Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men...

I've been rather quiet on the blogging front lately, largely because I had little to say that wouldn't involve airing my dirty washing. After a good start to the road trip with Clare, our relationship took a downturn and carried on that way until we decided to call it a day.

I came up to Scotland to see my family and chill out for a while, and though I was sad, despite my recent struggles with depression I thought I was coping fairly well. That changed about a month ago, when I tried to get back on the road and head for Catalunia.

I felt the anxiety building as I was preparing to leave, but I shrugged it off, thinking I would settle once I was on the road. The clouds continued to build - in Sheffield I stopped to see friends but ended up making excuses to leave as I wasn't coping with being in the company of others, and by Toulouse I was in a really dark place where I struggled to be in my own. I turned tail and made for the channel.

It was the most severe attack of anxiety and depression I've experienced; at its peak it was terrifying, although thankfully the worst passed fairly quickly. I went back to Gargunnock to get my head around what had happened, and figure out what to do next. I considered stopping here, looking for work and going back into couselling, but I still feel the need for a good break from all that, so opted to just rest up and try to get my head together. I'm lucky that my parents still live in the large family home (and don't seem to mind me abusing it), so there's always a bolt-hole if I need it.

The depression continued to lift, but the anxiety was keeping a firm hold. I tried yoga and meditation, music, writing, pottering around doing jobs on the van, and even picked up a bit of delivery work to get me out of the house, but nothing affected the agitation. There were knots in my stomach and a sense of dread lingering in the background of every activity - a constant and dibilitating companion.

Thankfully the last few days seem to have been a bit of a turning point. I got myself out running in the cold and wet up the Gargunnock hills a couple of times - nothing too long, but those 30 or 40 minutes of fun and brutality in equal measure blew the cobwebs away a bit.

Then on Sunday morning, I woke up to an unexpectedly sunny day. My first thought was to get cracking on the van, but it seemed a bit of a waste, so I collared my dad to see if he fancied a stroll in the hills. We both wanted something easy and relaxing, so we picked Ben A'an - a short childhood favourite that punches well above its weight when it comes to views.

The usual path runs up through the woods, however it's been closed for tree felling and a diversion over the peat bogs set up - complete with floor mats, signs every 100m and fixed ropes up the steep sections. It was not quite the immersion in nature I'd been looking for, and to begin with I still had trouble relaxing, but half way up we came across a family - three children 5, 7 and 9 years old - at the top of a steep muddy slope. The two older kids were having a ball and eager to reach the top, but the youngest one was quite upset as her mother wouldn't let her slide back down the slope. She plonked herself down in a strop.

I had to chuckle - it reminded me of a story my dad used to tell; apparently when I was around the same age we exited the forest, and looking up at the front face of the summit, I saw a bunch of climbers on ropes. I asked if we could go that way, and when he said no, sat down in the huff... it was the south face or nothing as far as I was concerned.

The thought of my early display of pig-headedness bordering on the absurd (a trait I still carry), seemed to snap me out of it, and for the next couple of hours I felt relaxed and back to normal. It was wonderful to soak up the views and the winter sunshine, without fear in the background.

I don't suppose I'm out of the woods yet, but I've felt much better over the few days since, and this morning I managed to really engage my mind in my yoga practice for the first time. Mountains and crags definitely have a strong effect on my mental well-being... I think it's about time to have another go at getting on the road.

It would be nice to have some climbing to talk about ;)

The strop was soon over and much fun being had once more... perhaps a good lesson in letting go of things!

Ploughing up the peat bog by fixed rope or by crook.

Someone had decided to decorate a lone christmas tree growing by the path.

The first view of the summit, and that "south face" I wanted to climb at 5 years old...

A busy summit, with views over Loch Katrine

Loch Achray from the summit. In the distance you can see the Campsie Fells (the hills above Gargunnock I get to play in)

It was sunny, but was the end of November in Scotland, so the trusty Alpkit down jacket was needed on a windy top.

The clouds on the hills looking west over Loch Katrine were beautiful... unfortunately from a distance the camera doesn't really do them justice.

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