Mental health on Camino


2018 edition Camino Guides
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johnpb

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances - Leon to Santiago - 2017
(Planning on walking VDLP in 2018)
#1
Hi fellow pilgrims

Mental health is still a health issue so I put it under here but admin please change it if you think that's not right:

I'm finding the Camino incredibly triggering and bringing up a few mental health issues of that have been mostly under control for a few years.

How did/are other pilgrims dealing with being away from their mental health support systems? How did you go about dealing with the mental health issues along the way?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
 
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SabineP

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
some and then more. see my signature.
#2
Hi John,

This older thread ,I think ,gives a broad view about mental health and dealing with it.
There were some pro and cons about wether it was ok to disuss these issues on a public forum. I still think it is. Of course it can never replace professional medical advice but the posts show how generous and warm this forum can be.

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/mental-health-issues.11795/

Ultreia!
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: CF winter 2016/17

Now: http://egeria.house/
#3
Actually walking the Camino saved me from the extreme consequences of depression. Getting up each day, having a very limited amount of things to do each day, exercise and all this, yes, saved literally my life some years back. Now I am stable and can cope BUT the Camino is not a cure it all for everybody. If you struggle - do seek professional help as soon as possible, even if it means leaving the Camino for the time being. Buen Camino de la vida, SY
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
#5
The Black Dog nibbles at the heels of many of us on this forum. Some find the Camino and this forum a place of refuge and support. For some it is just one more too troublesome source of conflict. I guess you are feeling that sense of separation - all the other pilgs are having fun and I'm here in my box - if so, do your level and honourable best to engage with what you are doing. You're walking with a parent? Respect. I would have loved to walk with mine but there was never the time, or maybe the trust, to make that possible. Now we are far too far down different roads.

I've always found the simplicity of the camino as a way through my depression but it seems that yours is complicated by trying to share with your parent.

@johnpb I think you are a trouper. You have said that you've had that dog under control, so you know how to do that. Take the deep breaths; engage with the day; believe that I for one believe in you: and remember that each day passes and the next one can be better.

Buen caminos amigo. Not every journey is a hike.
 

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A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
#6
I have not seen anything in your posts that says you are walking with a parent or are talking about depression, so I will try to share my experience and perhaps a tip or two that has worked for me.

I find that I often forget to take my antidepressor while on Caminos. Rushing to leave the albergue in the morning, feeling really good to be on vacation, under the sun, away from my nasty boss. The first time I started feeling off I didn't realise what I had done. I could not understand what was happening. Everything in my environment was positive, enjoyable, why was I feeling this way? Second time it happened, on another Camino, I immeditely new what was going on. Put my pill bottle inside my shoe at night so I could not forget to take my med.

For me, making sure I took my med daily was key as well as seeking out company, so I could chat, be distracted, instead of festering in my dark thoughts.

This last time I also listened to an MP3/Youtube hypnosis video when going to sleep. Keeps my mind occupied on that and not other thoughts and there are some to fight anxiety, depression ... again, not knowing what you are dealing with, but in case it may be useful to you.

If you are seeing some sort of therapist at home, perhaps you could reach out to him/her and see if you could FaceTime or email. A well placed nudge from this professional could help you get back on track?

But if things are really bad, or before they do, please, please, don't hesitate to visit the closest hospital. Reach out for help to a fellow pilgrim you have grown closer to and ask for help.

I hope you find solutions that will work for you soon.
 
#7
In a word,

Prayer.

I began the Camino with prayer and then, as the Pyrenees sapped everything out of me, I continued to pray. After injuring myself, two days later, I continued to pray, met two older couples who were travelling by car. With limited Spanish, they knew the predicament I was in but wisely left me. I travelled on to a further resting point beside the Rio Erro.

After a half hour rest, I got up, reached the road where there was a descriptive sign that afforded some shade. I stood there for about ten minutes until I heard, ¿Puedo llevarte a Zubiri en mi coche? A road maintenance Supervisor was working in the river when I departed my resting place. When she came back to her car, she saw me standing in the shade and asked if she could help. I asked,
¿Posible?
She replied, "Si."
It took 20 minutes to drive what would have been 7 km by trail but she pointed out the hospital, advising that I should go there before it closed at 3 PM, and then dropped me off at the municipal albergue.

From there, I took the morning bus to Pamplona then on to Santiago by 5 AM the next morning, got a hotel room, tried to heal for the next two days, didn't, not enough, got a bus to Finisterre, placed my Mother's ashes in the Sea and returned home the next day.

I did not try to go to the Cathedral, as I felt I did not deserve to be there, yet. If I went then, I know I would feel the pilgrimage's end to be rather anti-climactic. At least I have saved that for the appropriate time.

Throughout all of this, it was my conversations with God that helped, immensely. It can take some strength to give yourself over to a much higher power. I cannot guarantee it works for everyone, but maybe worth a try?

Hoping this helps
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid.
#8
The physicality of walking a Camino is good for mental health, but it does leave the mind open for long stretches of time, and that can be a challenge. In the empty spaces the mind can play all kinds of tricks. I don't profess to have any knowledge other than my own experience and I know that the only cure for bad thoughts and emotions is to substitute good ones.
Just like physical problems, as soon as something starts to hurt, stop, and get help to fix the problem - don't let it get worse.
Your friends on the forum are thinking of you and sending you good wishes.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés
De la plata
#9
Hi fellow pilgrims

Mental health is still a health issue so I put it under here but admin please change it if you think that's not right:

I'm finding the Camino incredibly triggering and bringing up a few mental health issues of that have been mostly under control for a few years.

How did/are other pilgrims dealing with being away from their mental health support systems? How did you go about dealing with the mental health issues along the way?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I am a shiatsu practitioner with a lot of experience of treating mental health issues and so I know it can help some people. When I walked the Francés last year I was pleased to see that there were a lot of shiatsu practitioners offering very cheap treatments all along the way, advertised in albergues mostly.

Shiatsu is a gentle but deep form of Oriental massage (often described as acupuncture without the needles) and you do not take your clothes off to receive it. The giver is properly trained over a min of 3years to touch appropriately and to listen. This blog might answer some questions. Shiatsu690.wordpress.com

The other advice on this thread is sound.
Good luck.
 
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Coleen Clark

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked August 2015, planning on walking August 2017
#10
Half of the blessing of the Camino is the long stretches that leave your mind open. You cannot just bury pain, thoughts, ideas, emotions, experiences and expect them to disappear. I really believed I was coping "adequately" with my traumas, and I could go on with life, when all I really did was cover and bury with denial and humor. The long lonely paths gave my mind the time-out it needed to readjust to life after trauma, and come to terms with pain.
The other half of the blessing is the people. Not just the awesome fellow pilgrims, but the young lady who ran after me with an umbrella when I walked to the pharmacy for allergy meds, and the retired priest in the back of the church who held my hand and said nothing, and the old woman with two teeth that smiled and gave me a tomato from her garden. All this when I was at my lowest, when I questioned what my life was worth, when I didn't know how I could take another step, another breath, another mouthful of food.
Depression is as deadly a killer as a heart attack. If you do not feel strong enough right now to go on, reach out and seek professional help. You are important. You are awesome. You are needed.
 

SabineP

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
some and then more. see my signature.
#12
We do need to be careful not to make assumptions. Depression is not the only form of mental illness that afflicts people.
Yes indeed, mental health, like physical health, has many " categories " . Very complex indeed.
Giving personal advice is just what it is : very individual for this specific person. Although it may " work " for one person doesn't necessarily mean it is good for another.
Like I already wrote in the above mentioned thread years ago : if seeing a professional , ask his/ her advice. Rest well and find some structure. If on medication : take it.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
June 2017 Francés
October 2017 Francés
#13
I would say the triggering is the healing, not the problem. The camino is bringing things to the surface to be healed and let go of. Have faith that you are being looked after, trust in yourself and do what you need to to not panic, let the process work, and keep on walking. Blessings and buen camino.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid.
#14
If someone is having a full blown psychotic episode, then I would not suggest they ignore it and just keep walking. In the same way as there is no shame in seeking help on the walk if one is badly physically injured.

Everyone walks in different shoes.
 
Camino(s) past & future
June 2017 Francés
October 2017 Francés
#15
If someone is having a full blown psychotic episode, then I would not suggest they ignore it and just keep walking. In the same way as there is no shame in seeking help on the walk if one is badly physically injured.

Everyone walks in different shoes.
I never said ignore it and the OP never mentioned psychotic episodes. Obviously if things are that bad you're going to need the help of others.
 
#16
Hi John,

I hope you are well and enjoying your Camino. Congratulations on doing the Camino, especially if it has meant leaving a support network behind and venturing outside your comfort zone. It can be a huge and very daunting step so well done.

I won't presume your diagnosis or health issues but for the purpose of offering insight here, I have Paranoid Schizophrenia and Recurrent Depressive Disorder which comes with some fairly debilitating anxiety. I can go months without being able to access the community and so when I walked the Camino in 2013 it presented multiple difficulties but was ultimately the best thing I have ever done.

You ask how others cope, and so I will offer my experience to be cherry picked if helpful.

Follow your heart, or instinct as the case may be. There really are no right or wrongs in self-caring if it makes you feel safe, well and happy. Sometimes we come to something like the Camino with expectations that can become burdens and trigger emotions like guilt and a sense of failure and yet so often they are others expectations and shouldn't dictate your experience.

I walked almost two-thirds of my Camino before realizing I did not have to fulfill this dreaded stereotype of what a true pilgrim is. Because of my Schizophrenia, I was unable to use the albergues as I wanted to because dormitories would set off my paranoia and made me unwell. I should add that even at home I cannot share a room, even with a loved one. So I used private rooms in Hostels or Casa Rurales which unfortunately prompted many to proclaim me less of a pilgrim. The guilt of this really affected my mental health until I finally realized my Camino was between me and God and not others. Letting go of others expectations allowed me to experience my experience and get the most from it.

I had a terrible psychotic episode in Sarria and fled on a bus to Palas De Rey, very aware I was breaking rules and unable to think of a viable alternative. However, when I reached the Pilgrims office I was still granted my Compostela (and so much more! Grace at its best IMHO) Had I not I would have in my heart. Perhaps our real Camino is in our heart anyway... However, the point here is that I returned and completed this stage the following year. What was important was I was able to do what I need to do to care for myself at the time. Had I forced myself to continue I have no doubt I would have needed an inpatient stay.

So follow your instinct regarding what is right for you. I also found I needed security. For me, this meant making sure I knew I had booked accommodation ahead of me. The worry of where I would sleep triggered far too much anxiety and so I dealt with it! This might not be necessary for you as many are happy to sleep where they decide to stop walking, but for me, it helped to have security. So take a look at what makes you feel safe. Booked accommodation, walking with others or alone, walking at certain times... do what gives you confidence.

I also tried to ensure I had enough sleep and ate well. Managed my medication properly. "Indulged" myself when I needed to. Sounds like common sense but it is so easy to become distracted on the Camino because of its physical and mental demands, not to mention social!

I also found it very helpful being able to speak to a very close friend during especially bad times. At the time I had a brilliant roaming package which allowed me to call home to the UK at no extra cost and this definitely helped. European residents are now enjoying charge free roaming within Europe so perhaps having a call plan and mobile is something that might help. I realize you are already walking but if having contact with someone is going to be helpful it might not be too late to arrange this. With free roaming, you can also access helplines and similar support.

So...do what you need to do in order to feel safe. Don't self-impose unnecessary expectations that become burdens and issues. Try to speak to someone if you need to. And in regards to dealing with the issues that are raised while you travel, try to deal with them in a similar manner to at home. Familiarity can be helpful so if you usually talk about it, then talk. I spoke to God and Saint James an awful lot and found they were the best listeners. Or take time out to process issues...do what is needed is probably the theme of this post.

When I finished my Camino I had experienced something i still find miraculous and I now return every year to walk the Camino Frances because its familiarity makes me feel safe. These are just how i coped. You may be challenging yourself in different ways and need different advice. Walking the Camino has become the best therapy i know and i wish you the very best. Buen Camino and safe journeys.

Bryce.
 

natefaith

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria-Santiago (2009)
León-Ponferrada (2014)
Camino Inglés (2017)
#21
@johnpb We're closing this thread now but we suggest that you reach out to individual members through private messaging if you've connected with their specific advice and would like their further encouragement/ counsel. Thank you to all who have shared from your personal experience.

Take care, John, and Buen Camino!
Faith
 
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