Brain on Fire

Day 54

Mileage: 26.7
Total distance: 1612.6

After lying for an hour in my slanted tent last night, both poles came toppling down and the tarp laid over my body. I was beyond frustrated and had no idea what I was going to do and I was so tired. It was around 11:30 when I crawled out of my fallen tent and crumpled it up into a bunch and shoved it next to the tree and began digging a hole for myself where I would hopefully gain some support from the slant and sleep in peace. This sort of worked. I put my butt in the hole and laid against the slanted bluff with my makeshift pillow and past out. 

Morning came quickly even though it was 7:30 and I got my things together on my slanted surface and began walking. I felt heavy and low mentally and thought that maybe it was just exhaustion, but the feeling grew and my fear began to rise when I felt my brain spiraling to thoughts I couldn’t control. My head felt hot and like it was expanding and I couldn’t quiet my mind from thinking negatively about myself or my own way of processing thoughts. It’s hard to express the weight of anxiety when you’re not experiencing it, but in the midst of panic it seams like it’s impossible to possess reason or rationality and things become less clear or bright. It got scary for a few hours and as I sat next to the road going into Etna I decided it best for me to go into town and breathe for a while. 

I’ve been putting a ridiculous amount of stress on myself in over analyzing miles and time and food and all sorts of detailed things. I’ve been obsessing with the smallest little concepts and it’s been eating me away until something like today happens where my brains shuts down or at least my control of my brain shuts down. 

It didn’t take long to get a hitch and within minutes of human connection I felt better. I was slowly regaining mental strength when I sat in a coffee shop and worked on my blog and just relaxed for a while. I ended up talking to Molly, which always helps, and eating a lot of food and within a few hours I felt healthy enough to get back to trail.

I knew I wouldn’t be hiking far, but wanted to get back soon and I got lucky spotting hikers throwing things in the back of a truck and asked if I could join. It was us three hikers and two dogs in the back and a man in a cowboy hat driving who gave us all a beer for the ride. Awesome.

When I got back on trail I felt so strong and capable like my brain issue this morning were a joke and something I could stand proud and confident over as if I had beaten it. I marched on for three miles and met a woman who I had passed a few days ago and had caught up to me. She’s been doing 40s as well so we decided to hike together for a few days. 

We spent the last 9 miles of my day talking about gear and thru hiking and the AT and friends and all the things that our bodies and brains go through on the trail and I even was able to process this morning with her as we walked. I don’t even know her name and we got to talking about so many personal things I would never randomly share with a stranger, but it’s so easy to trust yourself with someone you know has been where you have been and is on a level that you are that not many other people understand. 

 A new friend has come across my path at a perfect time yet again and I’m so thankful for the ability to connect with humans today and feel capable of talking about where my head was at this morning. It’s possible dehydration and exhaustion are the main reason, but stresss and loneliness don’t help and having someone to talk to and just be around takes away the latter. 

We got into camp around 8:30 and had gorgeous views of Shasta being painted pink with the fading sunlight and the clouds hovering around it in an almost ritualistic sense. We ate dinner while we watched the evening light fade and both retired to our tent while the temperature dropped and the wind started to blow. Tomorrow we are doing 40 miles into town and hope to eat ice cream and pizza while watching a movie. It’s amazing all that can happen in one day and I’m happy that I came out on top. Thank God for friends. Man is not meant to be alone. 

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