Not many people like to discuss their mental health in a public forum, even as our society gets more awareness and the stigma (very slowly) is becoming less prominent.
When I began my preparations for hiking the Appalachian Trail, I was mostly concerned with the logistics of how to go about this hike – from being a couch potato and binging Netflix, Junk Food, and Beer, to being someone who could summit mountains in the backcountry wilderness, with nothing but the equipment in my pack – and what exactly that equipment would be. Or, how would I get food, walking through the woods? Or perhaps the most important – how and where to poop?
But as the time progresses and my journey comes nearer and nearer, I am faced with the overwhelming reality of it, and my preparations have begun becoming more based on my physical ability to hike, and the mental ability to persevere in tough times.
And there will indeed be tough times.
I am hiking for those who can’t get out of bed in the morning, or those who stay in bed all day. I am hiking for those who don’t step foot out of their apartment for weeks on end, or only go out because they desperately need groceries. I am hiking for those who ostracize themselves but yearn for companionship. I am hiking for those who feel lonely at parties, surrounded by their closest friends. I am hiking for those who have wallowed in ideas of suicide, thought about how useless they are, how they’ll never be the person they want to be for whatever reason. I am hiking for the women who see themselves as just blobs of fat and flesh, undesirable, unattractive, and unwanted. For the men who are just as exposed to society’s idea of beauty and found themselves wanting.
I am hiking because most of the above paragraph has been me, my thoughts and ideas, for several years – perhaps something I haven’t shared with anyone before. My battle with depressive feelings and apathy has gone one for most of my life. I also struggle with intrusive thoughts, which is to say unwanted and disturbing thoughts I don’t have much control over. Anyone with depression or OCD may be able to resonate clearly with me – I have some of these thoughts, all day every day.
It doesn’t make me a bad person. Being overweight doesn’t make me a bad person, nor does it make anyone else in the world any less capable and worthy of affection, or lacking ambition. Having suicidal ideations does not make you in any way less.
All I do know if that when I am out in the wilderness, I am able to be more authentically myself. I don’t worry about whether the fabric of my shirt is too tight around my stomach, or whether I am being judged by those I pass on a trail. I feel the mud and earth around me, and that is enough.
Hike for Mental Health is an organization that believes in much the same ideas that I do. The trails of the wilderness are the great leveler – the wild country doesn’t care about your experience. Each mountain climb is just as difficult, each peak not a guaranteed success, everyone arrives to the shelters and hostels sweaty, smelly, and out of breath. All proceeds donated to Hike for Mental Health are directed back to conservation of the wild trails, such as the Appalachian Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail as well as directly into foundations and research surrounding mental health illnesses and awareness.
My goal is .25 cents for every mile of the trail. If all you can spare is a quarter, then that’s one entire mile of the trail that I’ll be walking down, from April to September. That’s 2000 steps, on average.
If you can’t donate, leave a message of encouragement, or share this page to get the word out.
You’ll be with me the entire way!
Please feel free to follow my journey:
1 in 4 families is affected by mental illness.
HIKE for Mental Health is a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded on the vision of a world in which everyone, including those who suffer mental illness, can find the simple joy of living.
Our mission is to alleviate the suffering of those afflicted by mental illness, eliminate the associated stigma, and foster responsible use of wilderness trails.
As an all-volunteer organization, we distribute 100% of contributions raised by our hikes.
- 80% funds scientific research to understand and treat mental illness
- 20% conserves national wilderness trails
Your donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by the IRS. Thank you for your support.
To learn more, visit hikeformentalhealth.org.
To join a hike click here.