Black Dog Blog

Absence of wonderment

It’s been nearly 2 weeks since I last blogged. I’ve being writing, its just been more personal and reflective than usual and it’s not really suitable for consumption over WordPress. So, my apologies for seeming quiet.

The last time I wrote a blog I was in Bowness of Solway. I was about to begin the Hadrian’s Wall Path, while at the same time trying to revive my sense of adventure that has recently decided to lay dormant in my despondent, fogged up little mind. Staying one step ahead of depression was never a problem on the first half of my challenge, from what I remember. If it was it was clearly far easier to manage back then. There are differences, quite discernible differences, in what I was doing last year and what I’m doing this year. I mean ultimately the goals are the same; it’s the same formula and the same approach, but where I am, both in myself and geographically, has changed a lot, and spending time away from my friends and family has been far more challenging to adjust to on the second leg, as a result.

It didn’t help my absence of wonderment that the section of the Hadrian’s Wall Path between Bowness and Carlisle had about as much charm and allure as a potty full of mushy peas with a picture of Michael Gove’s face on it (sorry that’s really harsh, and potentially libellous – I didn’t mean any offence by that; I’m sure regardless of whatever vessel they’re in, mushy peas still taste very, very nice). And I don’t mean to be disrespectful to this part of the country either, most of the Hadrian’s Wall Path is wonderful. I was just a bit disappointed that the first 15 miles was made up almost entirely of roads and overgrown, muddy farm tracks; and I’m the sort of prat that needs ruins and tourist information in plain sight in order for me to romanticise historic land in that way. But the sections of the wall path around Burtholme and Greenhead ARE beautiful, and I found myself wanting to take advantage of how flat this part of the country is, so I hitched a ride with two young-hearted muso’s in their fifties (who were on their way to a Manic Street Preachers gig in Newcastle), dumped my pack at a friends house, swapped my hiking boots for running shoes and bussed it back to Hexham so I could run the final stretch to Wallsend. Once I’d done that, I felt amazing.

I decided not to document the run, as I’ve started to feel that part of my slipping back into feeling depressed has come from me being increasingly active on social media, especially since the documentary aired. The number of people on twitter who gave a shit about who I was before I was on TV was probably about 75; I since acquired close to 5,000 followers. I’ve acquiesced in my commitment to maintain a consistently informative and thought provoking social media presence, because it’s all too easy to tumble down the rabbit hole and let ego and acceptance get in the way of me making a real difference, especially when so many people agree with what I’m saying (I totally see the irony there, by the way). Also I really don’t want my first instinct when I see the sea to be to take my phone out and start taking fucking pictures. What goods that doing me? Seeking validation for what one believes in, what life one’s living or what you look like over social media is a problem that seriously concerns me, especially when it comes to mental health in young people. I feel lucky that I’m old enough to have experienced an adolescence free of smart phones, social media and having all the world’s information in the palm of my hand, because I know from experience that life goes on fine without it. The pressure that we put ourselves under to appear constantly happy, together, social, attractive… can’t possibly be a good thing. But as with most things that are ‘bad’ for us, posting on social media provides us with a quick shot of happiness (a happiness slammer, if you want) when we start to see the Likes rolling in. I’m not saying that social media is entirely a bad thing. Some of the communities on twitter (such as #talkMH, #ukrunners etc) are amazing, safe places for people to connect with others all over the world in a positive, supportive way. And for me, my aim to showcase the natural beauty of Great Britain and to try and get people outside and get moving, is made far easier by being able to upload a picture of the mountain I’m hiking to the top of to Instagram. But we all need a break from it sometimes, and we ALL need to check how much of our day we spend looking into the palm of our hand, and whether that time is making us happy. Because living life vicariously through others isn’t living life at all really, is it. I feel way better since making the decision to limit the time I spend scrolling my news feed, something that my friend and mentor Chevy Rough, Human Performance & Mindfulness Coach has been on my case to do for fucking months (he’s ALWAYS right, arsehole).

So anyway. I left Newcastle after taking a couple of days to chill, stay away from my phone, hang out with Tony (the guy I was staying with) and be sad (to some extent) before heading north along the Northumberland coast. The sea continues to be my most effective type of antidepressant, and having it to my right mile after mile has been awesome. However, I’ve slightly overdone the running (my second most effective antidepressant) a little lately and, as a result, have aggravated an existing ankle injury. It should be fine, I just need to mollycoddle it for a while. But moving forward is essential if I want to stay ahead of the weather when I head into Scotland, so it’s party pace all the way for now.

I hope everyone is well, and thank you once again for your continued support. I’ll check in soon x