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Run, you clever boy.
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The last time I went camping, I was 14, it was the middle of winter and I was on an 80 acre spread on a North Carolina mountain. I was completely unprepared, but I was also only a mile away from home, young enough to not know any better and enthralled with the experience.

Two weeks ago, I decided to go camping again. Mind you, this was a huge thing for me, because I suffer from social anxiety disorder. I typically only leave the house for necessities. Work, groceries, being rushed to the hospital for a collapsed lung that I didn't tell anyone about for two days, those kinds of necessities. My fear of being homeless outweighs my fear of people, though, so I manage to force myself to hold down a job. Actually planning to leave the house and do something, and subsequently executing that plan, is... profound and terrifying. But I did it. And after a year of lurking, I figured I'd do something profound and terrifying again. I'm posting about my camping trip.

Someone hit me with an lolcat before I pass out. *twitch*

I plotted a route to take me from Richmond, VA to the Swift Gap Run check-in station of Shenandoah, exactly 90 miles from my house to SGR. 90 miles isn't really an "epic journey" if you're driving, but on a moped, it's 3 hours of hard riding. Very hard riding. Half way there, I couldn't go another foot, had to stop and get off of that thing. My poor bottom was almost numb.

First thing I learned: I need a more comfortable seat for longer rides. Maybe something I can lean back in...

Nevertheless, the ride itself was exhilarating. It's the first time I've taken my moped anywhere more than 5 miles from my house, and I've had it for 2 years. I enjoyed the trip so much that I want to start taking more trips.

When I arrived at Swift Run Gap, I parked on the side to wait for an hour. A co-worker had insisted on accompanying me on this camping expedition, and despite my misgivings (not because of my mental illness, but because he had failed to meet with me twice earlier in the week to plan out the trip, showing up only 30 minutes before i departed and still claiming that he was going to meet me there), and I had agreed to wait for him.

Second thing I learned: don't wait, just go. I say that because I ended up pitching my tent at around 9 p.m. that night. Alone.

After about an hour of waiting, I hopped back on the moped and started going south on Skyline Drive, looking for a place to lock it up securely. There have been four scooters stolen on my block in the last three months, and with my lung problem being exacerbated by my mental illness (i never thought there could be anything worse than a panic attack... until i had a panic attack after my lung collapsed), I can't risk losing my only transportation, so when I park it, it gets chained. The Brown's Gap parking lot, about another 15 miles down Skyline Drive, had a handicap parking sign, which was exactly what I wanted. Parked, chained, got my pack ready and... spent another 30 minutes waiting, hoping my co-worker would appear at any moment.

I finally gave up on that, and after memorizing my route on the map which I'd gotten from the park ranger at the check-in point, started hiking.

Third thing I learned: I packed way too much equipment. Since I was expecting a co-worker to join me, I had packed all of my gear with the intention of splitting it up when he arrived. Instead, I found myself with enough camping gear for two people, 60-65 lbs, slogging uphill alone.

Fourth thing I learned: lung problems + mountains + load equaling half my own weight = :( . I couldn't breathe. I could not breathe. It was a struggle just to go a few hundred feet. For every ten minutes I spent hiking the trail, I spent at least three catching my breath.

Fifth thing I learned: that map they hand out at the check-in point is horribly outdated, poorly drawn or just plain wrong. According to the map, the trail I started out on should have been an almost straight north shot to the western-most point of the Big Run Loop. The trail actually took me a few miles up the AT. The trail that connects to the Big Run Loop is, instead, about a mile down the fire road that ends at that parking lot... and isn't marked or indicated in any on the map. By the time I figured this out, I was close to a crossing point on Skyline Drive.

Sixth thing I learned: NEVER leave your map behind, for any reason. I had marked my destination on the map and left it with my moped, tucked under my helmet (which i'd locked to the moped as well) so my co-worker could find me if he ever showed up. That was a mistake. If I'd had that map, I could have backtracked, gotten onto the correct trail and made camp well before sundown. Leave a note, leave a pile or rocks or stick indicating your direction, tell someone where you're going before you leave, but do not leave your map behind.

For the record, I was never "lost", because I knew which direction I facing at all times (using the sun as a reference point) and how to get back to my starting location, but since the trail I was on wasn't the trail I was expecting to be on, I didn't have any real idea where I'd end up and no way to know when I'd get to a stopping point until I got back to the road. Had this been in deep forest, or a place without a road, I would have been lost, but, thankfully, I didn't end up in that kind of situation.

I persevered, though, and it was absolutely worth the detour. I came face to face with a black bear.

No, I'm not kidding, nor am I exaggerating. I was no more than five feet away from a black bear. About 150-200' from Skyline Drive, I heard a rustle in the leaves, just to my right. I looked up and there she was, a black bear.

And not even two seconds after that, her cub popped into view, scampering up a tree that I'd just passed, no more than 10' away from where I was standing and staring at that bear.

I immediately realized how dangerous that situation could become. Mother bear, cub, yeah. I wasn't afraid. If anything, I wanted to just stand there and soak in that moment, but I was highly aware of what could happen, how protective animals are of their young, so I kept a smile on my face, my breathing as quiet as possible and very cautiously started backing away. The bear turned and ran a dozen or so yards, the cub remained in the tree, and I put as much distance between them and myself as I could, as quickly as I could under the circumstances.

That was one of the highlights of my trip. If I had to narrow it down to a single outstanding moment, I might even mark that one as the defining one. I'll never forget the sight of that bear, or her cub. Never.

That trail exited onto Skyline Drive, and I knew that I'd passed Big Run Overlook on the way to Brown's Gap, so I headed in that direction. I don't know how long I walked, how far I had to go from the trail exit to the overlook, but I did finally get there, and once again, a moment that made it worth the effort occurred. I saw a blue bird, though I couldn't identify the species. It was small, and almost 200' away, so all I could see was the bright blue coloration. It wasn't a bluejay, and I don't know if bluebirds are native to Virginia, but it was most definitely, outstandingly blue, and such a delight. That little wonder made my pack seem a bit lighter and my breathing a bit less difficult, at least for a short while.

You have to hop over the wall at the overlook to get onto the Big Run Loop trail. I almost missed it, would have missed it if it had been much darker, but I caught sight of an aging sign at the trail head and went to investigate. The sign was a much needed moment of relief, as it provided much better direction than the map had, showing me exactly where I was and exactly where the trail would take me, right to the destination I had selected on my map earlier that day.

Seventh thing I learned: water is the American Express of the outdoors. Don't leave home without it. Foolishly, stupidly, I had expected there to be springs or water holes or something to fill up with along the trail, and I was concerned with weight, so I hadn't filled any of my bottles before leaving. I was carrying four water bottles and didn't have a single drop of water between them. I was an idiot. Don't be me, take water with you. I ended up hiking for about five hours, in July heat, without water. I did eventually find water before making camp, and had water at my camp site, but it was still an imbecilic thing to do. I was sweating profusely, I was losing water with every gasped breath, and if this had been a different trail, or if I weren't normally somewhat dehydrated (i drink a couple of pots of coffee every day, and rarely anything else, so i'm accustomed to a certain level of dehydration), I might not have come back to make this post. Take water with you. Even if it's only one bottle/canteen, take it with you. It is SO worth the weight.

Along the way down the trail, I saw that bear and her cub again. This time, they were about 75' away, so I didn't feel that there was any danger involved. I stopped and watched for a moment, then drew attention to myself with a soft "Hello again". Amusingly, the mother bear looked at me and let out what I can only describe as an exasperated huff as she tossed her head in a "Oh jeez, not you again" manner. The cub immediately bounded off in the opposite direction, away from me, and the mother sauntered off after it. I have to say that I found it to be quite charming, still puts a smile on my face when I remember that bear's reaction to me on our second meeting.

Still further down, I almost stepped in bear poo. Still fresh, must have been left by that pair I'd seen twice before. And not far from that, I finally found water. A seep, no puddles or pools, but water it was and I couldn't drop my pack fast enough. I know the dangers of drinking "unprocessed" water, but in my experience (decades ago... not really enjoying having to say that...), seeps are relatively safe, and I was too thirsty to wait.

I'd been seeing plenty of deer tracks, and wild blackberries, raspberries and blueberries (my personal favorite food, ever), but no deer. Bears and birds, but no deer. Hmph.

Once I'd quenched my thirst, I was about to hitch up my pack again when I realized that I could scarcely make out the trail. And my night vision is quite good. I hadn't noticed, between the ache in my chest and need for water, that the sun was gone. I think I must have hiked for 15-20 minutes, to reach that water (i could smell it, i swear i could, and it urged me on like nothing else), as the sun had gone down and the forest had darkened. No problem, though, I had the foresight to pack a Streamlight Stylus Pro, with charged batteries and spares. Hiking in the dark, even with a flashlight, isn't the brightest thing to do (pun intended), but setting up camp right on a trail, next to bear scat, would have been even less intelligent, so my choice was made for me. Get out the flashlight and move on.

In case anyone's wondering, the Streamlight Stylus Pro is an excellent flashlight. Bright, good focus, good spread outside the focus, and extremely lightweight. I use Eneloop rechargables, which are excellent batteries. I bought one when my latest mini-Maglite died and liked it so much that I bought another specifically for my camping equipment, and one to keep in my moped tool kit.

By the time I got to my intended camp site, it was completely black. With no city lights and the canopy overhead blocking out the stars, I couldn't see two inches in front of me without that flashlight, so I had to set up my tent with the flashlight in my teeth. I was expecting to make camp hours earlier, and would have if I'd been on the right trail and hadn't had to carry all of the gear alone, but what was done was done, so I got to work. Decided that clearing every loose rock and twig wasn't going to be worth the effort at that point, just did a general sweep, pegged and roped down the tent (yay for 550 cord. the surplus tent i bought was missing one tie-down rope, and a boulder was blocking off a peg spot, so i cut off some 550 for a fresh tie-down and another length to lash the tent to the boulder), laid down a casualty blanket for ground cover and dug a small fire pit.

That was wrong of me. The fire pit, I mean. There were notices everywhere saying that fires were prohibited... but after hours of hiking, I was tired, isolated and really needed something to give me a mental boost, and a fire was just what the inner psychologist prescribed. I kept it minimal, just twigs and small fallen branches, and put it out after a couple of hours, then buried it completely so it wouldn't leave any trace. Used it to boil up a cup of cowboy coffee and a pot of beans. Coffee was horrible, beans were crunchy and undercooked, but as hungry and tired as I was, they were satisfying.

With little else to do, I figured it was "time to hit the sack".

Unfortunately, I don't sleep at night. I haven't been able to sleep well or regularly at night since I was 6 or 7 years old. Side effect of mental illness, bad diet, I don't know, but I rarely sleep at night. And that was one thing I hadn't considered when I decided to go on this little adventure.

Seventh thing I learned: the forest is a very bad place to be if you suffer from insomnia. It wasn't frightening, just horribly, terribly boring. I spent about six hours lying in the dark, getting up every half hour or so to wander around with my flashlight, almost hoping for a bear attack or a rattlesnake encounter or something to pass the time.

I did see a luna moth, and that was certainly delightful. I adore luna moths, but I could never remember when to look for them. Now I'll always remember, I can find them in the first week of July.

Saw a few tiny crayfish in Big Run, and a little salamander. And a spider, with a body as big as a person's eye, on a log. Saw some kind of little scuttling rodent-type thing, not a possum or squirrel.

Big Run, by the way, is not big. That spot where I camped, where I was expecting to find a stream or river... it's a tiny creek, barely more than a trickle. There had been fishing notices posted in various places... I had to laugh, because there was no way there were any fish within five miles. Not even minnows. Perhaps it widened out and picked up more water from springs, seeps and washes further east, but at that spot, at the western-most point of the loop, it was barely a creek.

Explored about 25' up the slope, discovered an enormous boulder that had created an overhang, which was apparently either a camp site for previous hikers or... a bear den. No trash or human sign, but plenty of scuff marks and indications that something had been in and out of that spot.

At some point, between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., it started raining. Had to adjust my ground cloth a bit to keep water from trickling on to me as it went downhill, but that wasn't a problem. Started to get cool, but I'd packed two sleeping bag liners and a rain poncho, so I pulled out the poncho and used that as a blanket. Finally passed out a bit after 4 a.m., slept for about five hours. The rain was just stopping when I woke up. Pulled out a gelled fuel stove, heated up a cup of water and started off the day with hot chocolate.

I decided then that I was going to hike back out and go home. The tedium of spending hours in the dark with nothing to do and no way to force myself to sleep was just too much. My legs were stiff, my arms and shoulders ached and my lung was being quite disagreeable, but for all of that, I would have happily stayed for several days if I just had something to do when I was most active, in the middle of the night. But that was the "deal breaker" for me. Pain, mental and physical, I can handle. Boredom, not having any of that.

The trip back out was much less eventful. No wild animal encounters, a lot of trudging up steep slopes, gasping, clutching at the chest and stopping, pack dropping and gasping like a fish out of water. Stopped to pick blueberries whenever easy opportunities presented themselves, and made sure to take water with me as I was leaving (still have some in that canteen!). A few other hikers passed me, which almost triggered panic attacks each time, but I finally made it to a crossroad where four trails met. I recognized it from the map, and another trio of hikers confirmed that the trail I wanted was the correct one to get me back to Brown's Gap. All downhill from there to the fire road, a bit of easy uphill on the fire road itself, but by the time I got back to my moped, around 2:30 p.m., I was utterly exhausted. Two days of hiking, 12-13 miles covered, with that overloaded pack and my bad lung... it was all I could do to swing my leg up and get on my moped after packing.

Map was still right where I left it. Co-worker never arrived. Somehow, despite the route which I had planned being essentially a straight shot (33 all the way from Richmond to Swift Run Gap), he managed to end up in Illinois. And that's especially impressive to me, because I got lost in a town with one road once. Part of the reason I never do things like this is a fear of getting lost. If I get lost, I might not be able to find my way back without asking for help, and being afraid of people means I can't ask for help, so I just don't go places, and since I don't go anywhere, I'm more likely to get lost... vicious circle. Self-sustaining negative feedback loop. So I was expecting to get lost, and if I made it back home, have to hear him chide me for never getting there, but instead, the opposite happened. Figures.

The ride home turned out to have one more surprise waiting. As I was making my way back north along Skyline Drive, a deer and two foxes or wild dogs came bounding out of the forest, right into the road! The doe was big, her head was higher than mine while I was on my moped, her body larger than my moped itself. I could have ridden her, she was that big. I don't know if they, the doe and two canids, were frolicking, or if the canids were trying to catch the deer, and I didn't care, I was just happy to see them. I stopped immediately, hoped desperately that no cars were coming around the bends ahead or behind me, and just watched as that last glorious moment before leaving Shenandoah for good. The animals finally leaped back across the tree line and disappeared, and I revved up my engine and set off once again, a shine in my eyes and a smile that wouldn't quit.

Getting home was more of a chore than getting there had been. I was already exhausted from the hike, having to ride another 105 miles was tough. Moped was being crotchety, not wanting to start back up after stopping for gas, but it did fine. Great machine, perfect choice of transportation for me. Small, nimble, fast enough for my needs and wants, and it allows me to bypass the necessity for a license or insurance, so not only am I saving money, I'm not going to the DMV or an insurance agent. I highly recommend a moped for a lightweight bug-out vehicle. Not a scooter, a moped, with a simple two-stroke engine and easily maintained frame and parts. They can go almost anywhere, they're inexpensive and they're reliable if you take care of them.

The next three days were... rough. My legs went from stiff to tender and painful to move. My arms and shoulders were bruised from the pack, and my lung decided to twitch continuously in rebellion for putting it through the stress of the thinner air of the mountainous terrain. We had a long talk, ending with a threat of eviction. Doubt it will do any good in the long term, but it settled down a bit.

So, in the end, do I regret my camping trip? No. Resoundingly no. I don't think I'll be repeating that series of situations again, if I can avoid them, but I wouldn't hesitate to go camping again. I learned a lot from this excursion. I learned that I need to stop being so... willing to bend over backwards for others, to such a degree that I ended up packing for two and carrying all of it myself, needlessly. Next time, I'll pack lighter. I'm going to go through all of my camping gear, pare it down to what I can fit into a day pack and go with that, and if someone wants to go with me, he or she will bring their own equipment or do without. I learned that I need to focus on the trip, not the destination, or to ensure that I have something to do at the destination rather than hope that something will present itself to keep me occupied.

And I learned that I can go places without worrying as much, though I do need to be as conscious of this new limitation resulting from the collapsed lung as I am of my limitations resulting from my mental illness.

Not long after I bought my moped, I started dreaming of a cross-country trip, but I never believed it would be something that I could do. Now, I do. I really do. Not today, not tomorrow, but some day, and I'll be able to do it just the way I imagined, riding along, stopping to see the sights, camping out and enjoying every minute of it. As long as I don't have to climb any mountains with half my weight in gear. *twitch*

And now, I'm going back to lurking. And bed. >.<
 

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Sounds like you had an adventure. Sounds like fun. I know the general area where you were, and have always wanted to hike there.

Just as an aside, Wellbutrin helped my brother's social anxiety disorder, he now is completely (well almost) normal.

Your coffee intake also probably exacerbates your anxiety, and is also contributing to your inability to sleep at night... But I'm no doctor, just someone who used to drink way too much coffee.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.
 

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Luminara thanks for the post about your trip. Sounds like you learned a lot, both about yourself and what you're capable of as well as a bit about camping at our age :D: It's fantastic that you put yourself intentionally outside your comfort zone and didn't let anything turn you back.

Might I suggest a GPS for when you're concerned about becoming lost? If you can read a map, then you can make it to your destination. However, a small handheld gps for when you're hiking can give you a boost of confidence that you'll find your way back to your starting point. We take a Garmin eTrex with us whenever we go hiking for this reason. Fortunately we've not needed it for rescue so far, we just play with it.

Not many people would admit their short comings and the things they didn't consider or think about. Thanks for your honesty.
 

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I live less than an hour from Swift Run gap. I have entered Skline many times there, mostly for motorcycle rides. Beautiful part of the country we have here!

Welcome to the site!
 

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Run, you clever boy.
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Sounds like you had an adventure. Sounds like fun. I know the general area where you were, and have always wanted to hike there.
I wish I could go back. I don't know if I'll be capable of hiking mountainous terrain again, but if I can, I'd love to give it another shot and see if I could improve my experience there.

Just as an aside, Wellbutrin helped my brother's social anxiety disorder, he now is completely (well almost) normal.
I... could list a lot of very good reasons why I haven't seen a doctor for this since I was 18, but the most honest one is that I'm just afraid. Afraid of a great many things. Just thinking about going to see a doctor is making it difficult to think, to express myself. It scares the hell out of me. And I wonder... I've spent my entire life in fear, so... who am I, what am I, without it? What kind of person would I become? What do I do with my time, how do I fill that... that hole?

Those aren't questions anyone can answer for me. I don't know if I'm even communicating what runs through my head when I think about medication for my mental illness, I'm just... being honest, and probably saying far too much.

Your coffee intake also probably exacerbates your anxiety, and is also contributing to your inability to sleep at night... But I'm no doctor, just someone who used to drink way too much coffee.
I hadn't considered that. It certainly is possible... but as I'm thinking about it, the last time I had a serious problem, I found myself out of work for a year, the last two months of which I couldn't afford coffee, and trying to work up the courage to go out job hunting and going to interviews wasn't any easier. I was still terrified. Two months might not have been long enough for any changes to manifest, though... I don't know. I don't think I'm going to stop drinking coffee, though. I really enjoy it. Part of that is certainly the caffeine addiction speaking, but part of it is real, honest enjoyment of a good cup of coffee. The flavors, the temperature, the act of drinking it... I wouldn't be very happy having to let go of those things.

And decaf is just nasty. :taped:

Luminara thanks for the post about your trip. Sounds like you learned a lot, both about yourself and what you're capable of as well as a bit about camping at our age :D: It's fantastic that you put yourself intentionally outside your comfort zone and didn't let anything turn you back.
My next trip will be different. I'll be planning my route to go farther, but with camping stops at public sites along the way, places where I can ride right into the site and treat my moped like a pack mule, carrying the bulk of the equipment and leaving me with a much lighter load to tote around when I go out exploring.

I just have to find sites with very low traffic or populations... *twitch*

Might I suggest a GPS for when you're concerned about becoming lost? If you can read a map, then you can make it to your destination. However, a small handheld gps for when you're hiking can give you a boost of confidence that you'll find your way back to your starting point. We take a Garmin eTrex with us whenever we go hiking for this reason. Fortunately we've not needed it for rescue so far, we just play with it.
I've been looking at various GPS models for almost two years now, but I'm always hesitant to pull the trigger on any of them. The least expensive ones all seem to have various flaws or problems, and I don't want to spend a lot of money on something I won't use frequently, or worse, something that isn't any better than the cheaper devices.

With the growth of the tablet industry, I've been giving those some serious thought. I would use a tablet frequently (reading, writing, music, movies, etc.), and I know there are a few with GPS. Even if I got one without GPS, I could use basic Internet access to pull up Google maps and have a saved, always available map. Lenovo has some, two which have caught my eye, coming to market very soon, and rumors of an Amazon tablet with free Wi-Fi are making the rounds online. I could use a solar charger to keep a tablet powered on the trail, so something of this nature would be ideal, I believe. Still, I'm not jumping on anything right now, just waiting to see how the market evolves.

I live less than an hour from Swift Run gap. I have entered Skline many times there, mostly for motorcycle rides. Beautiful part of the country we have here!
I LOVED riding that road! The twists and switchbacks were scary, but at the same time, it was so peaceful and soothing. It was much nicer to ride up there than 33 had been, what with all the people passing me or piling up behind me. And that doe was the cap on a perfect ride. Somehow, she made me feel small in a way the mountains hadn't, but it was a very good feeling.

There were other bikers, including some in clubs (i saw colors at times), giving me the wave. That was both amusing and strangely empowering. There I was, on my little 50cc moped, getting the wave from people on 1000cc cruisers and touring bikes. I suppose I felt like I'd "passed" in some way.

I forgot to take my camera on this trip. I'd reminded myself to add it to my pack just half an hour before I left, but I still ended up leaving it behind. It's not a great camera, just a cheap 3.2 megapixel Kodak that I bought when I was working as a laptop repair technician (i bought it specifically to document damage and repairs), but it's something I'm constantly trying to remember to carry with me so I can take pictures of interesting things, and constantly forgetting anyway. A picture of that bear cub, or the deer... well, hopefully I'll remember it on the next trip.

:sleep:
 

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I think somebody already mentioned the coffee. Don't have a cup before bed. Your brain will be awake. You can sleep on it, but not well at all.
I drink lots of it, but have to cut myself off about 9 hours before I know I'll need to be down.
Water, on the other hand, is a magic potion that doesn't get anywhere near enough praise.
It makes everything work better.

I driver trucks and was having these moments where I wasn't falling asleep, but my brain felt like it was shutting down.
It turned out that I didn't need coffee to be alert. I needed water.
HUGE difference in endurance both mental and physical.
I still forget to on occasion, but pulling down a liter or quart of water before I head out to works makes all the difference. I sip another 24 ounces from a canteen the next 8 to 10 hours.
With my coffee, of course.

I believe that "huff" sound from the bear was actually a warning. You might read up on that. But I'm pretty sure she was telling you to buzz off and her temper was growing.

Enjoyed the story. It was fun just to read along if I couldn't go along.
Sometimes a sense of personal accomplishment can help with social issues.
Maybe if you became more accomplished with the camping it might help the other stuff.
Can't do anything else but hope you take another trip and come back with another journal entry.
Cool stuff.
 

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Nice story :)

1. Can I suggest looking at the Asus Transformer? It's similar to the iPad (but runs Android) and has GPS. It's cheaper, and it has a keyboard "dock" that turns it into a mini laptop.

2. Apart from the coffee suggestions - do you have any lights on when you sleep? I would suggest a sleeping mask. There's a link between melatonin production (which helps you sleep, and sleep well!) and lights being on when you're sleeping.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I think somebody already mentioned the coffee. Don't have a cup before bed. Your brain will be awake. You can sleep on it, but not well at all.
I don't sleep well anyway. I've always had difficulty falling asleep (it drove my mother up a wall... she'd get up in the middle of the night and find me in the bathroom, curled up with a blanket and book, reading when i was supposed to be asleep), even before I started drinking coffee. I've tried biofeedback, incense, foregoing caffeine entirely for weeks, boring books, over-the-counter sleep pills, different foods, nothing ever helped.

After leaving the hospital, it's gotten worse. I wake up frequently, sometimes can't go back to sleep, often finding myself getting by on only 3-5 hours of sleep a day. I used to sleep very heavily, once I fell asleep, but not since a few weeks after the lung surgery. The coffee maker at work went south a couple of weeks ago, so I've been drinking water instead. Waiting to see if it makes any difference, but thus far, nothing of note has occurred.

Sometimes a sense of personal accomplishment can help with social issues.
Maybe if you became more accomplished with the camping it might help the other stuff.
It wouldn't. My mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain. It can't be "learned" away, it will never abate, it can only be suppressed via medication, or lived with. It's not caused by lack of self-confidence, it's just the way my brain works. So cognitive behavioral adjustment, retraining my emotions and thoughts to remove the fear, won't work. Believe me, if it could work, if I could think myself out of it or use accomplishments to beat it down, I would have done so a very long time ago.

About eight years ago, I got a call from a company, asking me to interview for a temporary position as a laptop repair technician. I passed the interview, got another call the same day, asking me to go in for a follow-up interview immediately and was hired less than an hour after that second interview. When I arrived for work on the first day of my second week there, the lead supervisor sat down with me and told me that I was assured of a full-time, permanent position with the company, because I was performing so well that I had grossly surpassed all expectations or hopes. Basically, I nailed my dream job, working as a laptop repair tech (i'm an A+ certified computer repair technician, with no formal training, earned that certification on my own merits and i'm immensely proud of that accomplishment). And here I am today, washing dishes and cooking in a restaurant instead of building and repairing computers, because even after achieving a lifelong dream and being recognized as the best as what I was doing (no-one in that tech lab approached my level of knowledge or proficiency), I couldn't suppress the fear. I lost the job, because the fear was greater than the sense of accomplishment or pride I took in my work.

I will never win this fight. But I'm okay with that, because I finally came to understand that it's not my fault, that it's not because I'm lazy or stupid or incompetent or unworthy of living, it's physical and chemical, not emotional or intellectual. I'm better now than I ever have been in the past. Not great, not likely to suddenly wake up "normal" one day, but I can live with my problems now. I follow routines as best as I can, do what I can to maintain a semblance of a normal life and try to work around the mental illness, rather than through it.

Can't do anything else but hope you take another trip and come back with another journal entry.
I've begun planning my next trip. My employer has been talking about Chincoteague for a few weeks, telling me about the wild horses and the "running of the ponies". I was really starting to get excited about it, hoping to go see that, but it turns out that it happened within the last couple of weeks, so I missed it. His father, an avid motorcycle enthusiast, just came home from a cross-country ride, and he recommended Corolla, NC. I looked that up on Google Maps and discovered that the routes I could take to get to Corolla all lead right past Kitty Hawk! That sealed it for me. Horses, Kitty Hawk, the Atlantic (haven't seen the ocean in over 20 years. went when i was 15 or 16, a small nurse shark swam around my legs, was an incredible experience)... definitely going to make that trip. It will be next July before I go, because even though it's only a 6 hour ride on my moped, I'd like to make it a 3-4 day trip with camping stops, but I'm already excited about it.

1. Can I suggest looking at the Asus Transformer? It's similar to the iPad (but runs Android) and has GPS. It's cheaper, and it has a keyboard "dock" that turns it into a mini laptop.
That's one of the tablets I've been watching. There were some production issues not too long ago, resulting in a lot of them with clouding (light bleed), but I haven't ruled it out yet. Other than that, there haven't been many negative reviews of the EEE Transformer, so it's near the top of my list of options.

I'm still waiting for the release (Aug. 23), and subsequent deluge of reviews, of Lenovo's corporate Thinkpad tablet. Not the K1 or P1. I've always liked the look of IBM/Lenovo products, and this one definitely has that classic Thinkpad look. If it's as feature-rich and well designed as it appears in previews, and the only mark against it is the lack of GPS, I may pick that one up instead.

Unless something "better" comes out in the next few months, it's probably going to come down to one of those two.

2. Apart from the coffee suggestions - do you have any lights on when you sleep? I would suggest a sleeping mask. There's a link between melatonin production (which helps you sleep, and sleep well!) and lights being on when you're sleeping.
I usually sleep during the day, with a pillow over my face. I couldn't sleep when the power was out overnight last week though, despite several chapters of Moby **** and a rather distressing lack of coffee... it's been more difficult since the lung surgery, falling asleep and staying asleep. Maybe I'm just getting old.
 
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