Daily Archives: August 5, 2012

Never Ending Story

Actually, the end is in sight – I’m almost half way to Santiago.

But there are days when that feels hard to believe. And today was most definitely one of those days.

I know the header picture above isn’t hugely different from yesterday’s, but whilst yesterday’s long and winding road led me through ever-changing surroundings, this one looked pretty much the same for far too long.

It was always going to happen, but today I got lost. Properly lost. More than once.

Without putting too fine a point on it…

…I made a complete and utter pig’s ear of things.

The day had started well enough, as I made an early start from Comillas at around 7.00am with the aim of arriving in Colombres 28km further on in time for a late-ish lunch.

And quickly after leaving town, I was enjoying rural Cantabria under a light mist:

But soon afterwards I found myself on a track leading me through dense forest as the morning mist gave way to a persistent drizzle; the only sounds to accompany me were birdsong and the buzz of a distant chainsaw.

Which was lovely for about half an hour, but became increasingly disconcerting as time ticked by and the chainsaw’s buzz became increasingly distant and the little yellow arrows became increasingly conspicuous by their absence.

I was encouraged at one stage by the fact that a cyclist rode past me in a purposeful manner, suggesting some kind of end to the track in the relatively near future. But when I saw him coming back in the opposite direction about half an hour later, my optimism began to fade. For the next two hours.

No matter how much of a dog-lover you might be, I can assure you that if the first sight that greets you after a prolongued period of solitude in nature’s great outdoors is a huge Weimerarner careening round the bend, skidding to a halt and baring its teeth, civilisation’s great indoors suddenly becomes a whole lot more appealing.

Thankfully, the Weimaraner’s owner was following not far behind and even more thankfully spoke perfect English. He helpfully confirmed that I was going completely the wrong way and directed me to the nearest village to take stock.

I texted Tiff to tell her what had happened, and she very sensibly suggested that I go the nearest café, have a strong coffee, take a deep breath and “start again”.

Prescient words. The café that I ended up in turned out to be 12km from the first staging post on this leg of the Camino – San Vicente de la Barquera. Which was also precisely 12km away from Comillas. I had managed to walk for three hours without making any headway whatsoever.

Now, before you write me off as a total dipstick, I should stress that I was still following those little yellow arrows. I came across another one as I was leaving the wilderness and took a photo of it as proof:

But it turns out that there are different kinds of yellow arrow on this journey.

Of course there are. Silly me.

This particular breed was pointing me towards an entirely different Camino – one that seemed to be particular to Cantabria:

But once I’d had a caffeine injection, it struck me that there was actually an upside of this; I can now say, with utter conviction, that I have now walked two Caminos on this journey, rather than the paltry one.

Nevertheless, when I came across this opportunity whilst walking out of town, I don’t mind admitting that I was sorely tempted (sadly, it turns out that buses don’t run on a Sunday):

But eventually those little yellow arrows started to appear again, helping to put a different complexion on things, allowing me to kick back a bit more….

…appreciate my surroundings…

…and just enjoy the view:

And having relaxed a bit, I also felt I could start enjoying the more cultural side of things again.

This restoration project was a good example of historic artifacts that you encounter at various points along The Way, and which also offer an opportunity for you to get your Credencial stamped without having to stay the night.

I thought I deserved an extra stamp having walked two Caminos today, and having looked a bit more closely at the signage, how could I have possibly resisted this opportunity?

To cut the next bit of this never ending story extremely short, I then bumped into Peter, an Arizonian that I had met briefly a couple of times on this journey at Albergues along The Way; although this time somewhat incongruously at an ice cream van about 10km from Colombres.

Ice cream soon gave way to the local cider, which probably explains why we walked in a perfect circle for the next hour before a sympathetic local insisted on drawing us a map to show us the right way home.

And so finally onto Colombres, 10 hours after I started, which should have been about 6, and which felt more like 14.

But at least my Credencial is filling up…

Filed under: On The Road Tagged: Charity, Colombres, Comillas, El Camino del Norte, Photograph, Rethink Mental Illness

The Cycle of Change

Last week I was in Belgium on a cycling holiday touring World War 1 sites with my son.  Long – standing readers of this blog may recall that we went on a similar trip in 2010 to sites in the Somme in France.  Then, as now, my son lays claim to the title The Map Meister.  I was born with no sense of direction – a fact that has plagued my four cycling holidays to date.

We arrived in th French city of Lille close to the Belgian border, got off the train with our bicycles weighed down by panniers, and peered at our map.   It took us 45 minutes to find our way out of the city and on the road to Ieper in the heart of World War 1 country.

As we found ourselves going in circles, taking wrong turns, and searching for road signs pointing us towards our destination it made me think of mental health recovery.

Sometimes when we are beginning our road to recovery progress can be slow.  In previous editions of this blog I have described this process as ‘watching paint dry’.  It can also mean going round in circles, missing the turn off, failing to recognise the ‘road signs’ and getting more and more frustrated.  And that was exactly happened as we rode round and round a very busy, unfamiliar city looking for away out.

We finally identified an exit that was sign – posted to Ieper that wasn’t a motorway, but it was marked by an ominous triangular sign barring cycling. We hesitated, pulled into a garage and asked for directions. Still unclear we peered down the road barred to us to see a corner and little else other than a speed limit of 30km. I am no mathematician, but even I know that this means 20 something mph.  So, without being sure what awaited us around the corner we decided to take our chances and tentatively wheeled onto the road and round the corner. It turned out to be a quiet stretch of road gently winding downhill with no traffic and more signs for Ieper.  Before long we found ourselves bumping across the cobbled streets of Ieper, a town that was completely destroyed between 1914 – 18 that there was a question as to whether it would be rebuilt at all.

But we weren’t there yet.  Our B and B was situated a mile or so outside the centre of town.  Could I have found my way there on my own? I doubt it.  But with my son using what he later described as his sense of direction and a bit of intuition, we got there first time.

All this makes me think of the Cycle of Change that mental health professionals use to identify where a person is on their recovery journey.  This is a tool that social workers Prochaska and Di Clemente developed.  It charts the stages of thought and action that we go through, repeat and sometimes remain stuck upon.  And so it is in mental health recovery. We have to go in circles sometimes, repeat – practise – what it takes to get better.  And sometimes take a chance, step into the unknown for the process of recovery to start to take hold.

Oh yes, and you don’t have to do it alone.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872 – 1918)

And then just like that….

I just got hit with a wave of sadness… Just so fucking depressed out of nowhere… I’m sure on some level it was triggered by what I read this morning. But I mean, I was find… just going along and doing my thing and then BAM! I just want to cry a river… Fuck my luck!

Tired of being the Scapegoat

So, as I do every morning, I am checking my facebook and then my daughter’s tumblr.  And as per the usual, I see something outrageous about me….

Apparently, all my daughter’s life, I spent time taking care of all of my friends children’s problems and not hers. Just for the record, that is so totally not true.

I have one friend here. She has a son, but I don’t recall ever helping him out with anything. No one wants to hang around me because I’m boring and lame. So her perception is a bit warped in my opinion.

But then the root of the real problem lies here; She goes on to say, that with all of the therapy I have had, I should have seen that there was something wrong with HER. (the blame game at it’s finest)

And in fact I did see things wrong with her from time to time, and when we could afford it I took her to get help.

I have apologized to her on numerous occasions about not being a perfect parent.  I have told her on several occassions how much I love her; I might not agree with some of the things she does, but I LOVE her and always will. And that is just not enough. So then, being as fucked up as I am, I start to worm through my head, trying to figure out all of the things I did wrong and how can I fix them, and then that leads to me feeling bad about myself, I’m a failure, look what I did to my child, I’m awful, horrible, piece of shit… you know how it goes…. And that is all it really takes to fuck me up.

I can’t win. And I keep telling myself that her perception of things are not how things really were. And then I rack my brain trying to figure out why she can’t see things the way they really are. Then I remind myself that everyone has a different perception of reality. But hers is just really skewed. And then I wonder if she just lies about stuff to get attention or to get people to feel sorry for her, or if she lies about things because that is the way she thinks things really happened?

And then I go back to the whole narcissistic thing… And it is like a big wall that stands in front of me. I’m looking up at it and it towers over me. It is so much bigger than I am, and I don’t know how to break it down.

I’m in an odd position. I want to desperately fix how she sees me and how she perceives the things I do. Not to use this an an excuse but… She is dealing with a parent who has some mental issues; her whole life she has seen me either going through a depression, being terrified and paranoid from being stalked, or going up in down on a roller coaster of emotions from the bipolar. She has not been shy about telling me and other people that she liked things better when it was just her and I against the world. She is not happy about the way we raised her. She was the center of the family, she got all the attention, but in her eyes we did nothing for her.

Maybe one day she will see how hard we tried. Maybe one day she will understand how difficult it is for me to just fucking live day to day. She wants everyone to understand where she is coming from, but when you try to explain your side of things, she just sticks her fingers in her ears, shuts her eyes, and sings “nananananana I can’t hear you” (not literally, but figuratively).

I don’t know what to do or where to go from here. I think I need to start looking for a therapist…. This shit along with a couple other things going on are driving me nuts…

I’m just tired of all the blame getting laid upon me. Yes, I did some things wrong. I’m not perfect. I have apologized and have tried to make things better from here on out…. but damn…. I can’t take the lies about me. Its just like tiny motlen daggers in my heart.


I’m trying really hard to break some of my obsessive-compulsive behavior when it comes to being online. It’s going to take forever because my head is so panicky about being in set patterns (and diety I am not touching the patterns yet), but at least I’m managing to make a minor inroad. It’s one that most people will be bemused by, but basically? If something comes across my dash (whether it be Facebook, G+, or Reader), I have to look at it. Even if it’s half-assed in passing (and sometimes I can’t even get away with that), it causes me intense distress to not look at the things. It’s as if my mind is convinced I have some social contract to look at other peoples’ crap, even if they’ll never know (since I’m not a frequent commentator).

Suffices to say, I always thought this particular compulsion made me a great forum mod, ha ha. It enabled me to satisfy that ‘need’ while doing good for other people. I like helping out, yanno?

Still, I’m trying to break it slightly, because of things like my Google Reader and G+. While I don’t follow many people (preferring to subscribe to a quality versus quantity model), sometimes the amount of posting is mind-meltingly high (which causes my brain to flip out double). But I’m trying to force myself to occasionally mark everything read, or to not scroll back to see what I missed. Dollars to dimes, what I missed isn’t going to be earth-shattering or paradigm-altering. It’s likely to be  picture of a cat, or someone snarking about God, guns, and government. I’m trying to remind myself that it’s okay to unfollow people who post too many things however I might feel about them (and really, I feel like the world’s biggest ass if I quit following a friend no matter how good my reasons). I know this is a stupid patch of mental guilt — likely whatever friend wouldn’t even notice that I stopped following their content, and likely they won’t really care (or if they do, like they’d come hitting me with how horrible I am for not sticking with them).

But still, logic can only go so far in the face of mental health. I’ll keep applying it as judiciously as I can and hope it’s at just the right time and place to get my brain to lose some painful idiosyncrasy… but I won’t count on it either. Nor will I beat myself up about it; I’ll just continue to internalize it because I know it is my ‘bad’, and that nobody in the world owes me anything.


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