GAH. This week began pretty disasterously in terms of training. I lost momentum, confidence and precious time.
On Sunday I got up and within an hour I was struggling to keep my eyes open. Along with many people, I am used to not having as much sleep as I would like, being woken in the night and starting the day at stupid-o-clock, and I feel I have adapted to this and function fairly well on not much sleep – which at least is good news for the night trekking. However it came to midday and I had to go to bed for an hour… It came to 3pm and I fell asleep on the sofa for 2 hours… It came to 9pm and I had to go to bed… I slept till 7am and woke up tired.
“I CAN’T BE ILL, I CAN’T BE ILL”, I tried chanting in my head. But my right tonsil was getting sore and I was getting worried. My ear started hurting on Monday and in the evening I went to bed so early that my son was still awake. There was no way I could do any training. I felt washed out, but was also getting anxious about this and my mood started taking a dip. On Wednesday I woke up with sore ears, a sore throat and the world spinning. The irony of having vertigo before being at the top of a mountain was not lost on me.
So… a viral ear and throat infection and a sudden plummet in mood prevented me doing any exercise between Sunday and Thursday. With only 4 weeks to go, this really worried me, which added to the vertigo. For the last few weeks I’d been on a good track, had built up some momentum and was feeling strong. I felt that this week was setting me back about six weeks in terms of fitness, which was probably an over estimation, but that’s what my worryhead said.
Incidently, it probably didn’t help that I forgot to take my medication for 3 days in a row the previous week. IDIOT. Sometimes I get complacent and think I’m so on top of this depression thing. And then I forget to take my tablets and I realise I’m not. Actually, I’m on a dose of anti-depressants which help me stay well and motivated, and it is that medication which enables me to look after my physical health. The strong links between mental and physical wellbeing are well documented. Before I started taking medication 3 years ago, I was over-eating and probably drinking too much through a pure need for comfort, I put on weight, I was reluctant to leave the house unless necessary and exercise did not offer comfort like my sofa, a blanket and some mindless television to stare at. Improving my mental health is what has allowed me to improve my physical health. It was definitely this way round in this particular chicken and egg situation.
In my work as a nurse I feel I am always harping on about the links between physical and mental health. It’s surprising how often physical symptoms are linked to or are a direct result of mental health problems – headaches, nausea, high blood pressure; stress, anxiety, depression. Likewise, when physical health is not good, mental wellbeing can also be vulnerable. The two things are inseparable as they take place within the same body. This brings me round again to the question about why physical illness is seen as so much more ‘real’ than mental illness. The two impact on one another in so many areas of holistic wellbeing – nutrition, personal care, sleep, communication, engagement in activities. Health is health, whether the cause and impact of it’s decline is mental, physical, or both.
By Thursday my anti-depressants were doing their job again and my throat and ears were on the mend. Before I felt ill, I had planned to do my longest walk yet this week. As the week went on and I started to feel better I wondered if I would feel able to. By Sunday I had decided to give it a go. My plan was to walk from my village, to Glastonbury, climb the Tor, and then walk home; an estimated distance of 18 miles.
It took me about 2 and a half hours to get to the outskirts of Glastonbury. It was a sunny day and I settled into the walk at a good pace, walking over the beautiful Levels through Ham Wall Nature Reserve. All was going well and the Tor was getting larger in perspective as I got closer to my half way point.
And then I fell over. Like a child, I tripped over my untied bootlace and fell flat on a particularly stony section of track. I sat on the floor a little dazed and tried to assess the damage, as you do. A car had passed me a few seconds earlier and, bless him, a very kind man leapt out and ran over to me to check I was OK, whether I could walk or not and whether I needed to be taken anywhere. After he had driven off I saw I had cut my left knee, grazed on right shoulder and had fallen hard on both hands. My instinct was immediately that I’d better phone my husband and get him to come and collect me, the blood was dripping down my leg and I felt like I had jarred my neck when I fell. Then I realised I was without my phone due to a debacle before I’d left home, involving this pathetically technologically illiterate individual attempting to download an app to my iPhone and ending up locking it, having to download an update of iTunes and having to restore the phone to factory settings. I had got very grumpy and impatient about this and walked off in a huff without my phone. So there – decision was made. I’d just keep walking. I wasn’t going to let a little physical problem defeat me. When I got going it wasn’t so sore and after a mile or so I’d almost forgotten about my tumble. I climbed the Tor. It was an impressive view as it was such a clear day – I could see Wales! Definitely worth the effort.
I began to walk back home again along the same route. Everything was OK until I got to a village about 2 miles from home, when I think I hit The Wall. I had been walking for 5 and a half hours with only a couple of ten minute stops (and one five minute sit down on a stony track). My hips were hurting with every step and I was feeling pretty achey. My feet hurt and my shoulder was smarting where I had fallen. I badly needed a wee. I really didn’t think I could make it home, despite being so close. Again, the way I felt physically was wearing me down mentally. But because I had no phone, I had no choice, it had to be mind over matter. And, I thought to myself, what am I going to do if I get half way down Hellvelyn and decide I can’t carry on? Phone my husband? Of course not. So I walked very, very slowly, I put one foot in front of the other, literally gritted my teeth and eventually, almost in tears… I got home. I finished the walk feeling perhaps more concerned than ever about the trek and wondering how I will walk 30 miles up 4 mountains, but knowing that somehow, I will and I can. The battle will be equally mental and physical.
Till next week,