraints, but I want to applaud you and your pending endeavor. Best of luck and warmest regards! Maybe I'll see you on the trail!
    Illegitimi non Carborundum

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    Not a woman Julie, and I'm just a bit older than you, but I do suffer from similar conditions. Make sure you talk it through with your doc and therapist and possibly be prepared to change your meds and dosage while on the trail. Have a plan with your doc to contact them. Your metabolism and body/brain chemistry is likely going to change due to the severe physical stress of the hike, and it could have many different effects. But the more defined challenges and gratification of hiking may do wonders for your condition. Provided you don't leave a lot of loose ends when you depart to worry about, hiking is a much simpler life than what we typically deal with day to day. Good luck on your hike.
    Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps

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    Cooking in the Backcountry LaurieAnn's Avatar
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    Julie Ann. I'm not much help but I just wanted to say that you never know... it could be very healing. I think following your dream of a hike like this is wonderful. When I first started hiking I had serious self-esteem and health issues. Hiking has done wonders for my life and transformed it in such a positive way... I wish you the same.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Julie Ann View Post
    I suffer from moderate depression and anxiety which I mange with medication. I'm hoping to through hike next year and am wondering if there is anyone else who has clinical depression or anxiety has also through hiked. I'm not asking for medical advice -- I will consult with my doctor before embarking on the journey -- I'd just like to hear other people's stories. While I'd like any input, I posted on the female forum because I'm hoping that there are other young women like myself who I can talk to and get advice from.

    Thanks!
    Hi Julie Ann .... I'm quite a bit older than you (I have 2 children older than you), but I've dealt with undiagnosed depression for a number of years and more recently have had the benefits of medication. For me, I'm happiest in the woods, it's the rest of the world I wouldn't give you a nickel for!

    When are you starting your hike? I'm planning on a mid-March date, but haven't made firm travel arrangements yet. Hopefully we'll see you on the trail!

    TF
    www.postholer.com/Turtle Feet
    Follow me as I crawl the A.T.
    Life is an adventure or nothing at all ~ Hellen Keller

  6. #6
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    Hey Julie Ann- I wasn't even registered yet but saw your post and registered just to comment. I'm currently thinking (a lot) about thru hiking this March, and have pretty consuming anxiety issues. Part of me can't even believe I'm thinking of doing this, but most of me thinks it'll be better out there. I have this big hope that with everything else to think about, my every day anxiety will shut itself up a little bit. I just wanted you to know that you're not alone in thinking about doing this, with these issues. Wish you the best! Katie

  7. #7
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    You don't have to wait until your through hike either. You can do alot of day hikes and weekend hikes while testing ideas and clothing and feeling things out. Just getting outside alot more is has helped me alot. I'm thinking thinking this fall instead of counting calories burned through exercise, or miles hiked or biked or run, I am just going to try and spend more time outside, every day.

  8. #8
    NOBO to Caledonia S.P., PA plus 187 in NH&ME (57.8%) Grinder's Avatar
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    there was a guy on the trail last spring who was having a terrible time of it, with no particular problem, just general Malaise. One night,near Hot Springs, while talking, he remarked that he had been successfully treated for depression several years ago.
    He had never even considered his current problems to be related. Once he thought about it it became clear that it was a recurrence.

    I don't know if he was currently medicating or not. He did state he had lost a lot of weight on the hike .

    like 4eyes said, make arrangements to review and or change your medications while on the trail.

    Also, try some weekend or week long hikes to get experience. That will greatly reduce your uncertainty.
    Grinder
    AT hiker : It's the journey, not the destination

  9. #9
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    Congratulations on being willing to risk. And for being wise enough to ask about others' experience.
    A Brit trail named Tintin, who suffers from bipolar disorder, did a thru of the AT this year. You can read his journal here:
    http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=300623
    Tintin made the trip partly to demonstrate that people with mental illnesses can do anything anyone else can, if they take care of their illness. You probably know bipolar disorder includes depression, mania and anxiety.
    I've got PTSD, yet have been able to section hike the AT, and make a lot of other trips, with no problems. As Sarbar suggests, I find backpacking very healing.
    Take proper care of your illness and you'll have a great time.

  10. #10
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    I find it very healing also, but even positive changes need to be done carefully. There are natural conflicts. We are dependant on modern society for many things, but our modern society does not exactly endorse spending more time outdoors in nature, away from home and work and automobiles and shopping malls. So we need to maintain a balance, while moving from one less natural but more structured and orthodox state to another more natural but more primitive and unorthodox state. What is nice about hiking and hiking trails like the AT is that it still has alot of structure and support from society. It's sort of on the fringe of both worlds.

    It would make more sense for most people not to plunge straight into a thru-hike. A better approach might be to plan a thru-hike in the future, but to use more time outdoors, and day hikes and weekend hikes, and longer hikes closer to home, before plunging into something like a thru-hike of the entire AT. Works for some people though.

    There are so many countless choices. Even natural and good ones. There lies the anxst.

    Some take a plunge. Some just dip a toe in. It's all good.

  11. #11
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    Yes just remember to always place one foot ahead of the other and take time to view the heavens.

  12. #12
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    I re-read "My Side Of The Mountain" over the weekend. First time since I was 10 or 11.
    Enjoyed it very much. A good book is not a bad way to start a new journey.

  13. #13

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    I have had depression in the past. I stopped taking medication a few years before my hike. I found hiking in general to be very healing. (Exercise in general, too.) I also found long distance hiking to be incredibly empowering. So many fears and anxieties and worries in regular life evaporated.

    I would actually worry a little bit more about the reentry phase. I found that to be harder mentally/emotionally than the adventure.

    Just take care of yourself and really really enjoy the journey and adventure.
    Some knew me as Piper, others as just Diane.
    I hiked the PCT: Mexico to Mt. Shasta, 2008. Santa Barbara to Canada, 2009.

  14. #14

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    i don't suffer from depression, but definitely have anxiety/panic attacks which began about 3 years ago when something traumatic happened. spending time with yourself on the trail, clearing your mind, and feeling free and challenged will do your mind and body good. i have never taken medication for it - i turned to the mountains for remediation, and it's become my cure. i wish you all the best of luck. you can do it

  15. #15

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    I have battled depression and anxiety for most of my adult life, but I find that when I am hiking, there is something very cleansing and freeing that happens. i tend to forget about my 'worldly' anxieties and just hike. I used to take medicine for both issues, but I realized that the more you depend on the anxiety pills, the more you seem to need them.

    If ever I do get a panic attack, whether when I hike or just out and about, I tell the anxiety that 'its not going to get the best of me' and send it on its way. This works well for me, though it has taken much practice!

    I wish you all the the best, and I'm sure you will find a resolution that works best for you.

    Best of luck, and try not to let anxiety and depression prevent you from doing what you love!!

  16. #16
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    Thank you everyone for opening up. I know there's a social stigma about depression and anxiety and it can be difficult to talk about.

    A lot of people have mentioned the emotional cleansing powers that the through hike can have on an individual. On weekend hikes I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders -- it's great. I think (and hope) an extended time on the trail will be very powerful emotionally, perhaps I can shake the depression once and for all.

    The part that scares me the most is referenced by sbhikes -- the reentry phase. Although I could probably dwell on that for a while I'll wait to think about that until I get to Katahdin next September...

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    I'm not a woman, but take what you are concerned about with the post you just mentioned seriously. A through hike can be empowering.

    Just realize and don't forget through hikes end and life goes on. You need to have plans and have right at them.

  18. #18
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    Default Hiking AT YoYo With Depression :

    Read the two " Barefoot Sisters " books : " Southbound " and
    " Walking Home " . Susan and Lucy . " Jackrabbit " and " Isis ".
    They alterate chapters . Jackrabbit has to battle depression as
    well as a number of injuries . Yet the two young girls , ( back
    around 2000 ) did the whole trail , both - ways , barefoot .
    [ Mostly ! Not indeep snow or in Ice Storms ! ]


    David V. Webber

  19. #19
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    I have been following this thread for the past few days and have thought long and hard about responding. So many people have misconceptions about mental illness and there is still such stigma about admitting that you have one.

    The short answer is yes, I believe it can be done. I am a firm believer in healing thru hiking, actually thru any rigorous physical activity; activity of choice for me is hiking. Not that I have done a thru hike yet but, that is my opinion, take it for what it is worth. This is a long story so if that is enough of an answer, you may want to stop here.

    I have had three major depressive episodes and I have PTSD. I was raped when I was 11 years old. At the time, I truly thought I was going to be killed. I did not understand what was happening to me and that increased the fear exponentially. Immediately after the rape I had my first major depressive episode (go figure), compounded by all the classic symptoms of PTSD. It was 1973 and there wasnít that much known of PTSD and its association with depression. So, while I got psych treatment, it wasnít on the level of what is available today. The depression hit again when I was in my early twenties and the last time started in 1999. That last one was the big one. I was dangerously suicidal. I was put on medication and ended up out of work for 10 months due to side effects and I just couldnít cope with my job. We tried a bunch of different medications. The one that we finally settled on worked somewhat but, I was taking a massive dose and still had serious breakthrough depression symptoms. I was finally able to go back to work. However, I was still in very rough shape. I put in my time on the job and went home and crawled into bed at 6:00 and stayed there until I had to leave for work the next day. AndÖ what does all this have to do with hiking? I will tell you.

    One day the man I had been dating before the ďcrashĒ showed up at my door with a dog. And not some cute cuddly little well behaved animal. The vet figured Diogee was about 2 years old. A wild beast of a german shepherd/black lab mix who had been abused, never had lived in a house, had spent the past 7 months in a shelter serving as evidence in an animal abuse case, wasnít house trained (or anything trained for that matter), was severely underweight at 65 lbs. and had massive separation anxiety issues. The first time I left him alone in the house he went from window to window knocking things over and tearing down all the curtains trying to get out. Great gift, huh? For the first two months I canít tell you how hard I tried to give him away. Here I was, barely taking care of myself and I had this needy manic beast in my face constantly. And what do you do with a dog? You walk him. At first it was around the block three times a day. That was all I could manage. But, that wasnít enough. I had to do something with him to burn off all of his anxiety. We started going to a state park near my house on the weekends and hiking the trails. I hadnít done any hiking for years and years. Eventually we started going to the state park every day after work. After a while I was going in the morning before work and putting in a couple of miles and then again after work and doing a few more miles. Whatever I was up to. After a while I started looking forward to getting outside with him. I hadnít looked forward to anything, literally, for almost three years. In the middle of winter, about six months into this routine, I was daily sneaking into the park to hike in the dark after work. One day we stopped on the edge of a meadow looking out over the fresh snow in the moonlight. I looked down at the now 105 lb dog sitting quietly next to me sniffing the breezes, and I was happy. Truly happy. I didnít want to be anywhere else, I didnít want to be anyone else, and I didnít want to die. I wanted to keep hiking with him forever.

    I believe that all that hiking is what finally started turning things around for me. Certainly there were other contributing factors but, most of them had been in place for a while before Diogee came to live with me and they hadnít been enough. Having him there forced me to get outside, walking into the world again. And while Diogee was a rescue from a shelter, by hiking with him, he really rescued me.

    So yes, go do your thru hike. You never know, it might be the rescue of you.

  20. #20

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    As someone who has been a volunteer support person for rape survivors in our rape crisis center, I would like to thank you for being the brave person you are and for sharing your story. It's amazing what sharing your life with a rescue animal can do for you. It's amazing how strong you can be once you realize that you have survived what you did. You have done well for yourself!

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