Outdoor therapy

I was really struggling at the beginning of the year. My mind would drown in long periods of cloudiness and I felt constantly outside of my body, not feeling anything, not interested in anything and having no motivation to do anything, even with the person I love most. The only thing I could feel was a rising sense of panic way back somewhere in the depths of my subconscious. It was there because, although I felt empty and lacked energy, I was terrified of what my partner was thinking about me – would he get bored if I continued like this? He couldn’t possibly love me. How long would it take before he’d had enough and he left?

He dragged me out of the house one day and we embarked on a beautiful walk we’d never been on before. Everything was grey and lifeless to me. I hardly spoke and I was more than distant, yet all the while the panic was rising. Suddenly we found ourselves on a section of rocks overlooking a vast expanse of water. Ahead we could see the mouth of the river open up contentedly and free itself to the sea. To our right the river stretched further inland, exploring the rolling hills and creating hidden beaches where trees overhang. It was the first sunny day we’d had since winter. The sudden open space and expanse, along with the cool open breeze seemed to light a sudden spark of excitement in me. I could feel the clouds lift and my mind open. My eyes, before only half open, suddenly grew wide and rapidly the colours in front of me grew vibrant. I could hear things better and I could taste the sea air. My senses heightened and I breathed a sigh of relief. But it was not enough. I needed to feel it more.

Without thinking, I undressed down to my underwear and stepped down to the water. It was hardly the end of winter and the water would be freezing, I knew it. I could feel my boyfriend looking at me questioningly. Sitting down on the rocks quickly, I dangled my legs over the edge and into the water. Fuck, it was cold. But it excited me – I needed to do this, I wanted this, and I was running on adrenaline. This was right. Spurred on, I pushed off and lowered myself in.

The cold water shock took over and my breathing became eratic and fast. But this was a blessing. At that moment I realised that this was what I needed. The cold water washed away all of the cobwebs. I was alert, finally, for the first time in days. Without trying or thinking, I smiled. It was perfectly simple – I had one thing and one thing only to worry about. I had to stay alive. I had to keep moving. Suddenly determined, I swam away from the rocks and concentrated on calming my breathing. I focused on moving to keep my muscles warm and was completely in tune with my instincts. It grounded me and brought me back from the abyss of mist.

Outdoor therapy is one of my go to cures. Even if I don’t feel up to it beforehand, even if I’m not into it when I get there, it will always bring me back. Stepping into cold water, stripping down and feeling free, not caring who is watching, running around afterwards to get warm, being surrounded by calm natural beauty, it reminds me how weak my illness is even though it sometimes feels almighty. It gives me control and it truly makes me happy, bringing me back to my roots and reminding me how one day, it will all be over, and one day I won’t have to try anymore.

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