The reflections of a young woman with PTSD and the healing effect of her pilgrimage.

Together with her friend Daniëlle, Damaris from the Netherlands walked the last part of the St. Olavsleden. These are the thoughts and reflections of a young woman with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and the healing effect of her pilgrimage.

Daniëlle: I met Damaris two years ago. At the time, she was under treatment for traumatic experiences from her childhood and diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress. During our first meeting I saw an introvert young woman. She was shaking and could barely speak. Her dog was the only reason she left her house. Within the counseling where I work, I lost my inspiration a bit because the focus is mainly on practical goals. Through Damaris I discovered the simplicity of a human-to-human encounter. During the period in which our friendship grew, Damaris decided to go with me to Norway to walk the last part of the St. Olavsleden together.

Damaris: When I went through a difficult period, Danielle made a proposal to me. After she had already walked two stages of the St. Olavsleden, she asked me to walk the last part to Trondheim together. I had to think about that first. I just had a relapse and an admission. Walking the St. Olavsleden, was I up for that? I would meet strange people, which I found very scary. I would have to fly and I had never done that. But I said yes, because this was a great opportunity to get to know myself.

On June 18, 2019 it was time: we flew to Trondheim. Even though I had dreaded the journey, I enjoyed the view and the flying itself. The next day was my first ‘pilgrim day’. We walked past beautiful waterfalls and streams where we could fill our bottles with fresh spring water. We walked through the mountains and through soggy fields, where I was literally falling down and standing up again. We met beautiful, sweet and funny people. As a result, I partly overcame my fear of strangers. What I liked most about the walk is how free I felt. I had never experienced that.

Daniëlle: And so we walked together through the overwhelming Norwegian nature. We climbed slippery stones, plowed through bogs and walked on gravel paths. When we crossed a stream, Damaris slipped on the stones. ‘Shit, here I go again’, she scolded herself, to which I replied that she is very good at getting up. Every day I saw her growing stronger – both mentally and physically. I saw a damaged person blossom and witnessed how healing nature can be. The lovely encounters with the people we met also restored her faith in people. It is so wonderful that I have seen up close how resilient her mind came to be. I am thankful for the healing power of life and the effect it has on Damaris. She makes steps into her new life with renewed energy.

Damaris: The last day of our pilgrimage went from Vikhammar to Nidaros. I enjoyed the view over the Trondheim fjord. In the evening we went to the church service, especially for pilgrims. It was incredible to experience this in the beautiful Nidaros Cathedral. The next day we flew back home and I knew: my life would never be the same again. I had discovered that I can make my own steps for a better life, because I had faced my fears in Norway.

‘And into the forest, I lost my mind, to find my soul.’