Hiking, Setbacks and Restoring the Soul
It’s via Instagram we have recently connected with Ebony Hoiberg a Canberra based girl, who tells us her favourite things are hiking, painting and all dogs.
Ebony’s struggle with anxiety and depression during her time at university has led her to become an advocate for mental health awareness. She is as passionate about hiking as she is about encouraging women to enjoy the outdoors.
Ebony set the goal to walk across Australia in 2017 however her plans were put on hold when she was attacked in in July 2016, which has led her on an even greater journey of recovery. Hiking and the outdoors have played a key role in Ebony’s healing process and her passion for the outdoors continues to shine through despite her setback. Ebony still hopes to walk across Australia, but at the moment is taking her recovery step by step, just like she does on the trail.
Ebony’s interview below shares part of her story with us.
How is it that creating awareness of Mental Health through adventure has become a purpose of yours?
I struggled with depression and anxiety throughout university, and didn't know how to explain to people what I was going through. I felt like I had to hide my struggle which only made it worst and I ended up feeling very alone. Once I reached out to my friends for help and started to see a psychologist I realised there was no reason to be ashamed. I become passionate about sharing my story and reducing the stigma around mental ill health. I fell in love with hiking and long distance walking because it made me start to feel happy again while giving me space to be alone with my thoughts, in a positive way. It made me fall in love with the world again and gave me something to look forward to.
After I was attacked the trauma brought my life to a stand still. Through starting to hike again I felt like I like I was rediscovering who I was and taking back control of my life.
It was a really hard time but going out walking become such a big part of my recovery, and it continues to be, something I am deeply grateful for. Hiking brought back my spark and a smile to my face and makes me look forward to the future, and I hope I can share this with other people.
What is it you hope to achieve, in what ways do you envisage it to help and/or create change?
I hope to change the way we think about both mental health and also about women in the outdoors.
By reducing the stigma of mental health and to make it easier for all people to reach out to get help if they need it. I feel its important to share my own story of recovery because it's important to know its okay not to be okay. Also that things can and do get better. I also hope people start to hike and go adventuring as a way to maintain their own mental well being. I believe as a society by focusing more on the things we are passionate about we inspire others to reach their own personal goals. For me I find my spark when I'm out walking, I want to try and help other people find their spark too.
I also hope to encourage all women to get outdoors for greater recognition and understanding of our capabilities and strengths we have, that we may leave dormant at times. I think its especially important to encourage girls and women to try new things, to take risks, have fun, make mistakes and not feel like they have to be perfect, and the outdoors can provide this opportunity. It also provides women with the opportunity to learn to love and respect their bodies, in a way we often don't learn as girls growing up in society. It saddens me that so many women feel unsafe in the outdoors, and because it is something that has been a big barrier to my adventures, I hope it can change. I believe no woman’s journey in life should be limited because of gender and that women have the right to be safe in the outdoors.
How has the pursuit of this particular adventure challenge helped/changed you?
Wanting to walk across Australia has challenged and changed me. A lot. Having to delay my goal was really hard and emotional but I’m better because of it.
I’m still hoping at some point to walk across Australia, but for the moment my aim is to keep walking to assist me with my PTSD and because it makes me happy.
In the mean time I will use my adventures as recovery to encourage others to change the stigma surrounding mental health and to show just how brave and strong women are by pushing through such setbacks.
Preparing for this adventure the last couple of years has shown me there are still a lot of barriers and challenges that women face in the outdoors.
I have also seen how supportive women in this space are of each other and that warms my heart. Knowing I have a goal that I want to achieve has helped during my recovery. It has gotten me out of bed and given me a reason to keep trying even on days when mentally everything has been really difficult. It has helped me to build resilience and know that I am strong. Slowly I have started to regain parts of my life I thought I once may have lost.
My goal has changed, no longer is it just about me walking the kilometres across Australia, it's about my journey to be being both mentally and physically well enough to support other women to achieve their adventure goals. I'm going to enjoy getting out on the trail most days and soaking up every ounce of joy that it brings me.
What would you like others to know and or understand about Mental Health and it’s relationship to Nature/Adventure/Outdoors?
These may seem a little but I have found a lot of metaphors between hiking and mental health that have helped me along the way.
- When your hiking sometimes its really hard work and you just have to keep trying and do the best you can, even if it's not as strong as others on the trail.
- Sometimes hiking is so much easier with a friend because they can carry half your gear and you have someone to talk with.
- Some days you just want to be on your own, but you always have to remember you are never alone and there are always people that you can ring if something goes wrong or you want to celebrate how many k’s you got that day
- Sometimes things do go wrong, you're not concentrating and you miss a turn on the trail and end up on the wrong path, and you have to stop, take a break, a deep breath and work out where you went wrong and recalibrate. It's not the end of the world, you just have to navigate back to your trail and you'll be alright. But there really is no point beating yourself up about it.
- Its okay to ask other hikers for help and you should never feel ashamed for not having all the answers.
- Sometimes injuries are serious and you might have to seek professional help, that doesn't make you weak, it just makes sense.
- Lastly food, water and rest are so important when hiking. It's exactly the same when it comes to looking after your mental health.
There are about one hundred more things that I wish I could tell everyone about the outdoors, but most importantly is just to get out there and try it for yourself.
How can others help you on your mission?
Simply put, I guess: Look after your own mental wellbeing, look out for your friends and seek professional help when you need it. Encourage all women to get out and adventure and support them every way you can. Go and try the outdoors for yourself and build your life around things your passionate about.