Mental Health and the Outdoors
In 2016, I experienced an acute manic episode (essentially a severe bout of psychosis), which led to me being sectioned and detained in both the UK and Singapore. The story is rather large, however, in this blog I’m going to be talking specifically about my recovery and some of the vital elements I attribute to it.
When I became manic, I went ‘high’ rather than ‘low’, this resulted in me believing, to some extent, that I was some form of grandiose messiah. Now, not to dwell on this for too long, but typically after one experiences such a large and prolonged high there is an inevitable ‘low’ period that follows. For me, this meant spending most of my days under a duvet, watching films and just generally feeling sorry for myself. I found my lack of motivation and interest to do anything was one of the hardest aspects; I was in a rut that I felt was impossible to get out of.
Everyone said to me ‘It just takes time’, ‘this feeling won’t last forever’, ‘Dan, you just have to be patient’, but frustratingly no one could actually give me a time frame to work to. I found myself spiralling into thoughts of “Is this who I am now? Am I now going to feel this deflated and insecure for the rest of my life?”. For some reason, these thoughts have a way of snowballing, digging you deeper into a pit of self-pity and worry.
As the days passed and I moved further and further away from the event, I found that getting outside and going for a run gave me a small piece of my life back. It gave me the headspace to reflect, refocus and look towards the future – something that previously terrified me. There was something so therapeutic about the rhythm and pace of running where I could just lose myself in that 20 – 30 mins, where the only thing on my mind was taking the next step. Maybe it was the serotonin rush or one of James Blunt’s absolute bangers playing in my ears but getting outside and exercising was one of the first times I began to feel like myself again.
Now, admittedly, nature and running didn’t help time speed up nor did it let my negative thoughts just disappear, but what it did do was give my brain something else to focus on rather than just repeating the same self-pitying narrative in my head. I’d strongly urge anyone who has been in a similar place or is even having a low couple of days, to get outside and get some fresh air; it really helps to get some perspective.
There’s no one magic pill that will suddenly make all the negative thoughts float away, but getting outside and exercising, a healthy diet, 7-8 hours sleep, therapy, in more severe cases, medication, are all equally valuable treatments in the battle against depression. Don’t get me wrong, some people only need one of those, but by exploring each one gives you the best chance at getting back to yourself.
If you were interested in hearing more about my story, or equally, my recovery, please see the links below. It goes without saying that these are purely my takeaways from my experience and what I’d advise based on that. Everyone has different methods that work for them so the best thing is to get support from medical professionals who will be able to support you to find the best path for your own recovery.