What’s real anymore

I’ve been away from Facebook and Instagram for a fortnight now. It doesn’t mean I haven’t opened either of them, I have. It has been either for work or just to quickly check my notifications. But all this has been just a quick check. I haven’t scrolled through any feeds or posted anything.

On the one hand, it has been a bit hard. I am so used to still killing time by scrolling and finding what else to do with this time has been a strugglr. I went for a walk and got some nice photos but couldn’t share them. I still feel like maybe I’m missing something important. On the other hand, it has been incredibly easy. In fact, I feel like I have proved my point that I can step away but at the same time I don’t want to go back because nothing has actually changed.

I also realised that one of the reasons I have stayed away is the lack of authenticity. It dawned on me when I was speaking to someone. They had been out snow boarding just a few miles away from here when we still had snow. They showed me a video of them throwing a wobble after face planting in the snow. What made me realise why I wanted to stay away from social media was what was said next. They said, “I was upset because I had had the longest run of the afternoon before falling down but that wasn’t on the video. And I felt, what’s the point, the video wasn’t even on!”

Suddenly the alarm bells started ringing. The experience didn’t have a point for them because it wasn’t caught video and therefore it couldn’t be shared on social media. Wow. Maybe it wasn’t meant so bluntly but it certainly came out like that.

That moment I realised why I no longer wanted to do things that I used to like such as going for a walk or a run. Normally, I would share my experience by way of photos on social media. I wouldn’t go for a walk just to get an Instagram post out of it, rather I would just want to share the beauty of nature and the amazing feeling it gave me (garnished with a healthy amount of showing off). However, I have noticed with certain people around me that the reason for going out lies in getting a great post out of it that would make their lives seems so awesome. And I don’t want to play that game. What’s the point of complaining the whole walk uphill about the weather and how hard if is just to then post a dreamy picture of looking into the distance at the summit. #blessed #somerandommotivationalquote #NOTREAL

I genuinely used to love being outdoors. I could go and just get a rest from my brain and I wanted to celebrate that because getting simple joy out of nature was such a healing sensation. Now I feel like that experience has been soiled by the Instagram hikers who go out to create an illusion of an outdoorsy life. I feel like the things I used to love are not real anymore. They’ve become the “cool thing” to do and I’ve never been cool in my life. I feel that if I were to post a photo of a walk it would be classed together with those highly thought through Pinterest worthy compositions and it would just make the experience not real. Summiting a hill wasn’t about the photo oportunity for me, it was about the experience of doing it and about that moment of sitting down, sweating and out of breath, and feeling like I had achieved something. I now feel like a liar if I were to do it. I also feel like if I can’t have an amazing photo out of the walk, I have failed in the eyes of the society.

It sounds stupid and full of bullshit, but I feel like there’s so little that’s authentic in the life around me and that people have become fake too. When you struggle with self-confidence and trying to fit in/belong somewhere, this fakeness is so difficult to stomach. It makes me feel incredibly lonely because I don’t trust anything or anyone to be real. I can’t really feel any connection with anyone around me.

Worst of all, it makes me feel fake and I hate it.

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How one “should” look at the summit

(Source http://pinterest.com/pin/387942955383280331/?source_app=android)

How I look at the summit (or in this case, half way up to the summit)

How I didn’t go to Mosedale

For a few days I have been planning to come here and write about my sorry state. Today is my one real day off (i.e. I only spent an hour replying to emails…) and I was planning to spend it on whinging and asking for cyber sympathy. But then instead I decided to get over myself a bit and go out.

I considered going for a run but with hindsight I am glad I didn’t. Instead I decided to walk down to Mosedale, sit on a bridge that goes over the beck there and have a good think. So I packed my hydration pack with only a map, some water and a thermos cup of hot tea, put on my boots and headed out. I slid my way down to Keld and on to the concrete road and headed up towards the hills. As I was walking up the track I saw a herd of deer in running away in the distance. There must have been about 15 of them. I have never seen deer in this part of hills and never such a big herd. It was easy enough to see them thanks to the overwhelming whiteness of the surroundings.

The sky in the distance looked ominous, it really looked like the weather was coming in. Good, I thought, it goes well with my general mood.

One thing I hadn’t taken into account was how difficult the walking over the moor would be in the snow. I couldn’t see anyone else’s footprints going the way I was going. Even without the snow, there really isn’t a visible path despite one marked on the map. So what I normally do is to make a beeline to the dry stone wall I am supposed to follow for a few miles where there is a track that makes walking easier. The ground is bog central at the best of times. Today it was also covered with plenty of snow. It is hard work trudging through the snow up to your ankles, it’s even harder when every other step you sink knee deep into the snow and the underlying bog. It felt like a metaphor of my recent days: I can walk through my days like nothing’s wrong and the bang! Suddenly I sink knee deep into self-pity that leaves me sitting on my arse looking stupid.

After what felt like hours I finally made it to the wall but the track I was hoping to find had also disappeared. The walking didn’t become any easier. I gave up on the plans of going to Mosedale. It would be too much of a trek in these conditions. Instead, I revised the route to drop down to Wet Sleddale and make my way home from there.

Hardly anyone walks that route, especially in the snow like we are having. It’s a bleak part of the Lake District, even the names on the map suggest that: Bleak Dod, Peat Hill, Bleak Hill, Wet Sleddale. I have yet to meet a more descriptive place name than the latter. However, in the untouched whiteness it looked less miserable and more just completely removed from civilization. The wind was coming from the west which meant that that it didn’t bring with it the noise of the M6 behind me and kept my crackling of snow from the herd of deer I could still see in the distance.

I kept trudging on, falling every now and again and getting my feet soaked in bogs. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to get my moment on the bridge in Mosedale but it was actually okay. At least I was out, which is more than I can say about the last few months.

By the time I reached the reservoir at Wet Sleddale, I realised that the sky had cleared and the sun was out. The nasty wind that has been blowing for about a week was gone. The surface of the water looked like a huge mirror reflecting the snow-covered hills. I have never seen Wet Sleddale looking so beautiful. I have been there a number of times and it’s not a spot you’d consider classically picturesque. Its charm lies in its bleakness. But today I don’t think anyone can argue how gorgeous this valley looked. And that made me feel better. It gave me a tiny glimmer of something resembling hope.

The clear skies also seemed to clear the dark thoughts that clouded my brain this morning. No, I’m not saying that I am suddenly okay and happy and cured. No. But this walk managed to save the day which would have otherwise been spent sulking on the sofa. The very least, it helped to pass the hours quicker.

Altogether I walked 13.4K over 3 hours 45 minutes.

Why I am taking a break from social media

Today I deleted the Instagram and Facebook apps from my devices. Why? Because I need a break and a chance to see clearly without the filters. I have already written about how I live a life with an Instagram filter but only in the last few days did I realise how much I am actually influenced by social media and how anxious and depressed it can make me.

Over the last week, I have suffered through some pretty horrible nights. I have found myself unable to sleep and my brain has been working overtime. I have wound myself up to a point where I found it difficult to breathe or just to exist. As a result I haven’t been feeling great all around. I’m scared of going to bed because I don’t know whether I am able to sleep tonight or have to go through the ordeals again.

What has helped me a bit over these last few days has been shutting off my phone and making an effort not to check it after going to bed. It might seems such an obvious thing but it has given me a few extra hours each night. I realised that one of the things that I kept checking was whether someone was “communicating” with me. I was checking for acknowledgment from others in the form of likes and comments on my photos on Instagram and Facebook. I kept trying to figure out what to post to make my life seem more interesting and to collect more likes.

I realise that this a dangerous road to go down. There are never enough likes to fill the void I thought I was feeling. I have been feeling very alone and vulnerable recently, like I am isolated from people around me. I thought that Instagram and Facebook would help me connect with people, but in fact, they made me feel worse. I know that most people tap twice on a post on Instagram just out of a habit without giving it much attention. Tap-tap, scroll, tap-tap, scroll… I do that, so why do I expect anyone else to concentrate any more. So in the end, those likes that I was so desperately expecting didn’t really fill my desire to be noticed, to be acknowledged, to be comforted in feeling alone and scared.

And when you are feeling alone and scared, other people’s carefully constructed and edited lives don’t make you feel any better either. I know that I shouldn’t compare myself to what other people post on social media, but it’s difficult not to when you are feeling down. I felt like I am not pretty enough, interesting enough, happy enough. I felt like I am not enough. So although I was scrolling through the feed in search for escape, it was getting even more locked up in my negative thoughts.

I didn’t delete my accounts and I have every intention to returning to them but I just need a week or two, or even just a few days of staying away. A few days where I don’t have to compare myself to what I could be. A few days when I don’t have to think about creating an image. I need a few days where I can feel my feelings and learn to not to mask them with filters. I need to learn not to look for acknowledgement somewhere where it’s not actually given.

Is it going to be difficult? I have no doubt it will be incredibly difficult. I have no problem admitting a certain addiction to social media. It will so tempting to scroll through Instagram posts first thing in the morning and refreshing Facebook feed as a break at work. It will take a while not to think about my day in terms of what interesting I could post on Instagram. It will feel even more lonely. But I hope it will hurt a little less, I hope I can sleep again with a bit more peace of mind knowing that I have chosen to miss it all. I hope I can at least for a minute stop comparing my life with others and feeling like a complete failure.

A stranger

I had a little bit of a rough ride emotionally in 2017. Looking at the big picture and everything that has gone on, I haven’t really had a bad year. Although this season was much more stressful at work, it also taught me a lot of things and somewhere deep inside of me is now a tiny corner of confidence named “Maybe I’m not completely shit at this”.

However, I’ve had a difficult year in controlling my thoughts and my emotions. Although there have been plenty of wonderful moments, there have also been some very, very dark days and nights. I promised myself at the beginning of last year that I will name my demons and thus be rid of them. The reality hasn’t been quite this simple. I have named a few of them but that hasn’t really helped me feel better. Instead, some days I feel even more desperate because although I know these demons, but I don’t know how to vanquish them.

Between all of that, the joy of being alive has slipped away from me a bit. I thought about it first a few months ago. This summer, my Employer took me along paddle boarding on Ullswater a few times and ever since then he has urged me to buy a board. I was (and still am) reluctant to rush into it as it’s expensive kit and I’m not sure how much I would use it. To that my Employer said, “Don’t think about it like that. I would think about it what brings you enjoyment in life.” Even then, I wasn’t sure how to answer that as I was struggling with enjoying life.

A few weeks ago, I had another bad day of feeling sorry for myself and my life and I realised again that it’s been a while since I have really felt joy. I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and found pictures from my first summer in Cumbria. What stabbed me most deeply was that I didn’t recognise myself on the pictures. There were photos of the walks I had taken; of the night I spent wild camping at Grisedale Tarn and of walking back to Shap the next day. Who was that girl? She was clearly enjoying life, full of joy and feeling alive. She didn’t care for the mud and sweat. She knew how to switch off her brain. I cannot believe she’s me.

This year, I have struggled to get out of bed and out of house. I have hardly been to the hills. It would be easy to blame it on work but I was working on the same job last summer and was just as busy. In fact, this summer I actually had nights and mornings when I wasn’t working. Yet I didn’t find the energy to go out exploring. I think partly because I was too scared to ruin the hills for myself. I was afraid of not being able to find peace there and not actually enjoying it because my mind was troubled with negative thoughts. But also I was so exhausted by those same thoughts that I just couldn’t find the energy and the calling for it.

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I had plenty of happy moments in 2017 but I miss those hours spent out hiking in the hills. I miss the fells. I miss that girl who felt most alive in the hills. I wish I knew how to find her again because life without enjoyment is pretty dull and I’m getting really tired of it.