Our first complaint
After my talk in Fort Collins, I was notified that someone complained. They said that I shouldn't be giving this talk, that matters related to mental health and sexual assault should be left to the professionals. Two years ago, I would have hung this up. I would have chucked my hiking boots across the room. I would have cracked under the weight of criticism, and would have disguised my insecurity as a pivot into whatever chapter comes next. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not next month. Not next year. The complaint in and of itself is evidence as to why these stories need to be shared. It would be one thing if I was up there prescribing my way or the highway, but I'm not. Every talk, I open up with a series of questions:
Who here has been backpacking? Who here wants to learn more about the TCT, specifically? Who here wants to talk about feelings?
Heads nod and hands raise for backpacking. Hands shoot up when I ask about feelings. Energetically, the room perks up when I ask if folks are here to hear about how the outdoors can help us heal. I outline my career and athletic pursuits to paint a picture of who I am: Sydney, former corporate marketing professional whose lifestyle contributed to her diabetes and who uses hiking to reverse said diabetes and manage her mental and emotional well-being.
Now that we've established that I'm not a licensed doctor of any variety, let's tackle that bit about "leave it to the professionals."
That is one of the ways we've been trained to silence folks, and it has to stop.
First of all, our stories are our power. Second, therapy isn't accessible to everyone. I can't afford it, so I hike. Medication isn't accessible to everyone, and it doesn't work for everyone. I was on anti-depressants in high school and I decided I'd rather feel ALL the feelings than feel nothing. My essence, the thing that makes me ME is my ability to feel, and articulate said feelings. To put all of this human experience into language that folks can understand and use in their own life. Or not. Take what works for you and leave the rest.
And to the person who complained: Let's go for a hike next time I'm in Fort Collins. Nothing but love. 💚