Earlier this week, I read what I thought was an incredible post from Katrina Megget, who wrote very open and honestly about her own struggles with self-doubt. Of course, personal realities like this are not often showcased across social media, in favour of the near-perfect images and quotes that will often attract the interactions from an audience.
Feeling inspired from reading Katrina’s own experiences, I’d like to write of my own.
There have been occasions in the past where I’ve mentioned and perhaps even discussed my own struggles with mental health generally. Anxiety and depression are a part of this mix. Being able to head outdoors on a weekend (and summer evening) has been essential for me in my efforts to ‘survive’ general life at times, over the past seven years.
From the images and posts on this blog and with the videos I produce on YouTube, it may be easy for someone to look at this evidence and believe that ‘Olly’s okay’ and that I do these things naturally… In reality, even when I’m looking forward to event, I am wrestling with my own experiences and feelings of self-doubt.
This is probably one of my biggest current ‘triggers’ towards feelings and thoughts of self-doubt, in an outdoors-related environment. Some of my common thoughts may include:
-I’m not doing enough to look after, entertain or keep in touch with the whole group.
-I should’ve picked a different path/altered the route.
-Am I sure I’m going the right way?
-I am going the right way but the group have carried on… I’ve lost control.
-I’m walking too fast. Some people must hate me.
People may tell me afterwards that they enjoyed the walk, they’ll even say thank you and then, with my head full of self-doubt, I’ll find myself unable to fully process and accept these external opinions as an alternate truth.
Walking With Friends
When walking with someone else of even a small group of friends, I often put myself forward to lead walks and so, it’s rare that I’ll be following in someone else’s lead.
-Are they really enjoying this walk?
-Is this route actually harder or less interesting than I anticipated?
-If something goes wrong, will that affect my friendship with this person/these people?
-I’m not talking enough. I have nothing to say. I’m not good enough to have friends.
Walking By Myself
My experiences of self-doubt while walking alone can be heightened by attempts and efforts to film myself.
-What if someone sees me walking back and forth with the camera?
-I think they saw me. They must think I’m really weird.
-Am I going the right way? That person might be the landowner, ready to tell me I’m wrong.
-Sometimes, I don’t enjoy walking by myself as much as with others.
-It’s not normal to walk alone. Normal people walk with others. I’m not normal.
There’s the truth… And The Truth.
In response to some of these concerns, I have never had a friend complain to me afterwards about any aspect of a walk. Even when someone’s fallen in a river or slipped hard on ice (both of which have occurred this year).
There was a particular group walk towards the end of 2017 where I’m certain that a couple of people didn’t enjoy the intense experience. While this was partly due to the unexpectedly knee-deep snow and 40mph wind, I know that I didn’t have to drag people all the way to a particular trig point and back, before beginning our descent.
For some people, I will never be open and chatty enough. But I would not regard those people as my closest friends and the ones I do tend to walk with privately will often appreciate moments and minutes of quiet time, away from the busy world of an average working week.
It was only in August 2012 that I started walking by myself. Properly walking; taking to the hills and leaving the forty-five minute dog walks to their own. For several months, I’d postponed the idea, based on a believe that ‘I couldn’t do it by myself’. That I needed someone with me to metaphorically hold my hand… History has proven that this is untrue.
Two years later and I had my first ever camping trip planned for the summer. A chance to explore Dorset and a stretch of the Jurassic Coast. This was arranged to happen with a friend – because I believed I couldn’t face it alone – who happened to be struck down with an awful cold as the weekend arrived. I almost didn’t go. Even with everything packed and ready to load in to my car, I could’ve locked the door and excused myself…
From an experience in which I would discover my first true sense of adventure. A proper holiday (sort of), of which I hadn’t known for a decade. It’s possible there are things I did by myself that I wouldn’t have expected a friend to follow along with. From then on, these solo camping trips became a regular theme through the summer months and now, I’m preparing for my second backpacking trip in as many years.
For what may be the first time in writing on this blog, I have not felt entirely comfortable putting certain words and sentences on to this screen. It’s been harder than I’d expected and I’m sure there is more I could right – for example, I could look at situations like work, away from the outdoors world. There are also some beliefs that I am not comfortable sharing.
But I try to write honestly on this site and to be as open as I am prepared to be. I am not a fan of the ‘living life to the full’ and ‘always smiling’ culture that plagues social media and, if my blog fails to reach the limelight because of that then, so be it.