Dealing with your vices

I’m sitting at my desk at work, having an anxiety attack from the normal stresses of life, I’m sure you can understand.  I don’t get how these normal things can freak me out, in fact I wish to god that they didn’t. That’s not the point though, back to the story. I’m sitting at my desk worrying about this and that, and when I can’t take it anymore I inevitably run to the fridge, grasp a cold can of pop and let the intoxicating burn of the liquid run down my throat until I feel the burn in my stomach too. The weird thing, it calms me down, don’t ask me why, if I knew I probably wouldn’t have to use it as a crutch. We all have these small things, some healthy some not, mine happens to be the latter. I have been addicted to pop since middle school. It started with mountain dew, really unhealthy I know. It later evolved into a serious health matter when my dentist told me I needed to stop drinking mountain dew or face serious dental issues. I stopped drinking mountain dew that day, that was somewhere around my junior or senior year of high school. Now it’s Pepsi. I try to keep it to 12 ounces or less per day, while drinking over 100 ounces of water a day, but I often drink more pop then I should. It all sounds trivial right? Why not just stop?

If you suffer from depression, stress, anxiety or all of the above, you probably have your own vice or method of coping. Maybe it’s a stress ball, maybe it’s alcohol, maybe its weed or coke, maybe it’s lashing out at someone or maybe it’s letting your mind go numb while you watch mindless television for hours. We all have something whether it’s healthy or unhealthy. If you have a healthy way of dealing with the anxiety, that’s great. I really want to focus on talking about the unhealthy management of anxiety. To those who turn to alcohol, I get it. I by no means am an alcoholic, but I know what it’s like to feel intense sadness and anxiety and turn to a bottle of whiskey to numb the pain, only to find hours later that it has instead intensified it to an unbearable point. Unhealthy vices help momentarily, but they always seem to leave me worse than before. I have an anxiety attack, my muscles tense up, my mind swirls in worry so I pop open a pepsi, and it clears my mind for a while. Then 20 minutes go by and the anxiety is back. No lasting relief, no long term positive effect. And that’s it, the extent of the relief from my anxiety attack that I can muster.

Everyday I try to stop my destructive behavior and try to start better behaviors. Behavior’s like writing, reading and exercise (Although I struggle very much with the exercise part). I’ve committed to reading one book every week this year, and the last couple weeks I have actually averaged two. I have started to seriously work on a novel I’ve been thinking of writing for a long time, and camping and hiking really help me get away from destructive behavior and away from stress to just focus on the good things in my life.

If you have a bad habit that you use as an escape from your anxiety or depression, I get it. It won’t help you though, it will only delay and amplify your feelings. Try putting positive things into your life, focus on your relationships, do more things that you love, try changing your routine or completely changing out things that have a negative affect on you. Put your old behaviors behind you and move forward into new, positive ones.


From here on out

Today marks a change in the direction of this blog. Since it’s inception my goal was to document my camping adventures while focusing on my personal journey through anxiety and depression. I believe I have fallen short on that.

I have decided that from here on out this blog will be primarily focused on anxiety and depression, and how I use camping and other activities to deal with it, not the reverse. I have been increasingly having anxiety attacks and suicidal thoughts and they are ruining my life. I believe this is true for so many others out there as well. Anxiety and depression are not made up problems. They are real and they are crippling. To this end I have decided to make this blog my personal journal of dealing with these issues, in hopes that they help someone else out there. I also will be starting a podcast, talking about these issues in another format and in a different way.

My hope is that you will join me in this journey, and that through my own personal journey you might also be able to overcome your struggles.

Thank you.

Garrett Near

Winter Camping in Manistee National Forest


It pretty much sucks. I live on the west side of Michigan not 10 miles from the lake, so you can imagine the kind of snowy weather I see throughout the winter. In years past I have pretty much gone into hibernation whenever the snow hits, I get home from work and cozy up to my computer and put away the camera until spring. This year I have decided to push through and persevere. After all, one of my New Years resolutions was to be more adventurous and deliberately put myself into uncomfortable situations.

New year new me right?

I find myself always trying to be comfortable and shying away from the slightest discomfort, which has made me less outgoing. So what did I do? I decided to go hiking overnight in the middle of winter at Manistee National Forest with some friends.

I woke up early on Saturday morning at 7, frantically making sure I had all my gear ready. I had spent the entire night prior packing and repacking my pack to make sure everything fit in perfect. We had planned to rendezvous at my parents house at 10:30 am, where we were borrowing some of my dads equipment and then setting off on our hour drive up to Manistee National Forest.

When we arrived we started packing up everything, making sure we had our food packed away. Because I was the only one with a sleeping pad, we grabbed a piece of foam from my parents camper and tied it to Freddy’s pack in the least ridiculous looking way possible. (Still looked hilarious though). At this point I wasn’t sure how 3 grown men were going to share 2 sleeping pads, but I figured we would improvise once we got to that point. At 12:30 we set off into the woods to start our ~2 mile hike to the Bowman Bridge campsite.


Freddy and Mark unpacking the car


Mark looking psyched up for the hike



I don’t even know


The hike in itself was pretty uneventful, it was just an hour and a half of trudging through the snow. When we got to the campsite, we decided to not set up at one of the actual camping spots, but instead set up in the woods where we felt it would be a little more rough camping.


Our campsite

Once we arrived we rested for a couple minutes, and we began to gather sticks for the fire. I wanted to try a new firestarter which was wine corks soaked in alcohol but they were either too frozen or it just doesnt work. Freddy took over fire duties and had a real hot fire going within 10 minutes.


It didn’t take long before Mark noticed we had no way to sit around the fire without sitting directly in a snow pile, so he went on hunt for some stumps, of which he somehow found exactly 3.



Freddy likes to help


Mark was kind of cold

Freddy brought his fishing pole and decided to walk down to the river and try to catch dinner (don’t worry we brought back up food!). After about a half hour he decided to stop since he had no bites and his line kept freezing up. So instead we threw the steak and potatoes on the fire and let them cook for a while. If you are wondering, I use an old aluminum cook set which i think is army surplus. I am in need of a new one because I am pretty sure aluminum is not good to cook and eat off of.



We seasoned the steak with just garlic and salt.



As night fell we stoked up the fire and tried to stay as warm as possible. I definitely underestimated just how cold it would get, as we did not get any sleep at all since we were all in the fetal position trying to stay alive. But somehow night passed and morning came. We ate oatmeal in our tent since we were too cold to go outside, and unfortunately I was so cold and focused on oatmeal I forgot to get my camera out!



Freddy started another fire so we wouldn’t freeze to death


Our messy tent after sleeping

After breakfast Freddy made another fire so we could stay warm while packing up. We packed up fairly fast and were able to start hiking out  by 10:30. As we were hiking out, Freddy realized that since our hiking trail crossed 56th street twice, that must mean that we could skip the 2 mile hike and just walk straight up the road to our car. Tired as I was, I was all for it. We hiked about 3/4 of a mile up the road and found the trail head where our car was parked. It sure beat walking 2 miles up and down hills in the cold morning.

All in all this was actually one of the most fun trips I have ever had. I was with good friends and unlike summer camping, this was actually a real challenge to us. Sometimes summer camping can feel like its just too relaxing, you just go out and cook food and relax in the sun. Winter camping however, is much more of a struggle, and somehow there is a lot of enjoyment in the struggle. I will definitely be going winter camping again very soon, if only it didn’t cost so much to buy a whole other set of camping gear for the cold!



My Tattoo…

I was always against tattoos. Growing up in a baptist church taught me that tattoos were unprofessional and gave you a bad image to other Christians. As I grew though, I realized I didn’t really care what they thought anyway. My tattoo to me was a way to remind myself of what I thought was important and what my goals in life were. With one simple picture I can constantly remind myself what is really important.



So for my first tattoo i decided to get a sailboat, although I do like sailing, my primary reason for getting it was for what it represented…Freedom. I have lived in the same general area of Michigan for almost my entire life, and I’ve never actually left the continental United States. Every time I look at my tattoo, it reminds me that i want to leave America and see the world. Sometimes at night I stay awake and look at it, imagining I am on a boat far away, going somewhere new and escaping everything. My tattoo sums up everything i want in one simple drawing.

So if you want a tattoo, but don’t know what to get, just think about what is most important to you, and place it somewhere that will constantly remind you what you are here on this earth for.