5 years

Been MIA for a long time. Honestly haven’t felt as if anything I said mattered anyway.

It’s coming up on to 5 years, almost to the day, that I was violently raped by an ex. While that moment broke something inside me and I haven’t been the same since, I think that it also somehow made me realize that even “playing it safe” with a job, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc (being what polite society would consider “normal” essentially), you can still be violated and put in danger.  Before, I was full of anxiety and fear. Even the thought of driving would give me mad anxiety and when I had driving lessons, I’d have panic attacks (not realizing they were that at the time).

What I’m trying to say is that realizing you can’t avoid danger – that it’s going to be coming from everywhere, especially with those you allow close to you. And I have done more in the last 5 years than I have in the 28 years before it having realized that. Let me try to succinctly summarize the last 5 years:

I shaved my head, sold my car I had just paid off, gave up an incredible rent situation, attempted a thru-hike of the PCT (only got 652 miles in before getting injured but still! Pretty fuckin’ cool especially since I got to help collaborate on the coolest podcast “Sounds of the Trail”), lived on the East Coast briefly (visited NY, VT, VA, NC, SC, GA, TN and D.C.), moved back to West Coast, skydived (3 separate times), finally hiked to Havasupai, went to Burning Man, lost a loved one to suicide, rehashed my trauma for the A&E Leah Remini: Scientology the Aftermath show, dipped my toes into vanlifing buying my van while working 2 jobs to save up and go to Europe,  where I walked the 500 mile Camino de Santiago/Way of St. James and met some incredible people who became friends for life, saw family in France and then did that pilgrimage from France into Spain. Fell in love with Spain. Went back to Finland, visited Sweden briefly on the way back to US.

Tried working for Xanterrible at Yellowstone. Concurrently, a national tv episode of me speaking out against the cult I grew up in was about to air, I had a nervous breakdown and a doctor there was kind enough to make me realize I needed help. Went to treatment for about 2 months. Felt a bit better. Went to work with a friend, trimming at his MJ farm in Oregon only to hear my dad was found dead. He’d drunk himself to death and since I was his only child, I had to go back to Finland (this time in the cold cold arctic circle). Stayed with an aunt and her family and saw my father’s side of the family which was awkward since I didn’t know these people. They had never been – nor made any effort to – be in my life. No word from my mom who clearly had shunned me. Saw Northern Lights for the first time which had been on my fuck-et list.

Took my father’s ashes back with me to the States since he’d never been able to visit me. Found a place I could work a little/volunteer in beautiful Oracle, AZ, right next to The Arizona Trail. (High Jinks Ranch), a historical place that Buffalo Bill staked a claim to. The owner was lovely and so empathetic and kind. The Chalet Village Motel – down the hill – owner, Marnie, became like a non-biological mother. I met so many incredible – extraordinary, really – hikers coming through on the trail. I was able to cook for them and have beautiful conversations. I felt like between the nature and these beautiful people, I should be feeling better. I hiked Grand Canyon with my dad’s ashes and did a ton of exploring in AZ at the same time.

But I still felt numb. I dissociate so often that it feels like I’m just experiencing life through some fuzz filter. It’s frustrating being in some of the most beautiful places and just being like “meh”. It’s like my brain can’t process anything too overwhelming. And when it does, my emotional regulation goes out the window and I just burst out from crying at feeling all of the things.

I decided I’d had enough. I’d kill myself for my 33rd birthday, at 3:33am. The final suicide location would be Angel’s Landing. For a few reasons, the main being that I was far from an angel and would be falling. Quite literal but I’m a foreigner so sue me (insert shrug). But I’d do one last roadtrip up the West Coast, into Canada and then down MT, WY & ID and then down through UT to Zion National Park.

So I made a trip from seeing friends in San Diego, CA up the coast, visiting friends in NorCal, OR and exploring WA for the first time. Then I went to Kelowna, visited a hiker friend from the PCT. Him and his wife let me stay there for over a week on their amazing boat house. I made his wife uncomfortable with my death talk so I left. Went to Banff & Glacier National Park (Canada). Definitely must-see places before you die! Went through MT, WY & ID as planned and made it to Southern Utah a week before my birthday only to find out that Angel’s Landing hike was closed due to a mudslide having wiped it out. I honestly didn’t have a plan B and I was out of $$. Then karma came back around and one of the hikers I’d helped whilst in AZ told me of a job in Kanab, UT working as the manager/caretaker of Grand Circle Bed & Breakfast. Within 72 hours, I had the job. And that was great until the reservations guy started to harass me and refused to resolve our conflict. If a place no longer feels safe for me, I’ve learned i need to protect my mental health. The owners were fantastic though and the entire Southern UT area is pure magic. Was sold on moving in with a friend from treatment to start anew only to find out she flat out lied and had fallen off the sobriety wagon hard. So I had driven to the Midwest for nothing. Got to see Iowa, Wisconsin and South Dakota though (SD was amazing).

So now I’m again at a crossroads. Is life even worth living when there is nobody to share that with? I honestly feel Christopher McCandless’ quote so viscerally “Happiness is only real once shared”.  

I’ve told at least 10 people I constantly think of just killing myself. Only 1 has addressed that statement directly with me. And that was a recovering addict who’s been through shit. I’ve had numerous panic attacks in public places where nobody comes to help or assist me in any way.

I wake up daily crying when I realize I’m still alive. My heart races even when there is no danger present. I wake up constantly from the sleep paralysis and nightmares. I’m a sexual person but have anxiety when someone even checks me out.

Nothing gives me true enjoyment. I have tried to eat, hike, kayak, travel, write and drink the pain away and I’ve concluded it’s utterly pointless.

I don’t think there’s room in the world for people like me. You’d think having done such a concentrated amount of living in just 5 years would’ve shaken me alive but it just brings home that maybe I’m too broken.  And living in constant survival mode is draining my soul battery dry daily.

And nobody likes a crybaby.

 

 

 

 

Forgiveness vs Acceptance

Hi guys! It’s been a LONG time since I blogged.

I’m in Arizona currently since getting back from Finland (handling dad’s business as he passed away). Been doing some day hikes but mostly helping near the Arizona Trail around mile 200 at High Jinks Ranch for now. Decided I’m going to be using my blog to spout off my inner turmoils and thoughts. Might mix in my interspersed adventures in between but this is what I need for myself and for my PTSD/Major Depressive recovery.

March 25, 2018

I have so much to write. My mind is everywhere. Hard to know where to start or what’s relevant. Even just having written that, I wonder “Relevant to what?”. I tend to always think of others or have some subconscious ideal or measuring stick. So I’m just going to attempt to vomit out my conceptual ideas, some of which haven’t even fully formed and are simply vague feelings at this moment, and edit later.

Last night, I did my first audio Ho’oponopono session (Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness… Similar forgiveness practices are performed on islands throughout the South Pacific, including Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti and New Zealand) and I realized I’m 100% resistant to forgiving.

I imagined my mother’s face in the section of audio where you have to ask them “Do you support me today in my experience and connection with God and Others?”. If they answer “yes”, you give them a hug and let them go. If not, they have to stand at this 3’x3’ podium you imagine for yourself in an auditorium. Then you say “I love you. I forgive you. Please forgive me” and imagine the forgiveness flowing from you to them

And I just started sobbing. Tears were just streaming. I could feel my inner child feeling horrible for making my mom sad and wanting forgiveness but my older, more protective, layer shut that down. After all, I didn’t shun my mom. She shunned me. That was HER decision, not mine. And imagining my father’s face (he recently passed away from alcoholism) was just as hard.

Maybe I’m just being defensive. I know I’m not a victim. That’s not my identity. However things DID happen TO me. To try to say, as a child, I’m responsible for my parents’ decision is absurd.

I find that so many people find “forgiveness” to be synonymous to “Acceptance” but it’s not. Forgiveness is act of pardoning an offender . Acceptance in psychology is used to describe a person’s assent to the reality of a situation. Yet there are so many help books and memes being thrown around – even this Hawaiian practice – of insisting we forgive and won’t be able to move forward without doing so. Not only the ones who’ve done us wrong but ourselves. I only, as of right now, agree with the latter part of that sentence. Other books claim forgiveness is just letting go of resentment. To me, that’s acceptance – NOT forgiveness.

To go into more detail of that and my disagreement with that concept: Having been repeatedly molested by 2 different people by the age of 9 (one by 13-14 yr old babysitter’s daughter and another a teacher at the Scientology “school” I was placed in after moving to the US), I refuse to say that I forgive them. I don’t. And I don’t know how granting them pardon will help me. Accepting the reality that it happened and that it’s now 20+ years later and I have a life to look forward to is something I can get behind. CHILD ABUSE ISN’T FORGIVEABLE. It just isn’t. It usually carries a life sentence for those wronged by people who knew better, psychologically speaking.
Also, am I supposed to just forgive my rapist? A man who takes absolutely NO accountability for what happened….? I called him a year after the incident went down and he had no recollection of it (Surprise, surprise) and brushed it off. I get it he was super drunk but does that erase the truth of what happened? NO! I have the flashbacks and vivid memories of exactly what happened to prove it. And I refuse to just let him off the hook. Who knows who else he’s done this to or will do it to.

Now, I may change my mind about all this the more I meditate on this and practice it in my mind. And, contrary to some people’s thoughts on human behavior, people CAN change. We can change our minds about things as we learn more and evolve.

But those are my thoughts for the day. Recovery is work. Finding that I have deep resistance on this subject matter is enlightening in its own right. Maybe (just maybe) there IS something to all this? Or maybe there isn’t and it’s just something people want to believe to make themselves feel better.

My inner skeptic and naive self are at odds on this, as you could probably guess just from this long-winded rant.

I’ve gotten some self-help books on all this so I can do more research. Will update more as I let it all percolate in my brain.

Toodles for now. Would love to hear stories from others about this – your experiences and thoughts, especially when it comes to acceptance vs/and/or forgiveness.

Wintery Life Lessons from Lapland

Whilst driving through Lapland, the thick snow heavily weighing the trees down calmed my raging thoughts and I realized why:

*and of course with all the inspiring analogies between the weather and emotions out there in cyber space, it’s not hard to come to this sort of comparison. Lol

Mental illness/depression/grief – It’s like winter, when the colorful beauty and sunshine fades and air is cold and even bitingly wet and – unless you have enough layers – you’re going to be miserable and, in the worst conditions, can even get frostbite. But it’s necessary for the natural cycle to power down so you can come back again and again. And if you don’t allow it and deny it or even scream at it, you won’t get anywhere. And if you try so hard to make it warm everywhere, you won’t rejuvenate and will actually cause more damage in the environment in the long term.

And there is a beauty and stillness to winter which only the dark seems to embrace. Even the sun only comes up briefly, seemingly unable to take much of it before running away again.

And you have to have people around you who put on layers with you and commiserate. To have anything less is the equivalent of having people who strip you down or refuse to lend you a scarf or jacket despite having them laying around, unused. And people who don’t have enough warm clothing to share should be open and honest about it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of but to make someone constantly ask for and then have them explain themselves as to why they need a jacket when you can’t even offer one is a waste of precious energy needed to keep oneself warm.

With that in mind, I’m no longer going to chase people who can’t be there for me. I have no trouble making friends so that isn’t an issue. I’m honestly not sure why I’ve spent so long clinging to people just because of past history. People evolve and just like people can unfriend me and have a right to for any reason (even if I sometimes disagree with them doing so), I have the same rights. I’m henceforth letting go of things that no longer serve me and it feels freeing as fuck!

So, thank you Wintery Finland. I learned such an amazing harshly real lesson from you.

And thank you to the ones who’ve been there for me during probably the worst 6 months emotionally. You know who you are. Yeah, you. I love you. I know I haven’t been the easiest person to be around and it makes me even more appreciate of the ones that have stuck around and haven’t made me feel badly about it or made me defend myself in an effort to get me to apologize for it. Because I’m done apologizing for how I feel and why. My grief is my own and I won’t bend it to suit anybody’s expectations of what it should look like or how I should act. This isn’t a normal time for me so leave those normal expectations of me at home if we’re gonna kick it. Friends that are only friends when it’s convenient for them are not the type of friends I need or want anymore. Fair weather friends are too easy to find. Just as people have the right to pick and choose you, you can do the same. For some reason, I didn’t feel allowed to do that until now. This epiphany might sound stupid and/or obvious to some but, for me, this is huge.

And for those I’m letting go, you’re not a bad person. Neither am I. But this is where I leave you. I truly wish you well.

Camino Gear

Been going back and forth on how to describe my experience. On one hand, I thought about describing every area I walked through, with pictures and witty anecdotes from handwritten journal but then I remembered that I didn’t like to read those myself when planning for the walk since I wanted a truly organic experience without some other persons’ bias and stories in my head.

I decided I’d write it, at least to begin with, in a way I wish others would have written it. With plain facts about gear: what I brought and wish I hadn’t (and ended up sending off) and what I wish I had brought and hadn’t. 

If you read this in preparation for doing your own Camino and are wondering about anything I might have missed or are just curious about something else, don’t hesitate to comment and ask!

I started just before the main heat wave begun smack middle of summer (begun May 11 and completed June 22) and had heard the Pyrenees could be cold so brought my insulated Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket, North Face gloves and Thinsulate hat which I only wore once, climbing the Pyrenees with cold ass gusty winds and never wore any of those again for rest of trip. 

I brought 3 pairs Injinji toe socks (love, love, love Injinji!) which was a bit overkill. Sent one pair off, along with my Ursack bear bag (SO unnecessary, even if camping), compass, my extra bandanna and sun hat (even when sunny, my headband was sufficient and I hate hats so never wore it although I saw plenty of people wearing theirs). I’d also been hoping to cowboy camp along the way, which I didn’t do (the only times I saw chances to do it, rain was in the forecast so, for obvious reasons, decided against it) so sent my tent footprint – which I use under my sleeping pad – off as well.

I did NOT bring my tent for which I was happy about since I probably would’ve used it only once, if that. I was advised by some lovely ladies who’d done their pilgrimage before me so thought I should note that.

I did bring:

1 Nike Dri-Fit pants (best pants ever!)

1 Columbia sport tights (for when I do laundry or when I feel like switching things up)

1 tank top

1 shirt for laundry time

2 pairs of Ex Officio undies which are much much better than regular cotton underwear.

1 pair of Bedrock Sandals for when my foot would swell and would be too painful to walk in my trail runners. Also great for the showers and walking around town. Lightweight and stylish.

1 pair of Brooks Cascadias trail runners (my walking/hiking shoe of choice since it usually accommodates my foot swelling).

1 Buff and another UV headband (didn’t need two in the end since only wore one entire time)

2 pairs of Injinji socks (I switch socks on super hot days to prevent blisters)

1 small Therm a Rest Zlite sleeping pad (not many people need a pad but I elevate my feet every 8km or so and use it constantly)

1 Sleeping Bag (10 degree Zpacks bag so super lightweight)

1 lightweight camping pillow (Sea to Summit Aeros) which honestly probably wasn’t necessary but my neck hated the pillows offered in albergues so I’m glad I brought mine.

1 super lightweight (Deuce of Spades brand) trowel which I didn’t use once but felt good to have, should I have an uncontrollable urge to poop somewhere outdoors.

1 bandanna dangling from pack for pee reasons (or as some lady and on the PCT 2 years ago called it: “vajanky”: like “vagina” and “hanky” Lol).

My trusty Black Diamond trekking poles (brought 2 extra tips for which I was grateful for since I ended up needing them both)

My Osprey Ariel 65L (total overkill on the size by the way but I love my pack too much to trade her for a smaller one I have. I probably could have made a 38L fit).

Osprey pack rain cover

Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket

Electronics: 1 Anker 20,000mAh external battery along with converter and charger for phone and battery. Side note: The 20,00mAh was probably too much. A 10,000mAh would’ve been sufficient. If you’re like me and absolutely have to have phone battery life, it’s worth its weight. Some albergues have very very few outlets to charge on and having an external battery makes life so much easier in the long run in those instances.

I also brought my tele, wide and fisheye lens from Moment for my phone (see my Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/skahlua912 . DEFINITELY worth their weight, in my opinion).

Medical supplies: bottle of ibuprofen, sewing needle and thread (for both blisters and any clothes or gear that might need a stitch), antiseptic towelettes, bandaids and Compheed anti blister pads and some moleskin). Also Electro Mix electrolytes (swear by them…. better than Nuun and other more expensive electrolytes, for me personally anyway). 

Hygienic supplies: to go travel sized toothbrush and paste, Sea to Summit multipurpose soap used as shampoo, body wash AND laundry detergent, rosemary and lavender tonic for cramping, relaxation when able to take baths and to repel bed bugs, coconut oil for hair, face and body lotion, contact lens shit and comb.

Wish I’d brought and ended up buying:

My anti-diarrhea pills/activated charcoal

Smaller, lightweight backpack to use while in towns

Poncho 

More of my favorite protein bars (I could only find muesli or granola bars at the stores in Spain)

Ultimately though, the Camino has services for sending your backpack on to next albergue you plan on staying at so you can bring as much as you want if you’d rather have a more luxurious experience. Or, opposite of that,  if you’d rather have a more minimalistic journey, you could go without more than 1/2 of what I brought and still be fine.

The Camino has stores, albergues, cafes and water stops along with towns throughout the day. Not one day will there be nothing. I prepared a bit more for the backcountry which the Camino is most definitely NOT! Lol

Will write more later about the beautiful people I met along the way and epiphanies I had along the way.

Here are some pics:
The last day, when you first get a peak of the Santiago de Compostela cathedral 👇🏻
The first day, when carrying a bunch of unnecessary stuff and pack is heavy 👇🏻
My sweaty selfie 👇🏻
Blister resolution 😳👇🏻

Estella, Spain

I woke up around 3-4am choking. Apparently I’d barfed in my sleep and because I sleep on my back, it started going down the wrong chute. At first, I panicked thinking “this is how I fuckin’ die?!? Choking on my own vomit in a random hotel in Spain?!? How lame!” And then I remembered I’d wanted to die the other day and could just let myself asphyxiate but decided that’s not how I wanted to go and I still need to finish this pilgrimage and see my family in Finland. This entire mental dialogue happened in the space of a second or so and I quickly coughed the acidic barf out and went back to sleep. Fun stuff.

Stuck here for another day. I woke up at 6am to gauge if I could walk and I still could hardly bring myself up to go to the bathroom so decided staying another day. Hopped in the shower and a HUGE thick glob of dark green/yellow snot the size of my hand came out of my nose which actually helped me breathe a lot better. I’d never ever seen that in my life. It was like the size of a clementine. No exaggeration.😳

Finally caught the pharmacy while it was open (they keep weird hours here in this town. They’re like open for 2 hours at random times, once early AM and then late afternoon). Got flu stuff, echinacea, diarrhea pills (yay!) and extra blister stuff just in case. I feel like I’m oversharing some bodily functions here but it’s my blog. If I can’t keep it disgustingly honest here, where can I?

Feeling a lot more positive today. I rarely get sick so this is a bummer but I’m sure it’ll take longer to heal if I’m mentally in a negative space.

Need to download for the previous days which were actually quite pleasant. Will post some of the pics here and put a bit of commentary next to them when able. I will then expound on all that later when more mentally aware (head is pounding at the moment). This is just 2 days of shittiness. The other days were fantastic so really don’t want my blog to represent the sucky part too much. Mentally, I really want to keep walking but my health needs to come first. But I’m not done here. Not by a long shot. I know I can do this. That’s not a question in my mind at all. Sometimes you just need a mental perspective shift.

The people are wonderful that I meet. Just the other day, when I was crying,  sopping wet and freezing from the rain and waiting for the albergue to open, some Italians walked past and offered to sit with me until I was ok which was so nice and made me cry even harder (whenever someone is nice to me when I’m upset, it just makes me cry. I’m more comfortable with people being harsh or ignoring me when upset, as bad as that sounds).

I separated from my walking buddy in Pamplona. Just needed to feel the feelings I was having and I couldn’t do that with someone else around, no matter how lovely. Miss her tons but we agreed it’s best for both of us.

Tried to upload a ton of pics but the wifi sucks at this fancy pants hotel which is frustrating but will just do a separate post when able. The support I’ve received from people on last post was so heartwarming and really, really helped. Thank you!! 
Some road walking (not my favorite but it was still sort of pretty) 👇🏻


This town is super old and this is the view from the rabies bridge (pic of bridge below this one). It used to be said that if you cross it 3 times with animal, they’d be cured of (or never get) rabies. The lepers would also be housed right nearby. Like holy shit, history man! 👇🏻👇🏻

Rabies bridge 👇🏻

Daily Baguette Service in this town! 😄😍👇🏻

Horsies!!!!! 😍😍😍👇🏻



I absolutely loved this day, when a lot of it was in the forests with birds chirping. Absolutely my favorite 👇🏻


Again, have SO many more pictures but unable to download. Been sleeping most of today and can feel my body healing itself so am very happy about that.

Adios for now! ❤️

2 Days left until Camino trip!

I don’t have anything packed, think I have some sort of an infection since it feels like I’m fighting off sickness,  I’m exhausted and supposed to see people before I go, buy some last minute shit and still weigh gear and tweak it out.

Looks like I’m going to bring only one additional (lightweight) outfit for my trip which means for France, Finland and Corfu, I’m going to be in only 1 of 2 outfits which is different than the PCT since, there, id just be in the backcountry so couldn’t give two shits how stinky or stylish I was. Hahahaha

To be honest, I’ve been super depressed especially since a friend recently committed suicide and just one bad thing after another seems to just happen since to compound the tragic news. I don’t even really want to go but I know doing the Camino will be good for my soul. At this moment though, I doubt it’ll hit me until I’m taking my first couple of steps on the Camino or get my pilgrim passport. 

A little worried that this disassociated feeling will stay with me abroad and that I won’t feel the magic that will undoubtedly be all around me. If I don’t get any healing from this trip, I’m truly scared that my depression will get the better of me and that I’ll give up trying to live in this crazy world. Because if shocking your mind awake with new beautiful landscapes and meeting new people doesn’t do it, what will?

But one day at a time. Today, doctor and REI last minute shopping and starting of packing.

I was told that bringing a tent on the Camino is not necessary… and I do enjoy cowboy camping so thinking of leaving my tent. Can anyone vouch for this? It’s only slightly over 1 lb so still debating whether to bring it or not…

Depression

Someone very close to me today said that I’d never showed any signs therefore I can’t be as depressed as I claim to be.

That was a shocker for me. I’m at the point I’m ready to let go.

Which makes me wonder: what if I DID tell someone I needed help? Do I have to disclose that I’ll kill myself ? Doesn’t that seem extreme? 

I mean, what if someone told you that. You’d take it seriously, if it were a loved one. If it was someone that’s claimed it many times before, you’d say it was the boy/girl who cried wolf.

Yet every time I’ve asked for help, I’ve gotten 9 rejections out of the 10 requests. 

I’m never going to tell anyone I’ll “kill myself”. Never. When I ask for help, I’m already straining my personal integrity. Id prefer not to do it if I can help myself already. Why should I make it extreme to get your attention?

So pick up that phone, answer those texts and be just a good fuckin person to the people you care – even a little bit – about. Don’t take them for granted. The squeaky wheel may get the grease but there might be a bigger problem at hand and it may be such a silent one you’ll never know until it’s too late.