Caroline's Courage: This Wild Woman's Story Needs To Be Told
Caroline Wilson's health transformation probably isn't like the ones you've heard before. It's not about drastic weight loss. It's not about glossy before and after photos. But Caroline's story is one that deserves, and needs, to be told. It's one many of us would be familiar with, but rarely speak about. Her story is truly inspirational and is one you need to remember whenever you're feeling unmotivated or tentative about getting outside of your comfort zone.
Caroline was diagnosed with Major Depressive and Generalised Anxiety Disorder in 2007. Her mental illness impacted her life in every way. For months she was unable to function and at one stage she had to give up work completely. Caroline also suffered from a panic disorder, which meant she was fearful of heights, flying in planes, driving her car and crossing bridges. So, Trek Training with Wild Women was a combination of her ultimate fears. But this brave Wild Woman slowly, steadily and surely moved further outside of her comfort zone, into the unknown. Some days, her hands would shake uncontrollably as she drove across Roseville Bridge to get to training. Some days, she would experience panic attacks while walking on a trail. But she persisted and pushed through the hardship.
Caroline wanted to address her demons and her greatest fears in a safe, supportive place. And Wild Women brought her exactly that opportunity. Caroline found chatting to her fellow hikers and exercising helped take her mind of her anxieties. She found a team of women who would challenge and nurture her at the same time.
"Feeling part of a community is really important for mental health," she says.
Since joining Wild Women, Caroline's mental health has transformed. Her late 40s and 50s have been the best years of her life and she's doing things she never dreamed of achieving. Caroline prioritises exercise and wants to prove to her kids, by example, that recovery is possible. Just a few years ago, she was terrified of getting into a car. This year, she has already completed a major trail run - the Alps 2 Ocean - in New Zealand and she's heading to Nepal in May to hike at altitude for the first time.
She tells us why she's so looking forward to the Mustang trip, which is only a month away.
Q: What do you love most about being a Wild Woman?
I love the community, companionship, exercise, and being outdoors. The support and inclusiveness of the Wild Women coaches and my fellow hikers is wonderful and to be cherished.
Q: What's the best hike you've ever done and what made it so epic?
The best hike I've done was my first trip with Wild Women to Jatbula in the Northern Territory. It was epic because there were so many firsts on this trip. It was the first time I had flown on my own for 16 years, the first time I carried a full pack and camped in the wilderness. It was the first time I swam in pristine waterholes in the wild, dried my clothes on the hot rocks and lay down at night to watch the stars.
It was also the first time I learned to cope with being well outside my comfort zone.
Q: What hiking destination is at the top of your bucket list and why?
The hiking destination that is at the top of my bucket list is The Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang in Nepal and I am going there with Wild Women in May!
It will be my first trip to the Himalayas, hiking at altitude and having to get vaccinated. This trip appealed to me because of the rich Tibetan Buddhist culture, the spectacular scenery, the remoteness of the location, and the fact it's only open to a small number of trekkers each year.
Q: What's the funniest thing that's ever happened to you on a hike?
When I was camping in Tasmania, I found a possum trying to chew through my backpack to get to my apples and lollies. Now I know why they were so fat.
Q: What's the best hiking advice you've ever been given?
Take trekking poles as they have many uses. Apart from helping reduce pressure on your knees and ankles, they also providing extra stability with water crossings, act as a first aid splint or a mini washing line. They help you deal with wild creatures on the track! You can clear spider webs off trails, you can throw the poles at snakes to move them off the path, you can bang them together to get lazy cows moving along. You can also use them for many exercises and stretching.