mental health issues


2018 edition Camino Guides
To Julie, Alan, and Dazzamac,

Thank you for your responses! I look forward to meeting more people like you on the Camino. Dazzamac, I will be walking the Camino in July as well! Perhaps we'll run into each other! The only expectation I have for the Camino right now is physical pain :lol:! In a strange way I'm even looking forward to that. Seeing how far my body and sheer will can take me! I have come to peace with the fact that I may not make it by foot to Santiago de Compostela. Life is about the journey and all the people you meet along the way, not the destination. It's a lesson I'm trying to live by in my life.

I hope to see you all on the path and if not Buen Camino!

Laura-Lee
 

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Alan Pearce

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones 2008, del Norte 2009, VdlP 2011, Ingles 2014, Camino de Madri 2015, Frances 2017
Julie

Do let us know how you get on. Buen Camino!

Alan

Be brave. Life is joyous.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Hopefully leave the states 2nd week of April 2014, Right now i am lost in my existence of living my life and need a cleansing before making my move to Cambodia
Beiramar:

If you are looking for opinions, this is the place. In regards to the Physical or fiscal aspects of the Camino.

In regards to Peregrino's sharing their personal struggles, (Physical, fiscal, addictions or other challenges), I am even comfortable with that. That is their choice.

I do not, in my opinion, believe this is a forum to search for answers to mental health challenges one might face. While there may be qualified responders in this forum to do so, I do not believe this is the place for that type of advice.

I agree with your statement. "The reason for Peregrination often is unhappiness with current living conditions and search for an inner change". Those and many other reasons are the motivation behind many Peregrino's walking the Camino. That said, someone with more severe challenges, "depression, panic attacks or other disorders" such as you mentioned might be better served with face to face professional help. Someone who is not only Professionally trained but also competant. Not everyone who is a Phsyciatrist/Phsycologist or other mental health practitioner is necessarily good at what they do.

I wish you well in the pursuit of your answers. While I do not believe this is the right forum, my opinion is just one of many here.

Ultreya,
Joe
And some thoughts are better left unsaid! I suffer from a form of depression and have talked with my not so good Dr.s and as any Dr would say talking about the issues is the best therapy ,And i would have to agree
 

Bill_R

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
July and August (2014)
I have suffered sever depression brought on by social anxiety for years. I am now down to 1/3 of my anti anxiety medications previously prescribed ... My secret, exercise. I now work out three times a week at a gym and currently am training for the walk. I would not be so cavalier as to think all depressions are the same nor would I suggest that walking the Camino is a cure: however, for me, the Camino is my reward and celebration of my healing.


Buen Camino
Bill

PS doctors and big pharmaceutical companies hate this
 
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Bill_R

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
July and August (2014)
"Doctor, the people in my family treat me like a dog."

"Well, let's talk about it, shall we. Please lie down on the couch."

"But I'm not allowed on the couch..."


My name is Tracy and I have a foot in my mouth.

My Doctor asked if any of my family also suffered from mental illness?
I replied," I rather think they enjoy it"
 
Camino(s) past & future
completed May/June (2013), planning Le Puy to Santiago May-Jul 2018
jpflavin: with respect I think you are no doubt unintentionally somewhat stigmatising and marginalising mental health issues by saying that "this is not the place to discuss them". I don't think that anyone was discussing mental health issues. I think some pilgrims were agreeing that such things as depression and panic attacks can be just as prevalent on the Camino as bedbugs and blisters, but that these things are "not spoken of" here. My own feeling is it is this type of thinking which causes those who do have a proclivity towards anxiety or depression to bottle it up. Why not discuss it here? This section is about "medical issues on the Camino": depression, anxiety are medical issues, caused by an imbalance in the brain's neurotransmitters. Correctable through medication and cognitive and behavioural therapy, or maybe just a walk in the fresh air! The idea that somehow they only happen to "emotionally unbalanced" people went out with the last century. Mental issues are just as physiological as physical ones are and therefore DO belong here in this very courageous thread.

The Camino will cause anyone to become introspective, that is one of its beauties, and if the pilgrim has come because they are at a crossroads in their life - and this is often the case - depression, doubt, fear, anxiety may surface. If they do in an atmosphere of common caring and sharing then ALL involved may benefit. We are talking about common aspects of mental health here (20% at least of the population will experience a majorclinical depression in their lifetime: 1 in 5), not something needing extensive medication or hospitalisation! In my experience, pilgrims are by and large VERY supportive of each other at such normal times as when the Camino becomes a bit too much. And it happens to all of us. The help a pilgrim can get simply by being loved and accepted along the Way is infinitely superior to that given by any "mental health professional": and I am one!
http://www.headstartcentres.org
The simple act of sharing along the Camino helps and there is a great deal of sharing there
 

indyinmaine

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances - SJPdP to Santiago - Sept/Oct 2013
Somehow I missed this thread and the one thing which stands out is the willingness of so many to share what others say "SSSHHH" to. I also notice that it started in October 2011 and most of the posts are from that time. The issue certainly hasn't gone away so what has changed.
 

StuartM

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012)
As I read in a book recently, the opposite of "crazy" is "still crazy". We're all nuts. I say that as someone who had 3 months off work last year with depression and came very close to suicide. The difference between people with mental health issues and those that dont is that they are willing to admit it.

I make no secret of the fact that for a while I was crazier than a sh1thouse rat. I think it is great that other people feel the same. No one feels the need to hide cancer or a broken leg yet mental health is one of the biggest killers according to the WHO.

I have been shocked by how bad mental health treatment is in the UK. If you dont have money for private therapy then you're condemned to a prescription for prozac. Easy win. Even if you have money to spare the quality varies. Person centred counselling has to be the biggest money pit of quackery ever invented in modern medicine.

Getting better starts with getting worse. That means embracing it. Be crazy. Be open.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2012 Dieppe, FR Bici CF.
2014 Ruta Vasco/CF/Primativo
hello beiramar
mental health issues are not easily discussed by those that are not sufferers
so if i told you i was an addict and bipolar
this might make others feel uncomfortable
.
there seens to be an elevation to heroism of those with physical disabilities doing the camino
but people generally look the other way when mental illness is spoken of
i am proud of having tackled the camino with my mental challenges
i also celebrated 5 years sobriety on the walk
a fairly big private victory for me
.
so if you want to raise this discussion in a public forum, i'm up for it
if not, youre welcome to PM me
.
so - if you are stable in your meds
and if you feel confident in yourself
and if your psdoc gives the go ahead
.
if not, you run the risk of having a wobble at an unconvenient time
and where you might not have access to meds of psdoc help
and in a language where you need to be able to express what youre experiencing
.
i took backup meds
+ a full script from my psdoc
+ a translation of the script into Spanish
+ a copy of the script emailed to myself
,
i knew that excessive physical or emotional exertion could possibly trigger an episode
and i wanted to lessen the odds of that happening a long way from my support base
.
other than some basic precautions
i am just a regular pilgrim
trying to make good
and find my way back home
Congratulations on your 5 years... I often find it odd that more people are not "out" about being in recovery on The Way...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (August 2014)
I am walking the Way Aug 27 and I suffer from clinical depression. It sucks kind of a lot, but I'm up for it. I'm a writer, so I've been blogging the preparations, which helps. But still...some days it is a slog. I've definitely had suicidal ideation, some times worse than others. Ultreia to us all, I say!
 

Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
I met a pilgrim this week who has severe issues. I can't put names to them, but he was quite obviously not living in the same world as the rest of us. He started walking from "a big country east of Germany" on St. Stephen's day because Good King Wenceslaus did it that way. He would not use or touch anything made of plastic. He will wash his clothes, but not his body, because he is "part of an experiment."
There are three nice beds in the room, but he chose to sleep on the floor, fully clothed.
His credential was in tatters, mixed in with creased prescription slips and pages torn out of prayer book, all of it carefully folded in brown paper.

Why are you walking the camino? I asked him.
Because it is the same every day, he said. I wake up, I walk, I sleep. It keeps me happy when things don't change.
Evidently, it keeps him sane.
 

William Garza

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
I get clinically depressed. I was that way when I last walked the Frances, and I found it a profoundly lonely time.
Much good came from the experience, but I know how harrowing it can be when your mental condition isolates and alienates you from the merry, sweet, mystical pilgrims around you -- they are having the time of their lives and are really connecting to one another. You are walking the same path, seeing their joy, but have a few feet of insulating numbness between you and them. Very sad.
People more profoundly depressed would find it intolerable.
You may NOT find peace or release or friendship or recovery out there. Do NOT go to the camino looking for any kind of healing, or you will be disappointed. Don´t expect anything from it.

The healing comes when you quit trying. Even then sometimes it doesn´t happen. Sometimes not for another few months, or years -- or in a form completely different from what you expect.

If you are really ill, think twice before taking on the camino. It is a really difficult undertaking even for people who are healthy. You are putting yourself into a strange and challenging environment, and you may not be able to handle it. The Camino is NOT for everyone, no matter what the jolly people say... and there is no shame in stopping if it gets too much for you.

That is why there are "puertos de perdon" all along the track for people who cannot continue. They show that the Lord still loves you and there still is grace for you, no matter how far you walk on whichever trail -- that God is a whole lot bigger than Santiago, and you don´t have to "achieve" anything to win his love. That there is special grace for his children who suffer this way.
Puertos de Perdon...
The world needs these on more than the Camino.simple words.Absolute profundity
 

William Garza

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
Everything
Nothing
What do I hope to find next year..?
I know the sadness
Ive seen the rain

The Triad,that is,the physical,mental and emotional aspects of a persons character can be challenged...
I am physically challenged,therefore emotionally challenged every day because of the shear volume of sensations,
The depression that accompanys is always,always there.


What i hope to find?
With a smile in my heart and soul..
Is nothing.
I hope to breath the air.
I hope to taste the waters,wine and rain
To nibble the "silver apples of the moon,and the golden apples of the sun"

There is no reason other than this
I feel the call
It is to be answered...or it is to be counted among the great disapointments.
Intolerable... To say the least.

I hope to be the kind word uttered in the morning to the one uncertain at the road ahead
I hope to be the encouraging wind at the weary ones back
I hope to be the shoulder to the one,who...is willing in spirit,but lacking in flesh,to have a go at the next hill.

My sadness is fought by action
I hope you can understand my imperfect idiation...
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Frances (Villada to SdC) (2016)
Primitivo (Ribadesella to SdC) (2017)
I have issues with OCD and social anxiety. I get depressed, and i (usually) get better. I am allergic to most meds that doctors would prescribe for my conditions, so that leaves me with dealing with it. Also through some luck, i can take St Johns Wort, without issue. I tend to take it once in a while to level myself out a bit, usually once a month.

My camino (when i eventually start it) is a grounding exercise. I want to get my head straight, see the world a little bit, do something different. I have some life issues that i would like to improve (job, friends, family), and i also really want to see if their is a point to life, or whether it is just a slow journey to death. Im not against any answer i discover. :) Either way i will learn something from it. Thats all that really matters in the end.

If people want to know what ails me on my journey, well its a pretty long list. Yes i have mental health issues. Find me someone who doesnt.
 

William Garza

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
What makes a pilgrim tick?

I already answered that very relevant and productive question, but perhaps there is still one more aspect of pilgrimage that could be discussed in this beautiful and very interesting (What makes a pilgrim tick?) and nicely seasoned thread because it might interest more pilgrims and professionals.
In my job as tourist information councelor a long time ago I met many pilgrims (to be) and read dozens of their reports. It often struck me -beside being very original and individual- also how similar they could be in a certain way or aspect...
Evenually I noticed that sometimes somewhere on the Camino pilgrims could 'break', 'fell out of their role or character' (is that good English?) of -in the best pilgrim's tradition- being modest, easy going and taking life as it comes and instead they would get angry, impatient, discontent and behaving un-pilgrim-like, mostly for a short time and afterwards regretting it very much...
Then it struck me that these events happened more or less on the same legs of the Walk. The question 'why' has never left me and untill now I didn't get any answers, so...
Anyone?
You tire of being tired
You tire of the road..ever beloved...ever cursed,and the drive inside that wont let go.
You tire of unfamiliar surroundings
Home..becomes idealized,better than what reality is.
You tire of your skin,your life...this is when the reformation begins,

Ide spend 5 to 9 weeks out on my beloved interstates,alone and content.
Until i saw some,family reunion on the road.
Going home became preoccupation...until home,then the road called again

An unhappy traveler,happiest on the road
 

esmess

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2015
So happy to find this thread! And grateful to those who have been so open here. I struggled emotionally on the Camino and have struggled since. I've searched and searched for similar posts to this one just to know I was not alone! I don't think I have a mental illness, but I had a lot of grief that kept me isolated from others. I loved the nature and the walking, but I think I made the common mistake of having massive expectations that the Camino would "cure" me or help me find the answers to some of my (many) questions.
The Camino is just like life itself. There were beautiful moments, there were sad moments, there were times of feeling union with others, there were times of desolating loneliness.
I think it's good to discuss it all!! That comforts those who are struggling and lets them know that it's all part of the journey for many, if not most, of us.
After all, a great causative factor for mental illness is loneliness or feeling like an outsider.
I am an art therapist and I will never forget one of my teachers saying that more than therapy, the greatest healer of mental illness has been found to be.... intimacy.
The more open a person is the more that person is helping all those around them, even if the subject is "taboo".
Anyone can become mentally ill. It just takes one too many experiences of heartbreak or isolation.
 

Peter Fransiscus

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
I have suffered sever depression brought on by social anxiety for years. I am now down to 1/3 of my anti anxiety medications previously prescribed ... My secret, exercise. I now work out three times a week at a gym and currently am training for the walk. I would not be so cavalier as to think all depressions are the same nor would I suggest that walking the Camino is a cure: however, for me, the Camino is my reward and celebration of my healing.


Buen Camino
Bill

PS doctors and big pharmaceutical companies hate this
Hi Bill , you are so wright, I wish you well and a Buen Camino, Peter.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(SJPP - Finisterre)
This may be too broad or philosophical a statement, but in my opinion, any and all advice, from whomever or wherever, should be carefully weighed by the person receiving the advice as to whether or not it rings true for him or her, no matter how well-intended the person giving it.

(Whether the person receiving the advice has the ability to properly weigh it is yet another matter.)
 

Phillypilgrim

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
C F Sept.(2013) Camino de Madrid & Finisterre/Muxia Sept. (2014)
Finisterre/Muia June (2017).
Very well put "esmess", thank you for your post.
Pam
 

Benjamin Vickers

The Depressed Backpacker
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (x2) & Camino del Norte (x1)
I would recommend the Camino for someone with depressed mood or major depressive disorder caused by either social anxiety or life events. The Camino is a really good way to come to terms with the causes of depression, if caused by circumstances, or to engage in a constant exposure therapy, if the depression is caused by social phobia. The environment has many healing factors, and is essentially consistent with the New Economic Foundation's Five Steps to Wellbeing.

I walked the Camino in August 2015 with depression that was the result of destructive personal circumstances. It was an extremely difficult experience, especially with my limited budget. Even so, I made a recovery over the course of the walk.
 

soozansings

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 2nd (2016)
This is so very true and that's why it's important to find a psydoc that can relate:

As a Marine, I'm already convinced that there's nothing I can't do given the proper resources and authority; therein lies the problem. Who does a Marine, or any military person, go to when there's the possibility of stress related issues? What we find is that PostTraumaticStressDisorder is the most common issue, therefore the psydocs treating that are basically just wearing the uniform (Navy for Marines) all other services have their own medical branch.

What all psydocs can relate to is a basic understanding about stress, it's origins and usual treatment.

When I was flying there was a scale of stressful incidents with related points: Getting engaged/married/divorced 100 points. Buying a new house/boat/car 25 points. Getting a traffic ticket that morning 50 points. Having a fight with your significant other 25 points. Losing a loved one 100 points, etc. Any single incident, or combination that resulted in 100 points...you were grounded for that day and sent to speak with the psydoc as a way to vent, or upon relating the situation further treatment might be needed.

Day to day combat is a whole different ball of wax. It's said that combat is 95% boredom and 5% stark raving terror. Pretty accurate. The key is how well you're trained to accept those things that can add up during even the boring times: being away from loved ones for months at a time, not hearing from them on a regular basis, impending birth or the death of a close family member. All these add up.

Some of us, who worked in specific arenas where the normal 95 to 5 % is reversed, we had psydocs that initially came from a similar background and then became doctors. For example, the Medical Officer on my carrier had started his military career as a Marine officer and served in combat. He completed his obligation and returned to civilian life going to medical school and then returned to active duty. All my men were comfortable with him because he could relate. In another organization I was part of there was only one medical officer we could talk to; not only was he a prior Army Ranger, he had all the clearances needed to allow us to spill our guts without reservation.

This may be a whole different view of the main thread, but I believe it relates to Biermar's key insight.

One size psydoc doesn't fit all. For some of us the day to day can be a battlefield and we will all relate to it's stresses in different ways. Sometimes we can recognize the on coming threat to our mental well being and effectively deal with it. Sometimes more intervention is required, be it a support group, a trusted family member or the right psydoc.

Walking the camino in all it's guises: spiritual, religious, cheap vacation, etc. provides an opportunity to test our physical condition and inner/outer self. For some of us it's magic the Way it all works.

The hopeful end result is that we return to that stable, safe and nurturing place we internalize as Home!
I know this post was in the "wayback machine" but thank you for your service.
 

Donna Sch

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
VdLP - Sanabres - Fisterra (Summer 2015); Future? Alicante-Astorga- SDC (2019);
If one of my patients asked me that question...?
The answer would depend on the patient. Some have enormous capacity to reflect which will either save you or damn you. Some struggle with people; others struggle without. As far as physical health impacting on mood, the exercise, contact with nature and a good Spanish diet should all have an antidepressant effect. But the real journey is where your mind will go. And that depends on the individual and their personal circumstances. Some times are better than others to walk just as some routes may suit some people more than others. I think there are certain personalities that gravitate to certain routes especially if they do them as their first camino.
I would definitely warn them that finishing can be hard, leaving all those new friends and if the Camino reflects life, you have to be able to prepare for the "death" at the end. Easier for some than others.
For most people I would not advise tinkering with their medication unless there is a pre-discussed plan which includes a detailed relapse plan. And you need to carry a copy of that on you in case you do need to see a doctor.
The Camino could make you...But it also could break you. Ultimately you are the only person that can make the choice. But seek advice widely from people who know you well and who have your best interest at heart. And I hope you can include your mental health team in that circle.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(May 2018!)
Thanks to all for exploring mood disorders and the Camino. My trip to Spain is at least a year away, but since my responsibilities recently lightened and I was able to say “yes” to the Camino call, my life is changing. I have dealt with significant depression for 60 years; the past 20 have also included my care for my daughter, who has dealt with complex mood disorders.

As John Brierley advises, preparing for my spiritual journey on the Way. Participating in my church congregation in ways that match my gifts and needs; learning more about the saints, particularly Mother Mary. Exploring the history of Spain, starting from Brierley’s summary in his pilgrim’s guide.

Of course, these preparations have not “cured” my lifelong depression, but they have shifted me towards purpose, hope, simplicity... and the knowledge that other pilgrims (all imperfect, of course) are seeking the same.

Prayers and best wishes for all.

Jo
 
A very interesting question. As a social worker in mental health / psychiatry I would say it will all depend on your stress level and self acceptance. If one' s situation, wether it is medical or psychological, is stable and with the help of decent medication. If one has a helpline , a person who you can call at certain times or a companion/ buddy who you can talk to en route ( and who is equipped to help out ) I would give it a go. Stable mental problems or like stable physical issues : structure and time to rest, maybe use more private accomodations than albergues..., structure also in eating habits, staying away from alcohol. For example a stable patient with a depression who has enough selfknowledge can walk the Camino like a diabetes patient who could walk the Way. With extra caution and helpline but yes it is possible. I would not recommend the Camino for those patients with florid psychoses or someone in the early stages of a major depression.
Structure , structure, taking one's time and having a lifeline, compagnon de route...And assessment of the specific stresslevels.

Sabine, I know this thread is old but thanks to your link i am now reading through it and had to thank you. Your advice is perfect. Very succinct and appropriate and i am sure reassuring to many who are contemplating walking The Way. Thank you.
 

esmess

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2015
I haven't been here for a very long time - I walked the Camino may 2015. I walked it hoping for healing for my grief, depression and feelings of isolation from others.
When I got to Santiago I was in despair. My hopes and expectations had been so high and I felt I'd failed.
A nun took me aside and asked me if I was okay. I spoke to her from my heart about the issues id carried with me on the walk, and my disappointment that I was still carrying them.
She said to me, for some the changes come later.
Looking back, I can see now she was so right!
Walking the Camino gave me the seeds of believing in myself again, even though nothing went to plan. and two years later, the changes have been amazing. It started back then, struggling along the Camino.
It wasn't as I'd imagined, but the very act of doing it changed something in me.
I began to be myself, my real self. The self I'd rejected and tried to act differently from all my life -too shy, too sensitive, socially awkward - I began to accept and appreciate who I really am.
So much has changed since then.
This acceptance has given me peace and also a kind of joy I've lived most of my life without!
I'm not depressed any more, and I lived 50 odd years that way.
I just wanted to say this here to others struggling along the Camino in the way I was. The answers may come in unrecognisable and totally unexpected ways - and they may come later not during.
And it may be more of a whisper than a heroic shouting from the mountains. Hard won and slow to emerge.
Everyone's journey is unique.
Ultreya (not sure if I spelled that right) to all brave souls walking with these issues!!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2017)
This thread has been so helpful to me! Thank you! I came back from the camino in November, and have had a hard time processing it. I experience depression and panic, and sometimes on the Camino things would happen that would trigger a very uncomfortable cascade. But the solace was that there were always open peregrines to help and support. I came back a little disappointed that my mental state was slightly worse than before my trip, and was worrying that somehow I had done things ‘wrong’. But people here have helped me to see that the journey isn’t ever finished, and that there is no shame in how we handle the adversities along the Way. Cheers all, helped me remember we never walk alone <3
 

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