Sometimes we struggle. And I am not talking about the struggle to catch fish (although I certainly struggle with that more often than not.) I am talking about struggles in our mental health life. Sometimes things happen that cause our struggles, sometimes there isn't anything to point to as a cause, it is just there.
It can be difficult. Difficult to talk about, difficult to understand if you haven't experienced this kind of struggle, and often difficult to understand yourself even if you do have these struggles. I don't talk about it. My wife knows, but I think she is the only one who really knew that I struggled with anxiety and depression until now. I've kept it quite from just about everyone, and I am good at keeping it hidden. As many of you probably can tell, I am a private guy. I don't usually get out into social gatherings all too much (although I want to push myself to do more of this in 2022.) I have some ups and a lot of downs. Heck, I feel it right now.
I know that there are others out there that struggle similar to me. I want to share my experience and offer myself as a resource to come to if and when you need help. Here is my story, and here is how fly fishing impacts my mental health.
For a long time, fly fishing has been something that has helped my racing mind to calm down. And when I use fly fishing correctly, it is a huge benefit for my mental health. When I try to force it, it can do the opposite.
What I mean is that fly fishing can, and does help to bring peace and calm my stressed, anxious, and often depressed, mind. When I allow myself the opportunity to get out, get away, and just cast and observe nature, fly fishing is a huge benefit for me. But, when I just use fly fishing as an excuse to escape my problems, it makes things worse.
Looking back, anxiety and depression have been struggles of mine for as long as I can remember, I just didn't realize it until I started talking to my wife and a doctor. There are times when for no reason at all I would just feel sad, worried, and lonely, all at the same time, yet in those same times I wanted nothing more than to be alone. When I was younger, I could escape to fishing to find that alone time. As I got older, I sometimes relied on this escape as a crutch. A crutch that helped me in the moment, but didn't solve any problems I was having. As my responsibilities grew, using fishing as an "escape" was often a way to just hide from my problems, leading to bigger problems down the road.
It has taken time, but I see this now and understand so much more about myself. I noticed that fly fishing can be one of the best tools I have to help me though challenges to my mental health. The peacefulness of a gently flowing spring-fed river, the sound of a birds in the trees, and the solitude of those thin-places, all bring relief to anxiety. The ability to clear my head and focus only on the rhythm and placement of my casts helps to reduce stress and worry. The pure joy of landing a beautiful fish, or even not catching anything, brings me up from the depths. Fly fishing has been a true help for me.
Beyond my time on the water, fly fishing can have a positive impact on my mental health in other ways. The time I spend sitting down and focusing on designing and tying flies for Flydrology, or creating artwork of the fish I find so beautiful, or even writing for Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing to help others like me, is all a something that helps me though low times.
I think fly fishing can be a helpful tool for you too. Just don't make the mistake of using it as a way to avoid problems, and instead use it as a tool to help calm you mind and process through your complex thoughts and emotions.
Hopefully I will soon be sharing stories from others that use fly fishing as a way to help themselves through mental health issues.
If you are having issues with your mental health, reach out to someone. I know it can be hard, but in the long run, it is good to talk. Feel free to send me an email and we can chat. I am no therapist or anything, but I am willing to chat more about my story if you want.
Peace Out-side, Y'all.
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