Category: Health

SkåBec Outdoor – Part 1

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(All pictures by me and my girlfriend on this one too. Also reused for my other blog)

SkåBec Outdoor – Part 1

Premise

Like written in my last blog post I decided to go more unplug in my life. To see what the world has to offer outside these pesky screens that we tend to spend way too much time in front of.

First of, what with that weird title right? Well, SkåBec is basically merging Skåne, the Swedish region where my girlfriend is from and Québec, the Canadian province where I am from.

A Skånian and a Québécois walk into a bar…

You know the drill. Anyway.

Last week, I told my girlfriend that I wanted to go hiking somewhere outside central Stockholm. You have to go pretty far north of here if you want to have any sort of proper elevation. I’m obviously spoiled because of where I’m from in Québec even though for other people, it would be considered flat-ish. In any case, the lower part of Sweden is fairly flat and Stockholm is part of that flat area.

I was checking on google map for potential area and she proposed the Tyresta National Park. From the pendeltåg (suburbs train) in Stockholm to a 20 minutes bus trip it was close yet far enough so we could get there without traveling for three hours.

It was set!

The Wish to be Alone

So we got to the town close to the national park a bit early and had to wait for the bus. I thought that we would be pretty much alone. I didn’t wanted to see human faces except my girlfriend’s one that day.

Shit.

The bus station was PACKED with people, so was the bus. I think the driver had to ask the people five times to move their ass to the back of the bus to allow more people to get in. As I sadly was expecting they were ALL going to the national park. It was easy to see anyway, they all had backpack, boots and other hiking equipment/clothes on them.

I started having anxiety symptoms inside just because of that. Jammed in that bus with so many people. Luckily the travel was fairly quick and with music in my ears on that part, I was able to not really think about that. Even though it started to become fairly warm pretty quickly because of the amount of people.

I just wanted to be alone for a couple of hours with my second half.

It was not a good start. To say the least.

Avoiding the Main Paths

So we finally got there. I was super eager to just start walking. I get pretty impatient in these situations but my girlfriend wanted to go into the small shop because there would probably be a map.

So she bought a map.

She also talked about possible paths with a lady working there and she proposed one secluded path outside of everything. I’m really happy that she talked to the lady because we went into one awesome walk. I was just not aware of it yet.

So here is an approximation drawing I’ve done over google map about the path we took.

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So the route seemed simple, we had to follow the path north-west to a scout camp and from there take another path.

We followed the path we found at the scout camp.

It was not the right one.

So as you can see on the left of the image above, the line is going to a lake on the left and then turns pretty straight east. We realized looking at the map and at our position that the road was really not where we were standing and that the road was to our right above a small cliff.

So we went cowboy, on a straight-ish line to find the new road!

Damn I was happy. Smiling. Having so much fun.

I was in the wood alone with the woman I love with no other human being in sight and an awesome traveling day ahead of us and already lost.

Freaking perfect.

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(This mushroom was HUGE but we even found bigger ones down the path. No banana for scale though.)

Back on the Right Path

So after climbing that cliff by going with some S shape movements avoiding trees, branches, bushes and other things we crossed an electrical poles line. I was kind of thrown off by these things. It was a little bit less magical that the trees but at least we had a big landmark to orient ourselves.

My goal was to go elevated enough so we could find the path and, as expected, when we reached a good elevated position, my girlfriend found the path not far bellow us.

We are the best team.

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From there we followed the small path and got offtrack once again. The path led us back to the electrical line and we knew it was not where we should be. We just came back and took the other path to our left.

Our next objective was to reach a small stream that we saw on the paper map we had. From landmark to landmark.

I felt like in a video game exploring a forest!

Compared to home there is way more berries growing in the wilderness. That’s good to know if you ever get lost, at least, you could find something to eat for a little while.

One thing that is so amazing is the taste of wild berries. These blueberries that were everywhere around us for almost the whole travel tasted amazing. Nothing compared to what you can by in grocery stores. Even if they are supposed to be fresh, it’s still not as fresh as when you pic them yourself.

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Deep in the forest I really feel like home. Swedish forest and the forest I used to go behind where I grew up and pretty much the same but sometimes you get a reminder that you are in Sweden.

There are quite a lot of rocks around the Stockholm area.

Everything is on a freaking rock.

No wonder why Vikings decided to raid outside of these areas. It’s impossible to grow anything on rocks!

On the other hand it was still pretty cool to be on open spaces from time to time but it was way better to walk on small paths and even moss. That was probably the smoothest hike of my life. Moss is so cool to walk on. We came across two little cairn during the day. I added a rock on the first one. Gotta keep the fun alive!

We also saw a hare on the way. He probably almost got a heart attack when it realized I was close and ran away really quickly.

The Small Stream

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So we reached the stream at some point. I think it was just a little bit after twelve. We were walking for quite some time already and I was starting to feel hungry.

So I took my bow and arrows and I decided to go hunting for some hare.

I’m joking.

Even if I would love to, hunting with bow is illegal in Sweden and obviously even more illegal on a national park.

I prepared some small sandwiches and also had cheese, nuts and just because, two cans of ciders.

So there, we sat near the stream. There was no other sound than the wind in the trees and the birds singing. I used my small portable tool as a table and we sat on the really over comfortable moss.

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During that time we saw the first human being of the trip. A guy on a mountain bike. Hats off to him, that was really not a mountain bike track but hey, everything can be a mountain bike track I guess.

We never saw him again. We found some bones on the way. I hope it was not from him.

After eating we then checked where to go next. Not that there was many paths but just to have a global idea of where we were heading.

There was really only one path possible anyway, to stay in the forest, leading to a pretty big lake named Årsjön. Which I guess could be translate as “The Year Lake” or something. (My Swedish is not really on point yet, maybe it just doesn’t mean anything).

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Smooth Sailing to the Lake

From the stream to the lake it was pretty straight forward. More trees, more small paths, more quietness and more awesomeness.

Important to say that my girlfriend had a mission! You can freely pick berries in parks in Sweden but you can also pick mushroom. And she knows about and love mushrooms.

I don’t really, but that’s all good.

Her goal was to get the most Kantarell as she could. I think it’s her favorite mushroom. Especially freshly picked. I also learned that, it seems to be a big thing in there. We saw so many people picking mushroom on our way back. I was really surprised to see people really well dressed going deep out of the paths to find mushrooms. I was also kind of laughing for that reason. There was some people really well dressed for that kind of activity.

So we were stopping here and there and she was collecting mushrooms. She probably has hawk eyes or an inside mushroom radar because I never found any and I was the one walking ahead. Maybe because I was not really looking at the ground?

I’m pretty sure it used to be a Forest Troll house or something. It really looked like an old shelter under all those tree parts. There was even a path going under it. Was pretty cool to see!

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The Lake

So we walked to the lake and half the quietness was over. Some part of me was pretty sad already because that day was going to end at some point and we went back to where the main roads were mostly. Meaning quite a lot of people.

Near the lake there was an official camping area, so, yeah, quite some people there but it was still pretty smooth.

There was two girls swimming in the lake. Some couples fiddeling with their tents here and there. A bunch of guys with a really beautiful dog cooking meat on a BBQ. This was great. The smell of the fire and the meat was amazing.

I had to take an obligatory picture of the lake for really obvious reason. I really love water and lakes. The water was fairly warm, at least, warm enough for a small dive. After all that walk it would have been really welcomed but we quickly realized that we didn’t really had time for it.

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It was probably around a quarter passed three when we reached the lake and we had some big plans to walk even more and see awesome spots. There is a pretty big area where the forest caught fire years ago and it seems it’s pretty awesome to see. We really wanted to see that but we had two problems.

The break gave time to my body to send me signals that both my pinky toes were hurting quite a lot already. My city walk shoes are really not made for forest walk. I’ve learned it the hard way.

We had less that three hours to catch the last bus.

So we had to shorten our plans. Sadly. We decided to go south-west in the starting area direction and trying to leave the main path as soon as we could.

The Last Stretch

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So we left the lake and the short goal was to reach the other lake close by named Bylsjön. (No idea what that mean really. We’ll just call it Lake Bill.)

Getting there was pretty quick but the walk was not super great. Probably 80% of the path between both lakes were on rocks. On one hand it was good cardio-wise to go up and down but it was pretty horrible for my poor pinky toes.

In any case we reached the other lake (not the picture above) and then we checked the map. Looked at the possible roads and went on one.

After like five minutes it felt weird. Like, the sun was not really in the right direction. I have a good sense of orientation in general and that didn’t made sense but, anyway, I just kept walking.

Then we reached the lake.

A lake? There was no lake on the way. What the fuck happened we asked ourselves. It didn’t made sense. We checked the GPS on my girlfriend phone and yeah. For whatever reason we went left at the lake meaning that we backtracked to the big lake.

Absolute Savage Mega Fail. (That’s the lonely weird line on the map above going north.)

We laughed quite a lot and went on our way back, which was forward right? We probably lost 25 minutes so all in all we didn’t really had time for a lot of shenanigans in the wood or else we would miss the last bus.

But still, after Lake Bill, we saw on the map that there was a dotted line, meaning there was a path. I have to say, we maybe have found the path, or we were just walking in opens between the trees, it’s hard to say.

We crossed a beaver dam (that was pretty cool, thanks beaver, Canada loves you) and we ventured into the wilderness again.

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This was how the path looked when we found it near the end of that wilderness. We can clearly see a path right?

This is where we saw a lot of mushroom pickers. Families with children, couples, old people, name it, all trying to find mushroom. I’m not sure they found much though. The area was really wet at some place so it’s cool for mushroom but a ton of people probably passed there before them.

In any case, it was the last stretch. You can see on the picture above that the sun was getting down fairly quickly at that point so we followed what looked like a path and ended up on a road crossing a little farm meaning that we were sadly at the end of our trip.

Sounds of cars, lots of other human beings, baby crying, etc. The fun was over.

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Conclusion

Amazing. A bit over 32900 steps of awesomeness.

We had so much fun.

We learned quite a bit there, it was pretty cool.

We were there on the Saturday and on the Monday I was buying proper hiking boots and pants. Even though I had long sporty pants for the trip it was not as good as proper hiking pants. I also carried four 500ml bottle of water. Two liters of water for two person is not enough. We had just enough and it’s because we kind of not drank that much on the second half of the travel and that we really shorten the path we wanted to take because lack of time to take the bus.

Getting lost is half the fun seriously. Trying to find your way back is really cool!

My goal, and she’ll probably be part of the adventure is to sleep overnight in the forest before the winter comes here. That walk was pretty good just to see how it feels.

It was one of many for sure. I’m already looking forward for the next SkåBec outdoor session!


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Jeff in Sweden – Part 4

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(All pictures by me and my girlfriend on this one)

Going Unplug

Premise

It’s been quite some time right? I have a bunch of draft about the Jeff in Sweden little “series” I’ve done but I’ve never finished them. The part 3 is when I have been in Sweden for six and a half week. I’ve now been in Sweden for one year and a half. Time flies!

Last year in November I wrote about men mental health. I wrote about my burnout and depression, my little own story to say. Recently my body started giving me signs that I now recognize way too well. Weirdly enough I don’t understand where it’s coming from since pretty much everything is in line in my life right now but, still, I decided to go more “unplug”.

You know, feeling what’s real.

Social Media

If anxiety is the bane of our generation, I would say that social media is the 2nd in line for it. The amount of time people spend on all these sites and apps to look at other people life is horrible. I was part of these people for way too long.

It’s a drug you know, like any other. The craving for likes, the views, the little moment of fame.

I decided to leave Twitter two months ago. It was one of the best choice I made. For different reason and obviously my work, my Twitter account became quite popular in the last year, from like 300 followers to almost 4000. Whatever I was writing could be taken out of context or linked to my job.

Fuck this shit. I’m gone.

I’m not really using Facebook anymore outside of the messenger feature and I already have unfollowed 99% of my “friends” so when I open the app, I basically see adds that I don’t give a damn about.

I still post a couple of pictures on Instagram, that this is smooth enough.

So since I’m not spending all that time on social media anymore, what am I doing with this amazing free time?

Manual Work

I’m a gamer. I use computers.

I’ve almost never have done any manual labor in my life. Yes, I grew next to a farm so I’ve built quite a lot of treetop houses and camps in the forest when I was young but that’s pretty much it.

For those of you who know me a little bit, I do Viking Historical Reconstitution. That thing kinda forced me to start using my hand. Since I love wood, I started carving a while back.

This led me, after viking markets and meeting friends to make a freaking Haithabu bag. (I’ll probably write about my experience in another post.)

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Nothing worked like I wanted it to be but I’ve learn SO MUCH because of it. Creating thing from scratch with no proper knowledge about a thing gives a ton of good feeling inside.

Working wood, cutting fabrics, learning about all different type of stitches, braiding some ropes, rolling yarn, etc, etc. Lots of stuff learned in like 2.5 days!

Viking Markets

As said above, I do, live and love viking stuff. The great thing about viking markets is that well, you live like a viking. There is absolutely nothing digital about it.

We’re obviously not raiding villages, viking was more than just that. We live unplug, really, that’s the gist of it.

During my summer vacations, I spent a whole week in Visby on the island of Gotland for what they call Medeltidsveckan. Which translate to Medieval Week. My girlfriend kind of hyped me for a whole year to go there and I was more than happy to accompany her!

An amazing experience.

A whole week where everybody is dressed in different medieval styles with countless activities to see and experience. I ate amazing food, I’ve seen jesters doing crazy funny shit in the ruin of a cathedral, seen Corvus Corax live in another cathedral ruin, saw a reconstitution act of the battle of Visby and a lot more.

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It was not really relaxing because of the thousands of people there but I walked so much and spend way too much money of amazing food and viking clothes and swags.

I was able to travel north of the island to a place called Fårö. I felt like I was in some sort of video game barren lands there.

Absolute quietness. This part was relaxing. This also reinforced the idea that I’m not made for cities.

I’m a countryside guy.

Even though I was raised in a suburb, when I was you, it was mostly fields everywhere and forest.

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Physical Activities

Swedish winter are horrendous. Not because it’s cold, at least, not for a Québécois like me. I think last winter the temperature didn’t even went down bellow -15C which is nothing compared to the usual -40C in February back home.

The problem is the darkness.

I was not prepared for that at all.

My body needs sun and you barely get any from end of October to start of March.

I arrived in Sweden in March 2018 and I was so surprised to see how many people were in parks and outside when it was sunny.

Now, I know why.

After a winter of darkness, the moment you see sun, you want to be outside as much as you can. You want to enjoy every single seconds of it.

It made me realized how much I love doing physical activities outdoor.

I restarted bouldering here in Sweden too. It’s a good thing when the weather is kind of shit and it’s a really good physical workout all around.

I even climbed my first 6C here.

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The cool thing about the fact that winter are so mild here compared to home is that I was able to bike in February

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Biking is really a joy in Sweden. There are bike paths everywhere and they often leads to some outside part of the cities, sometimes in the wood or through fields. I even ended up biking to the Queen Castle at the start of my summer vacations.

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I was even able to play Spikeball barefoot in the sand in March!

Like I said, if it’s sunny, you get the fuck out and enjoy it as much as you can.

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Also recently I was able to merge two things I love a lot together.

Throwing Frisbee and walking in the wood.

My climbing buddy Markus mede me try Discgolf and I’m totally addicted now. There are quite a lot of different parkour here in Stockholm and a few of them are super beginner friendly, which is obviously good for a n00b like me. Throwing a disc is not exactly like throwing a Frisbee.

Then, talking about walking in the wood, or hiking…

Allemansrätten

This is translated as “The everyman’s right” or “The right to roam”.

Basically, everyone can go everywhere for free in Sweden.

You can camp where ever you want if you are not too close to someone else house,
You can make a fire if there is no fire ban,
You can pick mushroom and berries in the wilderness,
And so forth.

I had a project in the back of my head when I was in Canada and it was to buy a piece of land and build a cabin there, for me, to leave the stress of a city for a moment. I still have the same project here but, for now, I’ll be able to do something close to that without owning anything. I started just recently to tame the forest here and get a feel of how it is. My girlfriend proposed the Tyrista National park so we went for a 23k walk there and it was an absolute blast to be her and me alone in the wood for half a day, walking.

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I realized that, I don’t have any anxiety feeling inside when I’m in the wilderness. It’s relaxing and it’s great to not be in front of a computer too. The thing I do the most in my life since that’s the main tool I use to work.

My goal is to pass one night in the wood with minimal gear. Making a one night shelter won’t be a big problem with the amount of fallen trees you can find in the forests here.

A bunch of pieces of wood, a nice fire, a good sleeping bag and I’ll be all set for one super relaxing day where the only thing I’ll hear is the wind, the birds and maybe a water stream running by.

I mean, look at that, isn’t it peaceful enough?

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Conclusion

I realized that, getting closer and closer to nature gives you a real feeling of freedom. I seriously think that it’s what freedom really means. Not being locked in what society forces you to like or thing nor being locked in front of a screen be it your computer or your phone.

I’m still young at 34 and I now realize that I should use the energy I have to be outside deep away from the burden of society as most as I can. Sweden is tiny compared to Canada but yet, it’ll take me a really long time to walk around here.

Maybe one day, I’ll even be able to make a shelter for a night where Norway, Sweden and Finland meet up far in the north!

 


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#InternationalMenDay

Depressed man sitting in the tunnel

(Image from :https://personalexcellence.co/blog/depressed-progress/)

#InternationalMenDay

Premise

More than two years ago I wrote a blog post about mental illness here. I was not at my best during that period, to say the least, and I felt like, writing about the simple thing that I found could help people. I started having anxiety crisis and panic attacks for the first time in my life and I didn’t really understood why.

I wrote in that article that it was important to do something before it was too late. I didn’t and I fell in that big black hole that so many men end up in.

So, this blog post will diverge to what I usually write about because it’s not really related to the gaming industry but can be, to some extent.

International Men Day looks like by definition that it’s about men but it’s not exactly. International Men Day about mental illness, depression, suicide and other nasty things that men, sadly, seems to be really good at in our society.

Sadly though, it’s not really popular. I mean, I was not aware that it was a thing before today. There was no special Google logo. The twitter hashtag was not on the trends page either. There is a lot of work to be done for sure. It’s still so hard for men to talk about their emotion. Most of the time, we are being told to “man up”, that men don’t cry, that men are strong, that “real men this” and “real men that”. Men need to be able to fix a car,  carry everything that weight more than five kilos, go get the car when it’s raining, open doors, provide, etc, etc.

I felt like talking about my story. I haven’t really talked about it publicly and International Men Day is there to help men talk about their problem. Brace yourself, serious wall of text incoming.

My Story

Like I said above, two years ago, I started having anxiety crisis. I was not aware it was that really. I had dizziness and vertigo randomly at work and only at work. I wondered if it was my nutrition or anything with my body. I was doing a lot of sports. Playing Spikeball twice a week and bouldering two or three time a week so I knew it was not really because of lack of physical activities.

Never I thought it would be related to stress or that I was having mental illness.

Men are stronger than that.

One night. I woke up with a pretty big pain if my left arm. It was hurting a lot for no apparent reason. I stood up to go get some ice in my freezer. I remember walking to the kitchen and then after that I remember that when I opened my eyes I was laying on the floor. I didn’t what happened. I took the ice and when back to my bed. Then, I started to wonder if I had a stroke.

Left arm pain? Falling unconscious? Vertigo?

The morning after, I went to work. Told my boss about what happened and he told me to go the fuck to the hospital. I’m a men. I don’t like hospital and talk about my problems so I was just like “Heh, it’s ok”. After some talk with him, I called my doctor. She told me, in a professional way, to go the fuck to the hospital.

So I went.

I explained my problem at the front desk. It took 2 minutes and I was laying down in a bed plugged in at like 10 different spots. They ran a ton of tests and everything. I stayed at the hospital for almost 9 hours.

The result? NOTHING. Everything was perfectly fine. Literally no, problem, at, all.

Great.

Went back to work the day after and kept on with my life. Still, I had vertigo and dizziness from time to time. One day, I was at my desk and at some point, I looked at the ceiling and it started moving really badly. So I left work and when home to lay down. I knew something bad was going on but I didn’t really knew what so I booked an appointment with my private doctor to see what was going on.

Blood pressure, ear checks and whatnot, all the things. Everything was all good again!

She told me it was strongly related to stress. I didn’t wanted to believe it. How could me, a strong minded man, be stressed to the point of falling unconscious?

I also found out that I was having a lot of memory loss. Forgetting really important thing at work. I was having a pretty hard time with my deadlines and the quality of my work. My obvious reaction was to work harder, taking the burden on myself and keep in going, over and over.

The saying goes like this right, “Depression is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you were strong for too long.”

Heh.

Then one day I was at work, it was one week before shipping the game. I was talking with a coworker on Slack and I realized that I fucked up something I had to do like, 2 months earlier. Something I totally forgot. The feeling I got at that specific moment was just unbearable. The amount of stress my brain decided to inject through my whole body was so big I never felt that way before. I sat there, looking at my screen for probably 25 minutes, doing nothing. Then, I stood up, when to a meeting room and called my doctor because I knew something was wrong. We booked an appointment 1 hour later then I went to my boss and said to him I didn’t felt well and was going to see my doc.

I didn’t knew what to tell her (my doctor) but after like, five minutes, she said, “Ok, you’re off work for at least three weeks.”

I then got probably 100 different mixed emotions at the same time and the only thing I said was, “I just want to cry right now.” I really wanted to cry, for real, but still, completely broken, I didn’t.

Men don’t cry in front of people.

She gave me some sort of little form to fill with bullet point. Rating different situations from 0 to 3 I think or something like that. My score was 22. She then told me that above something like 13 you’re in depression/burnout and above 20 it’s really severe. The only thing that was not a 3 was a question about suicidal thoughts, luckily for me.

She then game me anti-depressant and we booked bi-weekly appointment to check up how I was doing.

I went back to work after and game a paper to my boss telling him that I would be off work for illness for an unknown amount of time.

I never came back.

My doc strongly suggested me to consult a psychologist. It took me a month to call one and see what I could do.

I didn’t wanted too. I felt ashamed. I’m was a strong minded man. I could fix my problem myself without the help of anyone. I never asked for help in my life to anyone. That how I am. I hate asking for help. I always see it as a failure. Well, I felt like this.

Seeing a professional really helped me. It’s still so taboo to consult but it was so god damn useful. I learned so much about myself and how brain works and reacts to a lot of different things emotion-wise.

This was my story.

Conclusion

It’s been over a year now and I am kind of back to be a proper unbroken person but when you went into depression once, it leaves a mark forever. That’s how it is. I restarted having self confidence at work not so long ago. I speak more about my emotions and I even ask for helps sometimes. I still have a long way to go on that matter but baby steps are better than nothing at all.

I wrote it in my last post, cited above and I will say it again for those of you who went all the way down here reading.

DON’T. WAIT. UNTIL. IT’S. TOO. LATE.

Seriously. You’re not alone. There are a ton of people who wants to help and that were in your exact position before.

On that note, there is now a brand new group about gamer men helping other gamer men here called Men’s Mental Health Gamer (MMHG). It’s new and small but I hope it’ll grow to a big helping community.

Seek help if you need it brothers. Really. It’s important.

I’m also here to help. Poke me at anytime.

So then, what is your story?


 

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