The Bibbulmun: an afterword

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. I wrote this four weeks after I finished.

It feels like something is happening. A really deep, seismic shift. The deep cores of worthlessness, hopelessness, self disgust and despair are being aired, opened, examined. In a new light – the light of feminism (I was conditioned to hate myself by society!).

There’s a part of me unfurling – it feels inevitable and un-doable. And as though it’s going to change a bunch of stuff. There’s a crack, and I can finally let the light in. I don’t need to hide anymore. I can actually be me. Embody myself. All of myself. With love and acceptance. And without blame or judgement. If feels like I might finally be able to love myself. For reals.

I’m kind of shy and excited to meet this fresh new self who’s emerging, like a soft pink new born. Like when you’re a kid and you see your favourite cousin who you haven’t seen for ages, for a few moments you feel shy and don’t make eye contact. Then one of says ‘you want to go play?’ and then you hold hands and go off together, inseparable until your parents force you into two separate cars at the end of the night. It’s like that, meeting this new, soft and shiny self. Only this time we get to hold hands and run off together, and not leave in two cars. This time we stay and play together.

Right now though, I’m still at the shy part. I’m anticipating it’s going to be fun but I’m not yet brave enough to offer my hand. It also feels good not rushing it. I can sense the unfurling, but there’s no shortcut or speeding it up. It’s going to bloom in it’s own time. Somehow I feel certain that it’s happening though. Even though there’s not that much evidence yet, something feels different.

When I finished the Bibb, I was disappointed that with all the time I spent mulling over the problems in my life, I hadn’t solved any of them. I didn’t think I had any answers, no conclusions about whatthefuckdoidowithmylife. And yet, since coming home, everything is shifted and nothing is what it was before.

Each day, each km, each step – they were like gentle waves on a beach, each washing away another fine layer of silt, to eventually reveal what beauty lay beneath the whole time – beauty that was previously concealed. Me.

The Bibbulmun: day thirty four – Gardener -> Lake Maringup (closed) -> Dog Pool

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Yesterday’s walk was beautiful, after a late start of around 12:45 thanks to Motel Woman. Wildflowers best yet. Not too hilly and nice soft sandy track. Arrived to no roof on hut (sigh) so put up tent – didn’t rain! Roof builder contractors there, very ‘like, how far youse been walking?’ and barbequing sausages on their portable gas stoves. I was hoping they might share but no luck.

Got up early to avoid rain (woke at 4:44) left around 6:10. Long long fucking day. The ‘temporary site’ to replace the flooded Lake Maringup was literally 2 jerry cans at the junction of the 4WD tracks. Glad I didn’t plan to camp there. 33km total. Also big debacle about which way to go at Chesapeake road junction – all for nothing in the end as Chesapeake road has moved since map was printed. Listened to some Harry and some Amy Poelher Yes Please audio book where she said writing a book was hard –and something about ‘it’s the doing of it’ that is the important part. Trying to remember that with the walking. Feel am just ‘getting through it’ again, hanging out for Walpole. Although enjoying bits today, my body is sore and I am tired and feel I could finish at this point feeling satisfied, if this were the end of the track. But it’s not. Still some 300km to go. So fucking far. The question WHY does come up, but is no longer relevant. Now it’s that I’ve started and want to finish. Don’t know why. Don’t know why it would feel so bad to stop early. I’m not even considering stopping as an option, even as I spend all day hanging out for when I can stop for a break, when I get to camp, when I get to town, when I’m done!

At Dog Pool now, it’s nice but still no shelter. I actually slept better last night in my tent, but like to have the shelter to lie around in. At least it’s not raining yet – only a few showers today, but thunderstorms tipped for tomorrow. Shelter at least tomorrow, if not a fire. Tonight is the last hut with a fire pit! Still 4 more nights until next town. At least tomorrow is only 19.5km. Had my first wading today – avoided first few big puddles but eventually accepted defeat and just went through it. Feet are white and peeling and all the pad of my foot part of the injinji socks I found are worn through. Dirt is ingrained in hands and feet, I’m sticky from dried sweat and can’t even be bothered to wash. Such is life.

The Bibbulmun: day twenty two – REST DAY! Balingup

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Resty rest, big brekkie of THE MOST amazing rye sourdough, eggs, left over roast veg from last night. ‘Lunch’ at Lady Marmalade in Kirup – consisting of lemon meringue cake, coffee, almond croissant. BEST. Dinner at Greenbushes ‘exchange hotel’. Sunday roast – with Clare and Lyn (from the March Girls). Basically just the most amazing food in this tiniest of towns – Balingup is so little there’s literally no where open for dinner. You have to drive to the next town to find somewhere to eat.

**Note: I am still craving the taste of that rye sourdough. Also I looked up the lemon meringue cake recipe when I got home and I’ve made it several times. It’s the best.

Let’s get real

I’m tired of reading about people who have beaten their demons.

We get a story written about us in a newspaper or on a website?when the story is along the lines of: “how I beat depression”, followed by a saga of how shitty we used to feel, until we discovered xyz, and now look at us, we’re great! And Happy! And here’s five tips you can take away if you want to be like us.

“I used to be fat and unhappy, until I lost weight and now people want to hear my story because I finally fit the image of what society says I should look like!”

“I used to be sad and cry all the time until I started exercising and now it’s worth talking about me because I’m a well adjusted professional functioning as society says I should!”

“I used to work in a corporate soul sucking job until I started my own business and now it’s worth writing a story about me because I’m really attractive and happy and rich! I’m successful, just how society says I should be!”

The message we get from this? My story is only valid when I’ve dropped my baggage and imperfections, and achieved success.

I want to see more stories about the people in the trenches. The people who are living with being obese, and how that is for them. The people who are living with difficult emotions, and what its like trying to go through life with that. The people who are still stuck in the jobs they don’t really like, and how that affects them in their day to day.

But that wouldn’t be inspiring, would it. That wouldn’t be click bait-y enough to get published – “I used to be overweight and I still am.” “I was depressed, until for a while?I thought I wasn’t, then I realised I still was.” “I was working in a corporate, soul sucking job, until I quit and got a different, soul sucking job.”

But you know what that would be? Real. People are already commenting?on how social media presents an unrealistic image that we all compare ourselves to, by only sharing our happy photos and brag worthy status updates. But it’s not just social media. It’s all media. You are story-worthy once you’ve gotten over your shitty past, achieved something great, and shed your imperfections along the way.

I saw a story recently about a person who used to have depression, until?she ‘beat’ depression, and now she sits on various boards of influence and has started a not-for-profit to help others who are like she used to be. Which is awesome, we need more of that. But when I’m feeling down, it’s also just another way that triggers me to think that I’ve failed. That I wont be good enough until I can fix myself from being the way I am, and become something great; some Louise 2.0, which is all the great, funny, compassionate, likeable parts of me, without the tired, irritable, depressed, achey parts of me. The Louise who starts meaningful businesses with purpose, who makes a difference to peoples’ lives, who tells her story of how I ‘used to be’ and how different that is from how I am now.

But what if it’s not so different? What if I’m still dealing with a bunch of the same stuff??

A person called me the other day, wanting to work with me. She told me she resonated with what I’d written about my story, about using movement as a tool to improve my mood, about the struggle with apathy and hateful self-talk. She told me that I seem “perfect”. That I seem to have figured it out and she wants to be like me. I literally burst into laughter. And I told her that I still deal with those things, I still find myself thinking from time to time, that I’m a piece of shit. She was surprised. I told her, the thing that has changed is that I don’t necessarily believe it straight away now. I question it. (Sometimes – sometimes I fall straight back down the rabbit hole). I’m not saying that this is all there is to hope for, that one day I might be able to get to a point where I don’t ever have the thought that I’m a piece of shit anymore, but for now, I’m still right down in the shit with everyone else.

And I feel sad to think that people might read my story and think that I’ve passed through the storm, that I’ve made it to the tropical island and I live in peace and happiness. Because the reality is that I am still on the boat, and ride out storms with frustrating regularity. I’m tired of reading about other people hanging out on that island, drinking cocktails seemingly without a care in the world, because I can’t relate. I want to read more about the other people who are on a solo mission around the world, weathering storms, icebergs, ripped sails and giant whales. The other people who are feeling?the grit and the rawness of life. Who also, incidentally, get to see some pretty amazing rainbows out there on the ocean.

PS – where did that sailing/ocean metaphor pop up from? I don’t know.

what it’s like to live in a depressed mind

Sometimes there’s doom in my mind

Doom, death and destruction. There’s an air of hopelessness, of grey. My mind points out all the things that are wrong with me, that are wrong with the world. The terror, the death, the injustices and the atrocities that occur daily. It’s fucking depressing in here. How is a person meant to thrive with this going on inside their head, all day every day? When the one who you rely on to advise you, advises you that the world is shit, that you are shit, that it’s all fucked? Sometimes it feels like it’s not worth living when living feels like this.

But.

My mind is also the opposite.

It’s also the place of light and love. It’s the place that keeps trying, keeps offering me new solutions about what might work to make me feel better. It keeps driving my body to get outside and exercise, even when I feel so so tired, tired to my bones. It’s my mind who offers me gems like this little thought –> maybe it’s the world that’s fucked, and depression is a natural, normal response to that. Maybe I’m the ‘normal’ one to feel down about all these things!
My mind can interact with other people I let inside my bubble in these moments, and connect with them on a level so deep that many never make it there. My mind points out that it’s my depression that creates this connection. That and the other person in the interactions’ own brand of fuckedupness.

It’s my mind that tells me that perhaps if I read a book I’ll feel better. It’s my mind that encourages me to cuddle my partner, and phone my mum. It’s my mind that points out that far from the idea that my depression makes me a crap phoney in my profession (movement for mental health and wellbeing) it is actually the greatest gift I can offer the people I work with. I’ve been there. I am there. I get it.

inside-my-depressed-mind

And it’s my mind that reminds me I can offer hope.

Not the hope of a cure, I’m not touting ‘do what I do and you can be like me, cured!’ but rather, hope of a life worth living.

When I’ve been depressed is when I’ve been able to write my most connecting pieces of writing. The pieces that other people connect with, because they’ve been there too. The pieces that talk about grey, about disconnect and overwhelm. About the lack of colour and vibrance in a life. About the drag, the constant drag, where getting through a day feels like wading through honey. All while you plaster a smile on your face, for the moments when you have to make eye contact with people who, if you’re not careful, might see what’s happening behind your eyes. Because what would happen if they did? Society says you wouldn’t be respected at your job anymore. Your employer might find a reason to ‘let you go’. You might lose a perception of capability. People might think you are weak, selfish. Or wallowing in your own self-pity.

You know what though? When I tell people I am feeling depressed, or when I talk about how I’ve felt depressed in the past, the most common thing that comes up?

“Me too.”

It gives people the safety and permission to bare their own soul. It provides a space where they know they won’t be judged. It lets people just be, whoever they are, at their core.

I’m in this profession because I care, and because I’ve been there.

Because I have experienced, in my own mind, my own viscera, the difference it can make. The way movement opens us up to emotions we’ve been holding in. The way muscles clenching and relaxing bursts energy rushing through our veins. The way breath and movement in synch creates the space for us to just be, a blessed relief from the pounding, repetitive thoughts that are so often around at the moment.

I thank my mind for the hope and love and support it gives me, and equally for the depths it’s taken me to, for the connection it’s led to. If it’s anything, this life is a crazy adventure.

Has your fuckupness ever led to a deeper connection? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. xx