Nude and Alone in Lamington National Park
It would have been an unbelievable sight to witness: a young woman standing atop a cliff completely naked, screaming absurdities like “PENIS” at the top of her lungs and laughing hysterically. That’s freedom.
I’ve never felt so light, so full of joy and so in love with my world and with myself. Looking over the green valleys that cut deep into the mountain ranges of Lamington National Park, I hadn’t come across another soul in days and I felt like a wild woman. I shimmied my breasts under the sunshine and beat my chest like a gorilla, egging on the universe to bring it on. I was a madwoman, a free spirit.
I’m not talking about the kind of “wild” one thinks of when a person parties themselves stupid like failed Hollywood stars or numbs themselves on various drugs like the glorified, lost-soul rock stars. I’m talking about those rare times in life when you feel unchained and a true form of self-expression takes over. A realisation that makes you laugh and cry at the same time, an overwhelming sense of gratitude, an epiphany if you will. We’re brought up to suppress any explosion of emotion. We’re taught to hold back tendencies to lash out for fear of what others may think.
If we wound back from this moment on the mountain to a few weeks ago, I don’t think anyone would have recognised this girl. Anxiety is a dark place. It is the opposite to freedom. It is fear, it is isolation, it is a lack of clarity, panic and pain all at once. I hadn’t been able to eat for days. I had chronic diarrhea because my digestive system couldn’t cope with the constant tension in my belly. I couldn’t concentrate on a simple task like making a cup of tea, yet I couldn’t rest or lie in bed because my nervous system was tingling and my mind was overactive. I couldn’t go for a walk without stopping to cry and getting angry at myself for being so pathetic. The hardest part was that I was so caught up in my own shit I couldn’t see an ending. I was scared that I would be stuck in this headspace forever, and that in itself causes such a deep fear, like a dark sheet slowly covering up everything you love, everything that used to excite you.
Getting through something like this does not have quick fix. I wish I could say that I just escaped to hike in the bush, stripped down and instantly felt better. I wish there were a simple solution, but the truth is, it’s a process. Instead of fighting my anxiety, I began to accept it. I took it to yoga with me and we practiced moving through the emotional blockage using Vinyasa and breath. I took it along to meditation where it would sit inside me and feel heavy in my chest. I took it to a massage and washed it away in a few lavender scented baths. The more and more I accepted and nurtured myself, the less it started to hang around.
Adventures, travel, hiking, escaping and “finding yourself” are not about going as far away as possible, because fears, anxieties and sadness will most likely follow. Standing face-to-face with the issue, accepting your truth and working through the negativity trapped inside is the only cure for a sustainable outcome. Running away can help suppress what you really feel, distract you even, but you have to do the work.
I stood in this rainforest clearing with my home city in the distance, still in sight. The place where my heart was broken, my anxiety crept over, my disappointments and failures still lingered. I felt so far removed, yet an hour on the highway would take me back. Sometimes, the place to gain a new perspective is not as far away as you think.
Cover by Guillaume Gaubert