“The Earth in its rawest form gives me oxygen to breath and water to survive. But over all else, it gives my mind room to live….”
Welcome to Earth day 2021, a day to reflect on our appreciation of planet Earth and open our minds to learn ways we can help protect it. Normally I would be here telling you scientific facts and hard-hitting realities, but after the year you and I have endured, today I want to focus on its undeniably vital ability to aid our mental health.
I’m sure many of you who follow my social media accounts will have seen captions, tags and interviews that touch on my mental health story. I don’t share it often, perhaps I should, but it’s a story that though painful to live through built who I am today. Through my time at University I endured spaces of anxiety and depression that caused me to detach myself from reality and remove myself from the vision of my own life. I took support from friends, family, the institute and even counsellors. All of them were wonders in their own rights, yet all of them knew that in reality it was down to me to pull though. In the end, through all else, it was the outside world and its abundance of sole strengthening adventures that saved me. So here goes… this is my story and how I fell in love with the earth.
I recently read Jake Tyler’s book ‘A Walk From The Wild Edge’; an amazing book of self-discovery that explores recovery through walking. His writing brought numerous flashbacks of my life to the front of my mind, taking me to the beginning of it all, to the days when my mum, brother and I would walk the rugged coast of Cornwall; wild camping as we went. The words he spoke were the exact thoughts that I, even as a young girl, had processed in the company of nature. The slow motion of walking allowed me to watch the world in its own pace, hear its most natural sounds and appreciate its smallest creatures. Though I didn’t know it at the time, moments like those would be the ones I would remember the most as I grew up.
I took these motions with me through my teenage years, running off on the wrong path here and there as we all did, but forever finding myself returning to nature. After A-levels I travelled south east Asia and fell in love with the world and its cultures even more; amazed at its ability to change over distance and bring life to all sorts of challenging landscapes. I tried new foods, met wonderful people, and threw myself into scenarios I’d never have dreamt of. Yet, though in awe of our planet’s beauty, I also began to come to terms with the undeniable impact our human race was inflicting on it.
From travelling the stretches of Balinese beaches to the communities nestled in the Vietnamese mountains and in the years that followed from the American deserts to south European islands I grew to know an unacceptable truth. I saw an abundance of plastic and waste on beaches, deforestation in the now-bare mountains, mined landscapes in the deserts and all variants of pollution across Europe. The planet was hurting, and it was our human race that was causing the pain.
From seeing such scares, the fire that grew inside me led me on to study my degree in Geography; specialising in climate change, sustainability and natural disaster. What I didn’t expect however was that though fueled with drive to change our world, I lost sight of what the world actually did for me.
I guess you could say I succumbed to the pressures of adult life and university. I’ve never really been built to be an academic, as much as I’d like to be. I struggled more than others with work, lost track of money and spent so much time socialising that I forgot how to be ok alone. Eventually, as many of us did, I cracked and my world cracked with me. After months of fighting my battle I had finally gained just enough strength, from the help of those around me, to find my way outdoors again. I remember vividly my first day back out, sitting at the beach just ten minutes from my home staring continuously at the breaking waves and their eternal action. I thought to myself…
…‘if the tides can keep coming in and out, if the horizon can clear after clouds and if the ocean can settle after a storm… so can I’…
…This idea ended up becoming my saving grace. The energy of the outdoor world, its space and its ability to adapt to challenges was the vision I grasped onto to pull me out of my sunken hole.
Slowly but surely, in the same way I had fallen into my darkened world, I came back out of it. Nestled in my home of Falmouth with incredible coastlines on my doorstep, I walked at any given opportunity, immersed myself in nature and took time to close my eyes throughout the day and listen to my home. I spent time with my mum walking the paths we used to as kids along the Jurassic coast and allowed myself to be in the arms of our earth to support me on my way again. To this day I can still recognise when it’s time to take myself off to a quiet beach or climb some unforgiving Cornish cliff. I know that without seeing the clear horizon for a while, my vision of my world will be closed off. I guess I can confidently say I understand now, I understand why we are put on this planet and without its beauty… I would not be here nor be who I am today.
Now, years on, I am grateful. I am grateful for the journey I went through for it has taught me to love our planet more than even travelling had allowed me to. The earth we live on at its rawest form gives me oxygen to breath and water to survive. But over all else, it gives my mind room to live. I used to say I was on a mission to save our planet, but now I say I am on a mission to save our planet and allow the planet to save us.
Be thankful for the world we live in and its ability to offer us space to breathe. Remember that without our spherical home we would not have land to grow, species to love and beauty to soak in. This earth day, remind yourself that we are balanced with this planet… if we take care of our home, our home will take care of us. Happy #earthday2021.
If anyone is affected by anything I have spoken about here, please feel free to message me. Our stories are stories of strength and they are made to be shared x
4 Replies to “How Nature Saved Me #EarthDay2021”
What an inspirational post Lydia. Keep on smashing it!
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Thank you Tom, appreciate it!
Having read this, I wept. I can relate so much to this, only I’m stuck where you were, through choice I might add.
You may remember me telling you about my wife, how she has a chronic illness affecting her lungs, and then caught Covid at the start of the year. She spent 3 1/2 weeks in hospital and came home at the end of January. Since then, the only room she has been in is our bedroom. She can’t escape except to visit the bathroom. Her recovery is hampered by the fact that whenever she moves, her oxygen levels drop alarmingly and it takes approximately 10 minutes for her to recover. However, the toll on her mental health is much more of a concern. She can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel and feels there’s no escape for her, although, I stress, she’s not suicidal. Although I’m trying to be strong for her, it’s taking a toll on me as well both emotionally and mentally. I don’t feel that I can leave her and, although we try doing things to occupy her, it’s still within the bedrooms 4 walls. This whole Covid situation is much more than just a virus, and the toll on people’s emotional and mental well being is huge.
I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story, and giving me hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, however distant it may be.
Michael my heart really goes out to you! Your wife is so lucky to have you by her side putting your own emotions at risk to protect hers. You and her are doing amazingly, though it may not feel like it sometimes. I PROMISE you will get through this, together as combined strength. It can be a scary place and it may sound impossible but there is always hope x