It was a difficult weekend. I was left alone at home after 6 weeks under constant supervision in hospital. My mood was already low and thoughts dark. I kept going back to my distraction plan to try to keep things at bay. I’d taken some medication and had reached the limit of what I could take. The intrusive thoughts telling me to harm myself were louder than ever. I decided I needed to get out of the house. I packed a bag and a spur of the moment decision made me throw in a tea towel and my crocs (this will become clearer later). I decided I needed to get to the river.
I stormed my way through the park and felt myself start to calm a little as I admired the blossoms all around which seem particularly brilliant this year. I found myself a quiet spot to sit in a meadow and just sat with myself. I remembered the object meditation exercise we had done in a mindfulness group with the Autism service last week. Somehow studying nature makes more sense to me, rather than a random object. I spent some time studying the strands of meadow grass and their insect inhabitants. I noticed that I was starting to feel calmer and enjoyed the feeling of warmth from the sun on my body. The details of the grasses surrounding me drew me in. After some time I roused myself and began walking again, more slowly this time. Gently touching the leaves of the different plants that I passed, noticing how they felt different on my skin and feeling the pin prick spike of the holly gently jabbing me back into the moment.
As soon as I reached the river I got into it, the sound was overwhelming of the crashing weir and the icy cold water on my feet a joy. When people suggest shocking yourself with ice or a rubber band to avoid self harm it’s never quite made sense to me, but standing in the river feeling the pain of the cold I suddenly understood why I love being immersed in cold water, it’s all consuming. I continued my adventure following the course of a small stream which led away from the water, concentrating on moving carefully through the stream bed, on the placement of each foot and hand. The shade and earthy smell of the stream bed was a nice contrast to the warmer sun in the river. When I got back into the main river to retreat my way home my thoughts had stopped buzzing round my head, instead they were consumed by the storm of river fly dancing over the river bed being highlighted by the glints of sun coming through the trees. No-one else was in the river, it was just me and my senses.
As I walked back through the park to make my way home I took off my crocs and enjoyed the feeling of the grass between my toes as I walked.
The following day I woke up feeling unwell, I still felt a need to get out though. As I am recovering from an eating disorder I’ve agreed that I will walk for no more than an hour a day. This can feel challenging for me and reducing exercise is even harder than increasing intake of nutrition. I spent the morning reading a download about mindful photography by Lee Aspland . Before my hospital admission I’d found mindful photography practice really helpful, but lately my mood has been too low to even think about picking up my camera. Reading about it again reminded me of how much it helps me. I went out in my Crocs and took them off at the soonest opportunity. The feel of the grass between my toes was so soothing, it was wet from the previous nights dew. I found myself slowing down and seeking out textures which felt good on my feet – clover being particularly nice.
I found a large fallen tree and enjoyed walking up and down it’s trunk barefoot. Exploring the texture. It was highlighted by the sun and a perfect spot to rest. I sat for a long time and took one photo.
This was an area of woodland I had often rushed through when unwell, trying to walk a certain number of steps, my illness had for a time clouded my love for this place. The slower I walked, the more I noticed, the clearer my head was. As I took photos I tried to convey how I’d been feeling recently and how I want to feel if I can reach a better place. Occasionally I would deviate from the lush grass to walk on a parched piece of cracked mud, I enjoyed the contrast in texture – the sharper parts of the mud reminding me of my feet carrying me on my journey. It was interesting to watch how my feet moved as they stepped forwards.
I took a more urban walk back to my house as my increased diet means I am getting through bread and milk at a rate of knots and needed to go to a shop to resupply. I was still taking everything in as I walked and my last two photos of my exploration perhaps highlight what has happened and my strength in pushing forwards.