If You Go Down In The Woods Today…
Then hopefully you won’t run into me all sweaty, lost and holding back tears. I’d love to say I’m confident and know my way around now after 2 years but its 200,000 hectares. If I park in the official car park, stay on that side of the road and the sun is shining I can navigate my way back out. I’ve had a few hairy visits if I have to park in a different place and below is one such visit that happened last year, previously posted on my wordpress.com account.
Its Time To…
Hang on, what am I trying to say? Its time to admit defeat? Its time to face up to the fact that since my brain had a little (large) bleed & my skull (and eye socket & cheekbone) were fractured, its never going to work to full capacity again? Yes, that’s it, pretty much.
I often tweet about being lost in woods. Oh lesson learned, I say, won’t do that again. But I do. I do the same things over & over. But I love it there. Its my self-care place of sanctuary. Good for the soul. Often deserted, plenty of room to sing & dance along to tunes. Only realised last week that the reason I love singalong a dog walks is because I don’t go pubbing/clubbing anymore and was used to singing & dancing every week for donkeys years. At my happiest when the beat drops.
Went to the woods on Monday at 3pm with 30% phone battery. Already two things I shouldn’t do in winter months. I’ve just googled the woods and they’re 220 acres. (grid reference ST685746 ok?). Thats a lot. When I got to car park it was overflowing, cars everywhere. So I drove up and around the outside probably half a mile, found another place to park on the other side of the road. So not my normal entrance to woods.
Friend rang as I arrived, spoke for a good 15 minutes before realising I’d been looking at the ground, following wherever dog takes me. I didn’t know where I was. I’m lost again! I said. Oh & its going to get dark soon, he said. Yeah thanks! I need to get off the phone now, preserve battery and concentrate. No sense of direction whatsoever.
Don’t panic, I told myself. Again. Text from Sophie: Can I go to Costa with Caitlin? Yes, but I’m lost in woods and if I’m not home by 6pm, look for me. “Okay, cool!” she replied. COOL? FUCKING COOL?!! I mean I didn’t want to worry her but a little concern wouldn’t hurt.
Now these woods aren’t dense trees for miles. Some of it is separated into squares & rectangular lots of trees, like a maze with paths running around them. So after about half an hour of wandering aimlessly (in a circle I think), I’m still trying not to panic but my brain has shut down. As in, its empty. Nothing going on but the rent. And the more I try not to panic, the worse it gets. I have no idea which direction to walk in. I’m sweating buckets now. Not helped by wearing a jumper, hoodie, big parka coat & scarf and everything is hurting thanks to Fibromyalgia and slipped neck discs.
Then right in the distance I see 2 people & 3 dogs! I’M SAVED! I thought. Wrong. I’M SAVED! I thought. Wrong.
I start waving and they wave back and turn a corner. NO! WAIT! I start shouting. HELP ME! I’M LOST! HELLOOOOOO I’M LOST! All my hellos coming out in a Michael McIntyre voice. HELLOOOO HELP ME PLEASE! I’M LOST! No idea why. So now I’m trying to run to catch up, they finally stop & I say can you help me please, I need to get out, find my car. One woman looked the other way and the other one grunted at me ‘wheres your car?’ ‘Its…its….omg my head is empty I can’t remember!’ She stares at me like the total moron I am. Didn’t even have my “I’m a brain injury survivor please be patient with me” card on me. Wait! Its Webbs Heath! I say. ‘Oh follow us, I got lost here for 3 hours once’ she grunts. Like my 30 minutes or so will never compare and she’s the lost queen. So I’m walking a good polite 20 feet behind them for about a minute & then she says: ‘you need to go that way, follow that woman, you’ll come to a gate, cross into a field’. What woman? I can’t see a woman?! And with that they were gone & I’m faced with a choice of 3 different directions. SHIT.
I thought about ringing 101 but not really high priority is it. Can’t imagine cops in wellies looking for me with their spotlights would be best pleased.
Still trying not to cry I think right, where can you hear traffic, head for the traffic, just find a road. Only problem was I need to cross a wide, deep stream and I’m already mud up to my shins. So dog bounces over, no problem. I look at my options. there are two fallen trees & an upright one next to it. I’ll have to climb across. So I stand on the first log & the one I’m leaning on is rotten and starts rocking back and forwards. I CANNOT FALL. I have CPRS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) in right wrist after I fractured it in original fall. Its already constant agony. I take off my scarf & throw it and my bag across the other side (into a muddy puddle) and then got on all fours and clambered across like a monkey. State of me!
Now I can hear the road, I’m close but can’t get out onto it. Until finally, there’s a gap I can squeeze through. But there’s no path. This is a narrow country road used as a rat run at this time of day. Tiny verge about 6 inches off the ground, covered in mud, sticks & stones. Which my dog refused to walk on. There was a van hurtling towards us and I pulled him clear with all my might with seconds to spare. Horrifying.
I have no idea which direction to walk in. Due to brain closing down nothing looks remotely familiar. I see a large house with security gates. So I ring the bell hopeful they’ll at least be able to tell me which direction to walk in. They didn’t answer. Oh for gawd’s sake you’e got Google maps on your phone you idiot! (tried in woods many times, doesn’t pick up my location) but on a road now. Yes! Its this way! Hang on, whys it saying 55 minutes? Have I been walking in the wrong direction the entire time?! So I start walking. About 10 minutes later I realise I put in my postcode and not where my car is!! Absolutely hating my shitty brain at this point. Can’t remember name of road where car is. So I put in the name of pub that’s a bit further. Its the opposite direction. 13% battery and I need to walk that way!! Happy days! Except the next bit of road is zig-zaggy with no verge. I attempt to run but dog is knackered, I can barely walk let alone run and its more a sweaty little jog. Not one car passed. An absolute bloody miracle. Because I really didn’t fancy our chances at that point.
Finally! I KNOW THIS BIT! WE’RE SAVED! And it only took an hour of panic.
I can’t keep putting myself through this. The fear is horrific. The time has come to acknowledge limitations. Won’t be going to woods again unless someone is with me. But from the minute I started typing this the urge to go there is overwhelming. I can’t.
Putting compass on my xmas list and walking to a local field today. Better safe than sorry.
[Since I wrote this I’ve downloaded an app called 3 Little Words which maps every inch of the country. Haven’t needed to use it yet – result!]