I #hikeOctober because of the simple peace I find in the outdoors. From the park down the street to the peaks along the Appalachian Trail here in New Jersey, I seek places where I can let out a sigh of relief in between my welcomed heavy breathing from runs, hikes, and bike rides.
The outdoors have been a part of my life since I was young. My parents raised me on National Geographic VHS tapes, and Steve Irwin’s abundantly optimistic voice was a frequent sound in our TV room.
In addition to the beauty of the outdoors, I #hikeOctober because of the personal battles I have had with mental illness. In a relatively short period of time I was both unfortunate and fortunate enough to have experienced the highs, lows, and confusion of anxiety disorder and depression.
For work, friends, and family, I sported the smile I needed to. In the outdoors, there was no need to fake a feeling, nothing to hide. When I look out through rows of trees, rolling hills, and small, winding streams, I am afforded the opportunity to reflect introspectively.
Thinking deeply about yourself is hard. Confronting what is and is not healthy in your life is tough. Choosing to move forward against the unknown is courageous.
Understanding what I was experiencing mentally was hard. Talking about it with family, friends, and strangers was tough. But, I soon learned, that choosing to move forward against this frighteningly new list of daily hurdles, was not simply courageous, it was the only option I had.
When I wake up in the morning I have the choice to get out of bed, or stay in it. When I choose to get up, I have to decide to put my feet on the floor, or fall back to the comfort of my blankets. When I get ready for the day and open the front door of my house I have to choose whether I am going to make it a successful day or let my mental illnesses win.
Today, on October 1st, 2017, my 23rd birthday, I choose success. Success in finding happiness through friends and family. Success in advocating for the continued conversation surrounding mental health stigmas. Success in capturing the beauty of, and protecting the importance of, our shared trails and outdoor spaces.
I #hikeOctober because I finally understand that the only way to change the world is to put one foot in front of the other.
I hope that anyone reading this remembers this important fact, and one other; the power of the individual.
Cutting out throw away plastics in your day to day life makes an impact. Making sure to show up informed on election days, for both local and national ballots, makes an impact. Sharing articles, campaigns, and stories about bettering and protecting the environment, makes an impact. Having a conversation with one other person about mental health, makes an impact.
You can make an impact, and through the collective HIKE for Mental Health #hikeOctober campaign, you can make a big one.
Happy hiking, everyone.
– Brayden Donnelly
This article is part of our #hikeOctober campaign to shed light on the stigma of mental illness and to promote the benefits of hiking. 100% of the funds raised from this campaign will be dedicated to alleviating the suffering of mental illness and to wilderness trail conservancy. If you would like to learn more or add you voice to our I #hikeOctober… series, please contact us.