Healing In Nature


My family would sporadically hike growing up, but I craved it once I hit the spring of my freshman year of college. What I thought was coincidental timing was probably my body/mind asking for it because of the rape just a few months prior. My body was literally fighting with me in the months after, till I went to the police. Stomach issues, waking up with a locked jaw from stress. Now, I'm the city girl who people know needs to get out every weekend for clarity of mind and relearning to build connections. Nothing like the connections with the people you meet while outdoors - Susan Dalton

Adapting to Unforeseen Circumstances

I never had to see my rapist again, but the aftermath of reporting the assault took a toll on my mental health for years to come. Toward the end of my sophomore year of college, I considered taking a medical withdrawal from college. I sought counseling first but often found myself staring ahead at a wall, unresponsive. It had always been difficult to express vulnerable feelings, and verbalizing was not my strong suit. I was not okay and wanted to escape the pain, the institution, and society. I wanted to run to the woods and thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. I have always felt a serenity surrounded by nature and in the presence of water. However, my rational brain reconsidered the negative repercussions that would surface if I did leave college - what if I never returned? I stayed and instead got a dog and named him Sailor. Sailor, who is my emotional support dog, also became my lifeline. He kept me living, for whenever I felt like I wanted to end it all, I knew I had a responsibility to him, so I stayed. Susan dropped me off at a picnic area and handed me a rice Krispy treat. I hope I see her again. I saw the family of hikers I had seen earlier at the Loft Mountain camp store. They were eating lunch at a picnic table. The family recognized me, and we exchanged hellos. I told the dad how thoroughly impressed I was with their family hiking the AT together. I looked at the little girl as her brother stood by her and told her how strong she was. I called my sister, Gretchen, to pick me up sometime after that. She was with her best friend, and a dog, Louie. Gretchen commented that I looked like I was wasting away, and they quickly found me a big burger and fries. I watched Louie hang his head out of the sunroof as we drove down the road. I was going home for the weekend. Fluids and rest are easier in society than attempting to heal from psychical illness in a natural environment. Having awareness of body signals and responding with rest, medicine, and proper nourishment, is essential to recovering from illnesses and other stressors on the body -Rochelle Calvert

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