Ann-Kathrin (biotonne88) is a German geocacher who fell in love with the game in 2013. For her, geocaching is not only a hobby but a pillar of mental health. When she was diagnosed with Borderline personality disorder (BPD) three years ago, the game became an essential tool for her to deal with the often intense mood swings typical for BPD. She is allowing us insight into her passion for geocaching, explains the struggles when living with this mental disease, and how geocaching has helped her to find inner peace again.
I’m sitting on my desk and turn to the right where my friend is playing computer games. I’m bored. What should I do on this beautiful autumn day? Then I remember my friend Jessica telling me about this outdoor game. Something like a treasure hunt but modern. I text Jessi and ask her about it. Geocaching. Right, that’s what it’s called. So I go on Geocaching.com and sign up for an account. I read a little bit about it and think, well that doesn’t seem hard. As my curiosity is sparked, I download the app. The map is loading and I see the first green symbol appear. A Traditional Cache which is located right on the street next to mine. I tell my friend, that I’d like to take a look, what I might find and together we go looking. We only have to walk around the block. Only 30 meters and the arrow on the map shows us we’ve arrived. We investigate the guardrail which divides the road here and I discover a magnetically attached container. There we have it: a geocache!
When I found my first cache this day six years ago, I was absolutely amazed that many people walk this street without knowing about the existence of this treasure–but that I was part of a small circle of the enlightened. Even though this thought was fascinating to me, I didn’t think that this outdoor game would grow to have so much more importance in my life.
Three years ago I was diagnosed with Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and since have learned a lot about myself and my problems. It’s now clear to me why I never had a hobby before geocaching that I pursued for an extended amount of time. Because BPD is characterized by flightiness, not only within the mood of the affected but also their actions. It is difficult for anyone affected to make decisions and we are scared to make mistakes which can lead to negative emotions. Therefore it is something really special for me that I was able to develop such a strong passion for geocaching and since I became aware of this I also realized that it is my way out of this disease.
How BPD presents itself often varies. But in most cases the problem is that the affected cannot regulate their emotions appropriately. If the tension becomes too strong and emotions overflow it leads to dysfunctional behavior patterns. Those help reduce the internal tension in the moment but can hurt people with BPD and often also their relationships. Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) teaches alternative methods and skills that regulate the tension in a more functional manner. Since I started geocaching, I have automatically employed the hobby as such a skill. That means, when I feel emotional tension and the pressure threatens to become too much, I get out and geocache. It distracts me and calms me.
To conquer BPD long term, everyone suffering from it has to learn to be careful in everyday life. They have to pay attention about how high the tension is, what causes it and how they can confront it. When dealing with other humans mindfulness is very important. I realized it helps my fellow human beings if I explain my affliction and that in turn helps me to deal with some emotions in a more realistic manner. Even though this disease affects (directly or indirectly) many people, many have never heard about it.
With my project “biotonne88 goes Europe” I want to call attention to this disease and also confront it myself. I am planning to travel around Europe for six months to knowingly surrender myself to my painful loneliness and inform with frequent videos about my disease and my experiences. Geocaching will lead me and give me strength on this trip.