Lifestyle

Nature and my Mental Health

Let me start by saying mother nature is an amazing thing. My name is Rob and I’ve got some health problems that shall we say are hard to live with on a good day. I have Fibromyalgia which for you that don’t know is a chronic pain syndrome. Hard enough to live with but then if you throw in PTSD, depression and anxiety well you have a party no one really wants to go to. I go to the doctors about every three weeks and have tried most of the tablets they can offer. I’ve also seen a lot of counsellors and although they are very good I’m yet to have any real positive effect from any of them if I’m honest. Then I met mother nature, like us all I’ve seen her around every where but never really let her in. Or should I say never really took much notice of her. I guess it was because I was brought up in the countryside and just took her for granted (shame on me).

Tree Therapy

One day I read an article about tree therapy where you hug trees, touch them, smell them, sit and look at the way they move. How the earth around them smells and feels in your hands and for some reason it caught my attention. I felt I had tried everything else so why not give it a go right?

The first time I went out into the forest near me, I won’t lie, I didn’t hug one tree, I felt so silly. “What if someone saw me?” was all I could think. And my anxiety went through the roof with all the what if’s.

My wife offered to come with me to see if it would help but I wanted it to be something I did for myself (I’m stubborn) if the truth be told. Anyway, I went out again the next day in a lot of pain but I was in between a rock and a hard place, my mental health makes my Fibro worse if it gets bad, and it was bad, so I had to make the choice of trying to make a change. Slowly I walked into the forest, this time with my dog, which I found helped me as well. I found somewhere to sit down on a fallen tree and just sat. I closed my eyes and just listened to nature. All I heard was the wind in the trees with its soft rustle of the leaves that it offered, birds calling and singing, and I could hear them moving from branch to branch. The smell of the air around me was clean and fresh with the smell of the pines in the sun. After sitting for a while, I got tuned in to the forest around me and every now and then I heard a bee or a bug of some sort go by with a buzz of their wings. The more I relaxed the more I felt and heard. I could feel myself relax for the first time in a very long time. It was like a door being pulled shut and all my monsters were on the other side of that door, all be it waiting to get out, but giving me a well needed rest from them. I could feel the bark under my hands where I was sitting, it was rough to the touch. I could feel it hard against my skin, in a funny sort of way it was like a comfort blanket letting me know I was going to be ok.

It’s hard to explain really, but it was like an anchor holding me still in the turmoil of my head. The smell of the ground came up to meet me where my feet had stirred it up. It smelt fresh, clean almost, if dirt can smell clean? There was a musky tone to it as well which stayed with me for a long time. It’s funny, I must have smelt that smell thousands of times in my life but that was the first time I really noticed it. I must have been there for well over an hour, just sitting there soaking in the feelings around me. I went home feeling a lot better, walking along I let my hands brush against the trees and the leaves of the bushes I went past, not really worrying about what I might touch.

Photo by Milk-Tea on Unsplash

How I changed my life

It would be nice if I could say that was that and I was cured but I can’t say that I’m afraid. What I can say is that we moved so we were closer to the forest, we made a lot of changes to the way we live and are now in a smaller house, but it only takes me three minutes to walk to the forest now.

If my Fibro allows it, which can be a real trade off sometimes, I try to get into the forest every day even if it’s just for five minutes. If I’m feeling really bad inside my own head, even if it’s raining, I will try to go out for a walk but that’s harder than it sounds because of my Fibro. I won’t lie to any of you, for me it’s not a cure, but it helps me to keep things under control a lot better than I was and for now that’s all I can ask for.

So that’s why I think mother nature is an amazing thing, no drugs, no doctors, just the outdoors.

I must say though, this is what works for me, and we are all different. So, if you’re doing something else that is working for you stay with it and maybe just try this alongside it for now.     

About the author

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Rob Atkins

My name is Rob and I’m 50 years old we all think “I never thought that something like this could ever happen to me”.
I used to work as a landscape gardener with my own business but after getting ill I had to give it up as it was no longer possible for me to do the work. I had depression and PTSD before my Fibromyalgia which is a challenge to live with as anyone with these conditions well knows but this made it a lot worse as I started to have to give things up that I enjoyed doing and one by one I felt my normal life disappeared in front of me.
In the last few years I’ve trained as a counsellor and have a Diploma in advanced counselling and a Diploma in PTSD diagnosis and management hoping that I would be able to help others with similar problems but my health just hasn’t aloud this to happen (YET).
I’m so very lucky that I’ve got a loving wife who has supported me all the way through this even though I can see how it has affected her as well. I owe so much to her that I will never be able to put into words.
Like so many of us with mental health problems I’ve given up on a number of things but I’ve clung to the little things sometimes just to get through. It’s not easy and everyday is a fight despite what some people may think but there is a way out there for everyone to help them get through this.
I have learnt to keep trying even if it feels like there is no hope anymore. I was taught not to use the word stubborn while I was training to be a counsellor because it can come across as a negative and to use the word determined instead but I think a little bit of both is what you really need to keep going when you are in a bad place.
Be a determined, stubborn person to fight your way through to the next day as things could feel so much better even in the next hour.

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