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How psychologically healthy should you be to walk?

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AshleyF

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2019)
Hi, quick question,

There seem to be a few pilgrims to walk the route while suffering from significant illness, others may be going through marital/divorce struggles, and still, others will be trying to make sense of unfulfilling careers etc.

My question has to do with the rigour required to do the Camino. How would someone with low-grade depression etc. manage the task (if at all)?
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
Hi, quick question,

There seem to be a few pilgrims to walk the route while suffering from significant illness, others may be going through marital/divorce struggles, and still, others will be trying to make sense of unfulfilling careers etc.

My question has to do with the rigour required to do the Camino. How would someone with low-grade depression etc. manage the task (if at all)?
All that I can tell you is that my low-grade depression disappears completely when I'm on the Camino.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
"Depression" (or psychological health) is a huge basket. I suggest that the person needs the will and ability to organize the trip and organize a trip home if he/she decides to cut it short.
 

Anamya

Keeping it simple
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015)
Portugues (2017)
Lebaniego (2019)
Agree with the above. Being physically and mentally able to make changes to the trip if needed is surely something necessary.
Besides that, medical advice before departure and selecting a route that seems a good fit is also important. If you don't like to be alone, or need to engage more with people, the French route could be good. If you need a quieter place, maybe Primitivo? This forum can help with that.
Earlier this year I walked with my husband. He had just suffered a seizure caused by burn out and had initial signs of depression. Along the Camino, he was feeling better than he had been for many, many months.
However, each case is unique. See what works for you, and Buen Camino!
 

MichaelB10398

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes to SdC, SJPP to SdC
I find that depression can be aided by getting a good nice sleep, a proper diet, and exercise. Each of these things are part of the Camino way of being (aside from the snoring - bring ear plugs). While I write this, I am also acknowledging that there are always exceptions. If you have been under consistent medical care, talk with your team about your plans.
For me, I agree with trecile above, the Camino casts aside depression while on the Way.
 

NorthernLight

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I had a prof at uni who was a therapist. She used to tell her depressed patients to run. One, it was healthy and got endorphins flowing. Two, they'd be too pissed at her to be sad.

I met a guy on one camino who was very depressed. His life had fallen apart, and I really think he had it in mind to end his life at Finisterre. By Logroño, his affect was better. By Santiago, he was a happy guy. But whether it had a longer term impact I can't say. Once you get home, you still have the same issues, but perhaps you have new skills or persective to deal with them.

The camino is certainly a time when you could dwell on your issues, but all that fresh air and exercise has to help.
 

Lifeisgood

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked the Camino Frances in September/October 2018 (St Jean Pied de Port - Finisterra)
I myself suffered from a burnout prior to my first Camino. I actually had the choice between staying at a rehabilitation center for 2 months or do the Camino - and I did the Camino which was the best choice for me. Nobody can forsee the good or bad effects one or another choice will have in the future. Also, as others have stated, terms like "burnout"/"depression" are not easy to define and severity of symptoms vary from person to person. Only a small percentage actually suffers clinical depression, the majority suffers a "depressive episode".

My advice to anyone reading this and may be contemplating if he/she can do a Camino with depression, burnout or any other life struggle: If you WANT to do it, then do it. If you want to do something, you will find a way to do it.
 

GaryPeacock

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2018
Hi, quick question,

There seem to be a few pilgrims to walk the route while suffering from significant illness, others may be going through marital/divorce struggles, and still, others will be trying to make sense of unfulfilling careers etc.

My question has to do with the rigour required to do the Camino. How would esomeone with low-grade depression etc. manage the task (if at all)?
[I started my Camino Frances after years of Depression, stress and anxiety . I gave up a career of 35 years after a breakdown. I somehow knew that the Camino would be and certainly was cathartic. I had enough resilience and determination to do something for myself for once. You just need to know that you need to go. If the Camino has called, listen and do it because of your illness.
Buen Camino
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
People. Need a release from their issues, whatever they are. And if they chose to walk the Camino, so be it. They will laugh, cry, confess to others and work it out. As long as we are not too harsh when dealing with them, I think it is a catharsis however long or short the effect is. Like the endorphin release, it temporarily gets one to a new and better place. I think any odyssey has this effect
 

Janade

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(May 2018)
I take medication daily for depression. When I walked my camino, I packed my meds to take with me - it was as important as my anti-inflammatories for my auto-immune condition. I still had a few days on the way that were tough - exhaustion, loneliness, pain, and depression despite my meds. But most days were good and some were truly magical. I think the exercise and good, deep sleeps helped my depression for the most part. I wouldn’t let your depression hold you back, but consult your doc or therapist to see if they recommend medication. If not (or should you choose not to take medication) just realize that every day will not be easy or joyful - I think it can be a struggle even for those are not depressed.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
Hi, quick question,

There seem to be a few pilgrims to walk the route while suffering from significant illness, others may be going through marital/divorce struggles, and still, others will be trying to make sense of unfulfilling careers etc.

My question has to do with the rigour required to do the Camino. How would someone with low-grade depression etc. manage the task (if at all)?
I have heard a number of accounts of people with various mental illnesses (including depression) who not only were able to walk the Camino but found walking it beneficial for their mental health. Now this is anecdotal evidence rather than scientifically controlled experiments and I am not a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist able to speak knowledgeably from that perspective. But were I someone planning a camino either with someone with low-grade depression or as someone with low-grade depression, I would find their experiences encouraging. It certainly can be done and might very well help.
 

KJFSophie

My Way, With Joy !
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014 & 2015 ),Via San Francesco, Italy (2017 )Camino Portugese (2018 )Camino Ingles(
I am a clinical psychologist and registered nurse. I've walked several camino and have met dozens and dozens of pilgrims suffering with tremendous psychological pain ( loss from a death, loss of a relationship/marriage, loss of health, loss of job, family crisis, sexual abuse, etc ) We use the term depression, but there is a great deal of difference between being clinically depressed and feeling sad/blue. Even with a diagnosis of depression there are significant differences ( a chronic deep depression, a situational depression, post partum depression, etc ). Patients I see that present as 'blue' or mildly depressed are always encouraged to walk and to practice good self care ( nutrition, sleep, meaningful activity ) and many report the benefits of moving their bodies out in nature. Clinical depressions are far more serious and may require ongoing therapy, stable environments, medications and even constant monitoring. If one is diagnosed with a clinical depression, there are concerns of worsening symptoms, psychosis, inability to make sound decisions, thoughts of self harm or suicide. I think if you are suffering from a clinical depression/ depressive episode , getting well and stable should come first...and having a camino to research and plan for is a healthy distraction, with the wonderful goal of being well enough to go!
No one can decide if walking is right for another. I hope you seek a little professional input if it's anything beyond feeling a bit down or 'meh'....and I hope you do walk at the right time and reap many blessings and benefits! Be well.
 
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TatiLie

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portugues Variante Espiritual July 2019
Finisterre next!
I don't suffer from depression but it's been always a concern as it is very common in my family, and I decided to do the Camino as I'm struggling on my career decisions (regret, burnout). The Camino was the first time I felt consistently like my old self in the last 5 years. Actually, I think it may make harder for me to come back from holidays, but I can always look forward to my next Camino.
 

MikeyC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF - September 2016
CF - April May 2017
Shikoku - October 2017
Kumano Kodo - October 2017
CF - 2019
I posted this link as a separate thread. The article looks at some of the effects of walking to our health and well being.

 

Nick B

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances - May/June 2018
Portugese - (2019)
Norte - (2020)
Most psychologists will state that exercise is much better for a depressed person than any pill that can be prescribed, sitting at home or working in a job feeling depressed can be a long black tunnel. Walking the Camino with the scenery, history and human interaction if one desired it can only be beneficial, even looking forward to a planned Camino Walk can improve one's thoughts.

I would encourage anyone feeling down to do it, you don't like it just head back home.
 

André Walker

Never loosing my way: always standing on it
Camino(s) past & future
Holland-St.Jean, Frances, Del Norte, VdlP.
Unfortunately, I think there is no 'one size fits all' answer to this question.

I do believe that walking a camino can do a lot of good, make you feel better or help making a decision or choice. At the same time, when walking one is very much focused on himself. Which can also 'magnify' any problems/feelings/worries/anxieties and cause problems to aggravate.

It depends on a number of circumstances. I really like the nuanced reply of KJFSophie. Depending on the person and the nature of his/her problems/feelings walking a camino might be a good idea or not.
 

KJFSophie

My Way, With Joy !
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014 & 2015 ),Via San Francesco, Italy (2017 )Camino Portugese (2018 )Camino Ingles(
I don't suffer from depression but it's been always a concern as it is very common in my family, and I decided to do the Camino as I'm struggling on my career decisions (regret, burnout). The Camino was the first time I felt consistently like my old self in the last 5 years. Actually, I think it may make harder for me to come back from holidays, but I can always look forward to my next Camino.
" But I can always look forward to my next Camino"
I love that you've said this. I tell my clients that the key to a healthy soul is always having these three things: 1) Someone to talk to 2) something meaningful to do 3) something to look forward to. It's our job to keep these three going...I actually see my Camino each September/October my 'something to look forward to'...
( and yes, it prevents me from 'burnout' in a field that is heartbreaking everyday ...)
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
Of course, every situation is different. What works for one person may not work for another. Nothing you will read here (or hear from what I am about to link to below) is any sort of substitute for the advice of a professional. But you may find the interview that Dan conducted in episode #58 of his "My Camino - the podcast" series interesting. He talks with Anna and Michael Chandler who walked the Camino del Norte with their son who was suffering from more serious depression. You can find a link to the episode in the first post in this thread: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/week-fifty-eight-australian-artist-anna-chandler-walked-with-her-son-tom-and-tom-beat-a-long-held-depression.53499/
 
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scruffy1 Medical issues on the pilgrimage 18

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