My big fat mental health adventure in the Norwegian Fjords
Struggling to find yourself? Try chasing the Northern Lights on an ocean cruise.
I spent 2020 in survival mode. The next year was a balance between that and an “oh hey, I can do things again” sense of relief.
Then came 2022, a crashing wave of realisations, as I came to terms with loss, change and anxiety.
I realised that if I didn’t do something drastic, I was going to lose myself.
So, I did three things:
I looked at my bucket list.
I checked my savings.
I spoke to my therapist.
I wanted to make sure that my Big Fat Mental Health Adventure wasn’t going to spin around and bite me on the nether regions a few months down the line.
Fortunately, therapy agreed.
Which meant that I went on a cruise along the Norwegian fjords to chase the Aurora Borealis.
Those sparkling, dancing lights in the sky were all I wanted from this trip — and the cruise came with a Northern Lights guarantee — and anything else was gravy. And, oh my giddy snow-covered aunt, did I end up drowning in gravy.
I’m not going to tell you how those lights made me cry in awe and how every moment was a gift. Instead, I am going to tell you about the other passengers.
They were miserable. About 80 per cent of them found a problem with something, every single day. The food. The Northern Lights, because they were outside and it was too cold to stand on deck and view them. The light was poor. The ship too bouncy.
You name it, they had an issue with it. I discovered that I did not.
I had the power to extricate myself from conversations and locations that held this negativity. I could connect with this incredible world we live in while they soured and grumped and grumbled. They chose to be miserable. I chose to be amazed.
Life, I realised as I watched the moon turn the world blue and the whales slide past, is about choice.
In three years, I lost loves, friends, family. I fell into a pandemic while still raw from a year of chemo. Death stalked people I adored and there was no time to process any of it.
I was negative, bleak, anxious, stressed, shouty, and strung-out. A frazzled being from another dimension.
In 18 days, I re-discovered myself. This was not the rediscovery of Hollywood, with me leaping, thin and gorgeous, from the deck of the ship into the arms of a waiting world. This was way, way better.
I discovered that I’m not perfect, and that’s okay. I discovered that I get to choose who I am.
I can choose to be afraid of what might happen — my default setting — or to do whatever I want, because I have no idea what will happen, and it may well be wonderful.
I can choose who walks beside me. I can choose my next adventure and know that with hard work, I can achieve it. I can choose to free myself from expectations, demands, and chains.
I choose a life of beauty. A life of experiences. I choose work, so I can live.
I choose to be imperfect and rubbish at things and to do them anyway. I choose to learn tap dancing at 51 (send me painkillers) and to write a crime novel in the Scottish Highlands (send me a jumper).