Healing the Anxious Traveler: By Masel

Masel_Anxiety_TravelMasel Writes: At one time I was a happy guy, I had no problems, many friends and a good perspective for my life. But…

Four years ago I had some trouble in my love life and fell into a very deep depression. That depression was a trigger for my social anxiety and the fear that I couldn’t do anything in my life…except for being depressed. I fell down in a hole – deeper and deeper.

At the peak of my depression I stayed home alone for weeks, no real contact with other people, with friends. Just me, my work and videogames. I suffered from a persecution complex and paranoia. I had my work but that made me feel more and more terrible day by day. I was unable to have real conversations with other people. My head was full of broken thoughts. I’d abandoned hope. I tried to visit a psychologist a few times, but I never had the feeling, that a person like she could help me out of this situation. A friend of mine told me: “You have to be your own psychologist. Because you know yourself the best.”

I finished my traineeship as a painter and decorator in February but had reached a point in my life where I realized: “Enough! You have to change something or it will all be over soon.”

I had 6 months of free-time, I was totally depressed and had social anxiety.

I was thinking and thinking, “What should I do?”

  • “Maybe walking through nature could help me”
  • “Maybe some spiritual things? Like meditation or something.”
  • I was even considering a visit to a mental hospital.

I started to plan a hike through nature with a friend and began searching the internet for some paths to walk along. After just a few minutes I found the Camino (or the Camino found me?). My only thought was: “I definitely want to walk this way.”

For the first time in years, I felt a bit better. “I’m getting out of this hole, slowly, but I’m getting out of it.”

It wasn’t easy. I planed my journey for two months. I still had the depression and fear but along the way anticipation grew more and more. I felt a little bit better every day. My friend hadn’t the time for such a long trip, so I was going to do it alone. On April 16th I started my trip from northern Germany. My plan was to hitchhike to Stuttgart to visit some friends and two days later continue to St. Jean-Pied-de-Port. It was the 20th of April when I arrived by train to St. Jean. I was happy, I’m really doing it.

One day later my trip starts. After the first steps in the morning I felt it clearly: The Way has a special energy and the energy is with me. I enjoyed the nature, I felt my head cleaning up those strange thoughts that had manifested over the last 4 years.

I didn’t have only nice days. I also had days where I felt very depressed. But instead of trying to supplant my thoughts, I just allowed them to be there and I finally arranged with them.

On my worst day I thought about canceling my trip. I’d walked more than 300 kms but my depression was so strong that I couldn’t walk that way anymore. I had to make a decision: if I cancel that trip now, I’ll have to go back home and visit a mental hospital. Or I’ll stay and finish this way. I decided I’d get up and walk 15 kms to the next big city and take a train back home. It was a very rainy day and I walked completely wet through a wonderful nature. I decided to stay and finish the Camino.

I think the hardest days were the best, because I learned so many things about myself.

I met many nice people on the way and we had created a small company.

A week later I had two more hard days.  I was walking alone – there was a branch off and I decided to walk the wrong (or right) way. My company walked one way and me the other. I walked for two days completely alone. It was so hard for my mind, but afterwards I felt better. A spiritual thing had happened there. I was completely in my mind. I mean, I was walking two days (6h a day) alone with no conversations. In the evenings I’d find nice people to talk with and I was happy about it. But during the days I was totally isolated. Which was interesting aswell.

The main thing about the Camino is that you think about yourself and your fellow men. And the other thing is that have some nice encounters. I had the feeling that with the Camino and the people on it, what you are thinking and what your experiences are is nothing more than a discussion about your past life. So it was for me. It was a deeply personal experience.

After 35 days of walking I finally reached Santiago. It was pure magic. I took the bus to Finisterre and enjoyed the last days with my company at the end of the world. After that I took a plane back to Germany.

I came to the conclusion, that The Way never is over. Your whole life is a Camino. I’m not suddenly illuminated or something. I just became a guy who can accept the full facette of human feelings, good and bad as well. The way gave me so much. It is a spiritual thing that is totally unique.

I thanked my parents and my friends. I realized that without their help I wouldn’t be the person, that I am.

“A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you … Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone, one question … Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.” From the book by Carlos Castaneda, “The Teachings of Don Juan”

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