I #hikeOctober because fear can be crippling. I was afraid of one thing or another my entire childhood. I was afraid of more than one thing or another most of my adult life. I am scared of crossing the street without a crosswalk, making unprotected left turns while driving, being alone, peanut shells, anything that flies, crowded rooms, physical contact with strangers, heights, clowns, thunder, strange dogs, germs … The list goes on. I am not completely agoraphobic but I choose to rarely leave my home unless it’s to go to work or to the grocery store.
When I was 28, I went to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area for my first camping trip. I went in winter and the usually crowded summit was empty except for myself and a co-worker. Up there on that giant granite batholith in the Texas hill country, I experienced absolute silence. It was devoid of the sounds of the city. There weren’t even leaves rustling in the trees or birds chirping, which was fine by me because they fly.
The air was still, and for the first time in my life, so was my mind.
I married that man and I’ve spent the last eight years since then hiking every chance I get. In 2015, I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and I have never felt braver. I lived outside for six and a half months, and the only way to do it was to be braver than I was scared. I could be both, but all it took was just an ounce more of bravery to tip the scales … And as every hiker knows, ounces equal pounds. Every day there were things that fly, or strangers to talk to, or roads to cross, or heights to climb, or dogs to approach, or thunder to hear. Thankfully, no clowns. It was all worth it for those occasional moments of absolute silence. Those moments are integral to my mental health. I am still afraid of all of those things, but now I know that they’ll never stop me from putting one foot in front of the other. Now, when I’m in the city, when I’m feeling anxious, I think back to the A.T., and I just remember that all I have to do is be braver than I am scared. I feel like if I can do that, I can do anything.
– Kerry “Cyndi Loppers” Stewart
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.