Caught in a Whiteout

Post expedition blues are a well known downside to the euphoria of expeditions. When you have focused for so long on a single goal and then you achieve what you set out to accomplish.

Returning the world seems less exciting, not quite as hard. Sitting around just staring at the horizon think “Well what do I do now?” When going to work just doesn’t have the same appeal because you’re not as focused as you were.

Well what happens when the goal goes up in flames? When your dream disappears in a single stroke, one false move and it’s over. Months of hard work, late nights and early mornings wasted in a flash. All those days and weeks of pre-expedition pressure rising until you can barely handle it gone. The pressure drops, nothing matters anymore.

On the fourth day of my expedition, my small world crashed and burnt around me. One moment I was strong, happy and content. The next weak, devastated and relieved all in one. I swore a lot, picked up the phone, called it in and came home. The next few days I have written about.The real battle didn’t really begin until I was back home. Lying in my bed. Alone and broken. My family and friends were happy to see me and I was glad to be home and safe. At that moment I wanted nothing more than a warm bed. But very quickly I changed.My new testing ground wasn’t the pristine wilderness of Svalbard. It was the colourful, warm and pleasant surroundings of my normal life. I was about to face the hardest mental challenge of my short life.

I was angry, at myself, at everything around me. I smiled and laughed like I was fine, but inside I was burning. The questions were always the same, “Are you OK?” “We’re sorry to hear what happened, are you doing alright?” and “Oh What an amazing experience!, you must be so happy!”

I would nod and smile, playing the stoic. Inside it hurt, every word stabbing saying “You failed! You failed! You FAILED!!!!” Mentally I was in pieces.

I wanted to grab hold of them and shout, scream and tell them how much it hurt. The pain, the suffering how I had invested so much time, effort and money into a project to see it die in a matter of minutes. How upon my return all I wanted to do was crawl into a dark corner,drown out the inner voice and cry.

I was depressed.

I couldn’t be bothered anymore. I couldn’t exercise as the expedition had wrecked me physically. I just wanted to be left alone, but at the same time I wanted people around me. I needed laughter, conversation and work to get me back on track.In the few weeks after my expedition the only times I found solace were when I was listening to music or writing. I sat and listened, kept myself busy with cleaning, packing and repacking equipment over and over I packed my equipment finding the best system to make it a small and efficient as possible. Researching new ways to train, optimising my nutrition, anything to keep the inner voice quite. Writing down my thoughts and moods trying my best to rid myself of the dark thoughts.

Slowly my body became strong enough that I could cycle and run again. As training resumed the inner voice began to recede, slowly but surely my situation didn’t seem so dark. I could feel my cheerful self returning, it took time but each day it got a little easier to get up and focus. The fog in my mind beginning to clear.

Now after 3 months I can finally say I’m happy again. It took its time, but the mind is a complex system and like any muscle it takes time to repair.

Now why would I make this public? It is not for any kind of sympathy, there are people out there in far worse situations than I will ever encounter. It is so that if anyone is going through something similar, all you need to know is that you’re not alone. If you need any help then please drop me an email and I’ll help you as much as I can.

I suffered in silence for too long. It takes strength to ask for help, and I had none left upon my return from the Arctic. It took my older sister telling me I wasn’t “All there” to ask for help.

To everyone who sent me messages of condolence when I returned from the ice. Thank you, now that I’m better it’s comforting to know people are behind you in your darkest hour.

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