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bemental
05-31-2015, 14:23
Ladies and Gents,

Need some input, advice, perhaps even a little encouragement.

I've had two false starts this year for thru-hike attempts, both due to my combat-related PTSD. The first was because of to the number of people I encountered in the spring NOBO bubble (20-30 hikers at a shelter campsite/night was too much to bear), the second with anxiety surrounding making town runs (getting hitches in, actually going inside grocery stores, being outside/walking around towns, etc.).

I 'solved' the first problem, or so I thought, by switching things up after returning home and making changes to my hike to flip-flop instead. Seemed to work out, started on the NY/CT border, my only friends were my service dog and the few NOBOs that were so far north.

What I encountered then was that I was unable to get into town, or even think about getting into town, without an undue amount of anxiety.

Not sure where to go with the post other than that I am physically able to hike the trail, and while on the trail I feel better than I do when I'm hunkered down at home (as many with PTSD tend to do).

I feel that the trail has a huge part to play in my future healing, but as for now...


Thanks in advance for the help.

Maui Rhino
05-31-2015, 14:53
As a combat veteran, I can totally relate to the issues you are facing. I too avoid crowds, and walking in any public place puts me on full alert. I hope your doctor has prescribed anti-anxiety meds. Personally, I've found medical marijuana to be very helpful for me. I've also heard that the VA is in the process of approving it for use in treating PTSD in those states where medical marijuana is legal. Hopefully, you can find something that will help you, without causing side-effects. Feel free to pm me anytime you feel the need to talk to someone.

bemental
05-31-2015, 15:02
As a combat veteran, I can totally relate to the issues you are facing. I too avoid crowds, and walking in any public place puts me on full alert. I hope your doctor has prescribed anti-anxiety meds. Personally, I've found medical marijuana to be very helpful for me. I've also heard that the VA is in the process of approving it for use in treating PTSD in those states where medical marijuana is legal. Hopefully, you can find something that will help you, without causing side-effects. Feel free to pm me anytime you feel the need to talk to someone.

Thanks for the quick reply MR.

I'm definitely on a few select medications that work very well, but I hate taking the PRN medications for "racing thoughts/anxiety". Perhaps this is something I should consider further for future attempts, seeing as that's their entire purpose - to help get through difficult situations.

I've thought about attempting to do things at home to help prepare, going to the store for my wife, to the post office, etc., but I'm not sure if it's really helping.

I suppose I could bring it up with my counselor, she'll be stoked :-|

JumpMaster Blaster
05-31-2015, 16:00
I have friends with PTSD, and I have experienced some combat-related anxiety back in the day.

Take your time, go at your pace & confort level. Do you have friends that could assist when you get into town, or at least talk you down when you start getting amped up?

Maybe look into a week long section hike where you can carry your own food and not have to resupply? That way you get the therapeutic benefit of being on trail, without having to worry about crowds in town.

Best of luck to you!

Water Rat
05-31-2015, 19:44
Congratulations on not giving up! There are too many who get frustrated and give up. I know taking these first steps are so very hard and daunting. I just wanted to take a moment to tell you that you are stronger than you think. :) While it might not always feel like it, you are doing great and I urge you to keep working toward your goal!

Now that you have established that the trail is helpful toward your healing process, there has to be some way to be able to keep you out on the trail until you feel you are ready to start adding the piece of heading in to town. What about starting out close to home and having your support network/wife deliver supplies to you at the trail for a couple of weeks? It means missing out on showers in town, but I get the impression that is the least of your worries right now. And, we do have plenty of awesome lakes/streams to hop in (though, the mosquitoes might carry you off right now!) for cleaning. This would keep you on the trail for a couple of weeks while you hike and work on diminishing the stress in your life. It would also eliminate the need for hitchhiking in to town (where you would rather not be) and you would have enough food to stay on the trail.

Then, gradually add in stops in smaller towns with mail drops. That would eliminate the need to try and get to the store and figure out what food is available. These smaller steps will add up. It might not be the ideal solution, but it might help you get started. Then, maybe you will run into others who might hike at your speed and be willing to assist you with the town stops. Not saying you can't handle it on your own, but sometimes a familiar face can help in an otherwise stressful situation.

I thank you for your service!!! I wish you all the best with this journey.

xMagnolia
05-31-2015, 23:10
Have you looked into the Warrior Hike program? Many of your brothers are "walking off the war" together,on the AT, the PCT, the AZ, and this year they even have a group canoeing the Mississippi. I've followed their hikers for the last two years. It looks great
Check out www.warriorhike.org for more details and to find out how to apply.

Trailweaver
06-01-2015, 03:08
Would it be possible to find a hiking buddy that might make the runs into town whenever you get close? You could stay with the gear, camping close to the town, and he/she could get the stuff you need in town. Or maybe if you explained your situation to someone you meet as you hike, they would be willing to get supplies in town for you. I know I would, if I believed the story to be valid.

Just don't give up. You will make it.

Just Bill
06-01-2015, 09:46
If you would like a copy of my book free of charge please send me a PM. It's nothing much all told, but while you were loosing your ability to hike, I was free to write about mine- Thank you for your service.

A good friend of mine (Iraq Vet) works with this organization-
http://www.projectwelcomehometroops.org/

He found it to be very helpful for him, so much so that he volunteers for the project. He is in Albany NY, so distance is a bit of an issue, but if you were unable to find anything local I could put you in touch with him. I'm not a Vet nor have I served but was very impressed with the program and the power of meditation in general.

An additional thought that may or may not help-
Perhaps a less popular trail would be a good stepping stone?
One of the middle distance hikes like The Long Trail or Northville Placid?

If you were willing to carry service level weights you could likely do these without resupply if needed and they may prove to be the better stepping stone than the more populated AT.
On many of the less popular or more remote trails resupply via mail drop is fairly nice in the small towns where there is little more than a P.O. and a gas station.

One last option- sending a resupply directly to a hostel. You could then limit your interactions to a hostel owners shuttle and the hostel itself if need be. There are many hostels up north with private rooms. If contacted directly a hostel owner may even be willing to help you with an off hours shuttle/return so that your interaction with others was limited if needed.

Best of luck to you-
May you walk in beauty and peace until you find it.

Water Rat
06-01-2015, 10:16
I had a couple of other thoughts that might work for keeping you on the trail...

Food drops - If your support network is unable to assist you at the beginning of your hike... You could always have one of the local outfitters leave a food drop for you.

Contact the Warrior Hikes program - They might have some ideas/tips for further away from home. Others have most likely had the same issues and maybe someone could share with you what they did when they had issues going to town/certain towns. Definitely a good resource!

Additionally, the hiking community is very supportive. If you were to give smaller businesses (hostels, etc) a call, you might find they are willing to bring you your mail drops (for a fee, but you would still spend less than if you went to town!). The answer is always "no" unless you ask the question. Yours is not the usual hiker situation and I am willing to bet there are many good people along the way who would be more than happy to help you with your quest.

It might not be the traditional approach toward hiking the AT, it might not even be how you had planned to hike the AT, but maybe you will get so much more from the unplanned hike than you had originally expected.

bigcranky
06-01-2015, 11:07
Man, I'm sorry to hear this. I was really hoping the flip flop would work out for you given fewer people on the trail.

I don't have any advice other than to talk with your counselor, that's what she's there for. The anxiety seems pretty situational, so there may be some specific things you can do to help in those situations.

I fully understand how the racing thoughts can build up to such a level that you're unable to function because of the anxiety. Been there, though not from PTSD.

Good luck, we're pulling for you.

bemental
06-02-2015, 09:59
Thank you for the replies, still taking them in.

Jake2c
06-02-2015, 15:06
I am considering working with the warriors hike program personally. Best idea I have seen here is talking with your counselor and working with her to decide what is an appropriate amount to bite off at the moment. Though there is commonality, PTSD is an individualized treatment issue. I think it may be best to take the appropriate step at the appropriate time. Your counselor can help figure that out. Just my two zincs.

bemental
06-02-2015, 15:51
I will report that each time I go out, I learn something about myself - something specific that directly influences how I attack the next attempt.

Whether it's hiking, stress, or mental health-related, learning is occurring.

A few of the suggestions are/were designed to help me avoid the stresses and anxieties of town, while others are advising means to lessen them. I appreciate all of them. I'm going to do my best not to avoid any anxiety-inducing situations, but to instead attempt to lessen their sting.

The primary way to do that is to continue to do the activities that are causing the anxieties, as long as those activities are in fact, safe.

I'm planning another trip in the next week or two, a start from Katahdin SOBO. I've already started planning the various resupply locations, and I'm going to make sure I add a healthy dose of mail drops for good measure. Not too much I can do about hitching, short of walking more and picking resupplies closer to the trail, but somethings that's not an option.


Thank everyone again for the help and suggestions. I thoroughly appreciate them.

bemental
06-02-2015, 15:52
If you would like a copy of my book free of charge please send me a PM. It's nothing much all told, but while you were loosing your ability to hike, I was free to write about mine- Thank you for your service.

Best of luck to you-
May you walk in beauty and peace until you find it.

Thanks Bill!

You've actually already done that when I purchased a sleeping bag from you a few months ago.


Thanks :)

Just Bill
06-02-2015, 16:35
Thanks Bill!

You've actually already done that when I purchased a sleeping bag from you a few months ago.


Thanks :)

LOL- I remembered the name form someplace...:o

How's the bag working for you? If things work out for you on getting going again and you need a warmer model I will have some going into production later this summer/fall- I'd be happy to get you one at cost if it helps out.

If you're diggin into a SOBO- someplace on here is a "speedhike" resupply sheet.
Point being- it was a list geared towards those who couldn't hitch during the course of an attempt- also had a decent list of places that you could grab an odd bite or supplement your stash to prolong full resupply stops. If'n the riding in the car/hitching problem is a big part of the problem- maybe a little speed hiking info would help you avoid hitches. If it don't turn up easy let me know and I will dig it up on my home computer for you.

If you or anyone reading would like more info- my buddy at Project Welcome Home Troops can be reached at- ryan.bushman@pwht.org

Scrum
06-02-2015, 21:48
Gilligan - I just enjoyed reading some entries in your trail journal. Your writing is great and you are obviously enjoying yourself, temperature swings, lack of water, bugs, and all. Your efforts to stick with it are admirable. Keep getting out there!

In terms of dealing with the hitch/resupply challenge, maybe I could organize one of my peak bagging day hikes or overnights in the Whites to meet you at a trail head, hike some supplies in to you and your dog, or other wise figure out how to get you what you need to stay on the trail. Send me a PM when you have a sense of your schedule and lets see what we can work out.

I know it is not a total solution, but perhaps it can help you get through a location where there is no walkable resupply option (i.e. Kinsman Notch, Franconia Notch).

4eyedbuzzard
06-03-2015, 16:19
I will report that each time I go out, I learn something about myself - something specific that directly influences how I attack the next attempt.

Whether it's hiking, stress, or mental health-related, learning is occurring.

A few of the suggestions are/were designed to help me avoid the stresses and anxieties of town, while others are advising means to lessen them. I appreciate all of them. I'm going to do my best not to avoid any anxiety-inducing situations, but to instead attempt to lessen their sting.

The primary way to do that is to continue to do the activities that are causing the anxieties, as long as those activities are in fact, safe.

I'm planning another trip in the next week or two, a start from Katahdin SOBO. I've already started planning the various resupply locations, and I'm going to make sure I add a healthy dose of mail drops for good measure. Not too much I can do about hitching, short of walking more and picking resupplies closer to the trail, but somethings that's not an option.


Thank everyone again for the help and suggestions. I thoroughly appreciate them.Glad to hear that you are safely confronting the many anxiety triggers and working with a counselor. Often times I've unfortunately heard the opposite from some people hiking - that they are trying to escape, which just isn't a realistic plan/goal nor very helpful in the long run. Hiking can be therapeutic in the sense of the different sensory input, focus, more immediate and defined challenge/action/result scenarios, mental health benefits of physical activity, etc., but as you seem aware, ultimately you have to come to a better comfort level with the world around you, as even when hiking, you just can't escape the triggers. It will obviously take time for many of the things that trigger your anxiety to become the more normal "background noise" of life again. And some may never completely disappear, only lessen to the point where you identify them and then manage them more easily and effectively. Remember that you are not alone and that you will successfully work through this challenge. Best wishes on your hikes!

Damn Yankee
06-03-2015, 18:05
As an Iraq Veteran who suffers from PTSD and related symptoms like Agoraphobia, Severe Depression and Anxiety, I can attest to the many benefits to hiking on your mental health. I find the getting away from everything for just a short while, very beneficial but it goes hand and hand with treatment. I am also introduced to the outside in a somewhat controlled environment. Meaning interaction with other people. The quietness in which to meditate and do a little soul searching for the guy I used to be. Enjoy the trail