Facing mental health issues leaves you caught in the headlights. It strips you of everything you think is essential and forces you to reevaluate your life, and that's what has happened to me.
There are times when breathing can seem like a real effort and waking up like a punishment. Crazy, I know, but thats how my issues with mental health can alter my thinking. And yet I am not my illness, and every day I strive to take up the challenge to celebrate life for all that it is.
Now I don't need anyone to tell me that my life is worthwhile, because the mere miracle that I exist is enough to keep me free.
Having grown up exploring our country’s most stunning landscapes, I've naturally become a bit addicted to getting out and about exploring new places. I've climbed some of the world’s highest mountains, walked trails that follow world-renowned archaeological discoveries, and ventured through some of the most tranquil valleys and mystical forests this planet has to offer.
My reason for hiking is one of discovery and awareness.
There are incredible landscapes all around us but so few of us dare to venture into these seemingly inhospitable lands for fear of failure or becoming lost.
But getting outside and spending time in nature is now more important than ever before, with obesity rates maintaining record highs and mental health issues affecting over 1-4 individuals. It's not surprising then that hiking attracts walkers from all backgrounds, many seeking a challenge, others wanting to break free from the monotony of everyday life.
Over the last couple of years I've filmed each of my adventures in order to capture the unique and priceless beauty of our country and beyond, and to encourage my viewers to don their walking boots and head outside to spend more time in the wild.
I truly believe the most important and beautiful things we can have in life are not material objects, but memories, people, and places, and that life is generally better in hiking boots!
It's when I'm out walking that I can best council myself through my illness. Alongside building a strong support network, getting outside and taking time to reconnect with nature has helped me move further along the road of personal recovery.
One time I wrote a letter to myself and I often look back over it. Now I want to be bold enough to share and reveal how a mixture of calming nature and daring adventure has helped to restore my perspective. I think there is something in it for all of us who chase light and want to be more than armchair adventurers:
You owe it to the world to be the best version of yourself, to choose the venture outside of your comfort zone and be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your heart on fire.
I see how your mental illness affects you day in and day out; it's frustrating, debilitating and restricting. It robs you of your joy, connection, and your energy, leaving you feeling isolated and desperate, lost inside your head and caught in a cycle of negative coping mechanisms.
But there's a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.
Keep embracing the challenges that come your way, for they are what make life interesting, and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. Your soul craves adventure for personal growth and healing, but that doesn't always mean hanging off a rope on a cliff.
Adventure is an attitude that you must apply to the day-to-day trials of life - it takes perseverance and practice, it's choosing life over death, audacity over fear, hope over doubt. It's taking your dreams seriously and undertaking whatever you are being called to, even if it means going alone.
I know it seems scary, but I can guarantee you'll come away feeling more courageous, fulfilled, and closer to the person you were born to be.
You were made to do more than just exist, so stay curious and go where the sun greets the mountains and the waves kiss the shore, and never give up, because great things take time, and you are more than great, you're flipping awesome!
Don't let go. You grow stronger every time you hit a wall and decide to keep going anyway. The pain is real, but so is hope.
So to anyone reading this who is struggling – you are seen.
Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is to choose to continue to live when you feel like giving up; to set your sights on what a rare and beautiful thing it is to exist.
Keep breathing, keep smiling, and keep chasing your dreams. It takes a courageous heart and a brave soul to commit to the unknown. Now all you have to do is decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.
About Abbie Barnes
Abbie is a 21-year-old semi-professional filmmaker specialising in the development of documentary-films following adventure expeditions and wildlife conservation projects. She has gained national and international recognition for her work regarding environmental protection and continues to strive towards encouraging her audience to 'Spend More Time In The WILD' for the benefit of mental and physical wellbeing, as well as increasing their appreciation of the natural world around them.
Alongside media production, Abbie runs guided walks and talks for those looking to get out to the wilder areas of the UK for the first time, and is a passionate advocate for seeing people overcome whatever setbacks they face to become the best version of themselves. She also works as a personal trainer, running coach and class instructor, is a qualified bushcraft instructor and and is studying for a BSc with the Open University in Geography and Environmental Science. Most importantly, she's an over-enthusiastic dog lover and is forever getting distracted writing songs on her ukulele...
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