Emotions, ugh!

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My scene during a long road walk that matches my mood lately.

I’m not really sure how to explain it, but it seems as though I’m suffering from the late onset of post-hike roller-coaster emotions. I suppose I’ve been on a crazy high since getting home, and I also suppose I knew that it would eventually fade a little. I wish it didn’t have to. It was so exciting to see everyone when I first got back, and I was so determined to keep hiking in my life as much as I could since I’m not working for a few months. I could stay in shape, stay in touch, keep the memories fresh and stay strong mentally. However, over the past few days I’ve felt a slight depressive knot kind of grow inside of me, and it’s clouding my motivation and bringing me down from that awesome high I’ve been on since last March. It is fading, dangit, and that’s kind of a bummer.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’ve got a lot of cool stuff to look forward to and I haven’t forgotten that, but it’s still tough to push though with these bugs that eat away at me on a day-to-day basis. One of the biggest things that is certainly not helping is my being so hard on myself. I need to stop. What happens is I start telling myself that I should be stronger after enduring a 6-month thru-hike. I should be so mentally strong that I can take on anything thrown at me and bat it away with a flick of my finger and a smirk on my face. I was angry at myself for a couple of days because I struggled to get my buns outside for a run or a hike. Since I’m not working yet, I’ve got several days of no plans strung in a row. Shouldn’t I want to just be outside, doing as much as I can as often as I can? Shouldn’t I be hanging on to my hiker’s high as long as I can? How could this have faded so quickly? Wait a second… don’t I really LOVE to hike? To be outside? What the heck is wrong with me? Something has got to be wrong… but what is it?

Well, maybe nothing. Maybe I just need to stop being so hard on myself, or maybe I can try to harness some of this anger and use it to my advantage. Maybe I can get stubborn. I’m not exactly sure what I might do with it yet, but for today I will try to deal with these crazy emotions by throwing it all out here, in words, while trying to sort it out instead of letting it stew.

To my family and friends at home, please don’t take offense to this, because I would be a total mess if it weren’t for you and your company, but I’m lonely. I miss my trail family. I miss having people around me that understand the trail me. All of us as thru-hikers have been asked why we wanted to thru-hike, and most of us can’t really put our finger on it, or have a hard time coming up with an explanation that feels satisfactory. It’s like there just aren’t words to answer it, but when we’re out on that trail together, we just know. It’s an unspoken understanding, and I think that’s a big part of what turned us into such a special family. We were all brought together on this particular trail at a particular time in our lives, all with a common goal, and together for six straight months we shared smiles, struggles, laughter, pain, and genuine happiness throughout it all.

I’m trying so hard to sort through these feelings, and explain through words how I’m feeling and what it’s like to miss the great adventure I’m still coming down from, but it can’t really be described. But I can guarantee you that if I were sitting down with any of the people I hiked with this year, all it would take is a certain look, and they would respond with a confident, “I get it.” It’s just hard to explain. Pretty soon my emotions will level out and I will feel like I blend back in with regular society. The highlights from my PCT hike will be placed in a special place in my heart and mind to recall whenever I need a smile, and I can continue forward into my next adventure… all the while secretly wondering when I might be able to hike another long hike. It’s going to be a constant thought, forever, even though I might not talk about it. It’ll always be there.

I’m sure a lucky girl. I have all of these confusing feelings because of something really special. It’s because of a very unique experience filled with many amazing people, and I am so incredibly lucky to have all of that in my life. Maybe this loneliness isn’t a bad thing, but instead, maybe it’s something to feel happy about. Maybe it’s just a way to always remember and work towards staying in touch with those that I am so lonely for.

It does help to write about it and try to organize some of my feelings, so if you’re still reading, thanks for hanging in there with me! Now I’m going to work on not forgetting or ignoring any of it, but kind of riding it along until things level out. Next time I’ll be able to talk a little more about the fun stuff I’ve been doing and focus on some of the things I’m looking so forward to! Yup, I’m gonna take these emotional struggles, bat them away with that flick of my finger and a quirky smile on my face. I can still do that, right?

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Post-run... battling the blues the best way I know how.


Tonight I love blue sky. It’s been hiding out most of the time since I’ve been home, but when it shows itself, I’m sure to look up and feel thankful that it’s there. In fact, it’s there right now. I think I’ll go for a run.

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9 thoughts on “Emotions, ugh!

  1. Part of this is chemical. Your body and brain has been used to being bathed in endorphins ALL DAY LONG when you were physically active ALL DAY LONG. Plus you had a sense of purpose that is no longer there.

    Connect with your fellow hikers early and often. This helps, although there are no perfect strategies to get through the post thruhike transition.

  2. Hey Robin, I don’t consider myself a thru hiker with my longest trail being the JMT for 18 days. However, after following your blog and others for over 5 months almost daily, I somewhat get it. I googled “post thru-hike transition” and it is a common and expected occurrence amongst you thru hikers. However, since there aren’t any books about it that address it directly, maybe your in the place you need to be in order to get the word out and to assist others through this. You always found the positive even in the negative situations and maybe this is it. Thank You Robin..

  3. I agree with Rebecca; you’re in detox right now. This is common with all sports that are extreme and long term. I recommend finding a new fitness goal that can fit in your current lifestyle. For instance, if you like running, work on a marathon by setting intermediate goals of a 10K, 12K, 1/2 marathon, 20K, marathon, over the next year or so. To get the same kind of endorphin rush, you would have to do a lot of hiking, which isn’t practical for most people. Bicycling, swimming or Triathlon goals are another possibility. You need a schedule that is forced, like it was when hiking. Joining an athletic group or get one or more friends to sign up for the same goal; it will help maintain the discipline. I think a fresh athletic goal is all you need.

  4. billweberx is right; you need a new goal. I hiked the PCT in chunks over a six year period. It was a driving force that I planned and carried out for all those years. Last year when I finished, I felt this huge let down. I no longer knew what to do with myself or what to focus on. I live in Portland near Forest Park, which has about 80 miles of trail. Over the winter I decided I would hike them all, and it ended up recquiring 130 miles of actual walking. It was a little thing by PCT standards, but it gave me that sense of being outside and having something to work toward. I considered it an interim outdoor goal until the next one presented itself. So find the thing that no matter how small will keep you going until the next big thing rolls around. Make it up if you have to, and if you can get others to jump on board with you, all the better. You will again have that sense of trail family and that feeling of being in it together.

    • Well.. my point is that hiking for endorphins may not be the right goal as it requires too much time to get the same physical payback. While back in civilization, running, biking, swimming, surfing, etc., are more practical ways to get the endorphins flowing again.

  5. Robin, I felt impressed to tell you how much I enjoyed reading about your hike as it occurred . I check in regularly to see if you have posted. I hope all is well with you. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

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