From a young age there has always been some element of scouting in my life. When I was young it was when my dad and my brothers were off out on camping trips leaving mum and me to have some quality time together or when I myself decided to give girls guides a bash. Even when I got older I often went on hikes and to den nights with my dad, simply as an onlooker but when I turned 16 and I wanted to complete my Gaisce everything began to change. What started out as working with the beavers once a week, colouring some pictures and doing some arts and crafts soon developed into something more, programme planning, camping and outdoor activities. Starting at 16 I didn’t have much of a role, but as I got older my role change and naturally as I turned 18 it was time for me to make a decision, begin my training to become a scout leader or just be a youth member myself. I chose to begin my journey to become a scout leader.
Not quiet sure what I was getting myself into I began my training, slowly but surely learning bits and pieces about scouting. What started out as a desire to become a leader soon changed to a desire to tick the boxes, just complete all my training because quite simply I hate not finishing a project. I got through stage one, powered through stage two, got organised in stage three, got adventurous in stage four, got creative in stage five and gained a new perspective on not only scouting but also life on stage six.
I went into my stage six programme reserved, quiet, scared, and anxious and it took two missed stage six programmes before I actually made it in the car to get there, it really was a case of third time lucky! We left on Friday afternoon and made it to Waterford by Friday evening to kick off the Yogi bear weekend with getting to know our patrols and going on a hike to find another patrol member. I hate groups so I defiantly felt like I had been thrown in the deep end but I survived my Friday and even found myself gelling with my patrol. My Saturday didn’t get off to a great start, there were tears, anxiety and the need for emergency meds but after my little wobble I survived yet again and by lunch time I was settled, having fun and finding myself having a role in my patrol…. caring for our teddy bear Timmy. By Sunday morning I was calm, relaxed and for the first time in a long time I felt free, accepted and refreshed.
It wasn’t just this weekend of training that changed me; it was a combination of everything I have experienced throughout my time in scouting. From the other scouters I engage with, their support, encouragement and acceptance to the young people I work with, their easy going nature, their ability to have fun and simply enjoy life. But it goes beyond the people I have had the pleasure and good fortune to get to know and call friends but also the skills I have had the opportunity to learn. Everything from tying knots to pitching a tent or lighting a fire (that one took a while) has allowed me to develop a greater awareness and understanding for nature and the outdoors, making me more aware and grateful for my environment and the things that I have around me. But has also allowed me to understand the peace, the value and the benefits of the outdoor and adventure for my mental health. Now I’m not saying I’m about to head off up mountains and go camping for a week but knowing that I can go out into nature, take a break from the all consuming online world and just enjoy time by myself has worked wonders for my mental health in recent months, something which I am so grateful for.
I have gone through years of therapy and indeed I still face more therapy to help me manage my OCPD and BPD more effectively but to date I can say the most beneficial thing for my mental health other than sport has been scouting. It has opened my eyes, allowed me to take a different approach to life and given me a chance to begin to identify who I am and allowed me to accept myself, something which not all people have had the opportunity to do. Scouting has not only changed my life but it has also given me an identity, one I am proud of and happy to shout about!