I'm still alive! In the Hellsgate wilderness

I'm still alive! In the Hellsgate wilderness

There has been a lot of silence around here since my last post. The post that announced my move to a van- my journey away from my home. A post that announced exciting change and courage also prefaced one of the lowest bouts of depression I have had in my adult life. Six months ago I sat in my apartment, surrounded by too much. A ‘too much’ I created for myself. It was time to kick things in gear— sort, pack, sell and organize my belongings, find work on the road, get the van fixed— and I felt paralyzed. Earlier in the year I had decided to start weaning off my antidepressant medication. (red flag) I was feeling so good and was so sure that I had a brief bout of depression and I had surpassed it. So I halved my dosage. In October 2018 I went off entirely. I spent November feeling crappy- depression creeping up and anxiety following faithfully behind. I thought , This will pass when the medicine is out of my system. and held on. By the end of November my freelance work slowed down and I had little to no desire to leave my apartment. Early December I moved in with a friend and buckled down for one of the worst months I have had. I was unemployed and utterly unwell. Not myself- not the person I was when I decided to make a solo journey in my van. I questioned everything. I lost all confidence. I remember somewhere towards the beginning sobbing in bed, mourning the person I thought I was and who I thought I had forever lost. I was overwhelmingly aware that my house was torn down and I had to rebuild. And I was so exhausted. I didn’t think I could do it.

During the months of December and January I job hunted and forced myself out of bed every single day. I felt brief and fleeting solace in cups of coffee I made myself have each morning as the caffeine flicked everything on in my body that I had lost touch with. I leaned into my friends and family. I journaled and started going to yoga again. I started going to the gym. I got myself out with a friend at least once a week. I meditated. I read. I went to therapy. I did these things for weeks and felt no different- no better. I just moved my bodily—heavily— through each task. I felt exposed and vulnerable, like my skin had fallen off and everyone could see inside and hurt me with a slight brush of my shoulder. Celeste visited late December and I did everything I could to enjoy that time— but my body and mind weren’t in agreement. Around this time I started feeling paralyzed by change, newness, strangers. I laid in bed and forced sleep through the hives that crept up my back and onto my scalp. Why is this not working? Why am I not getting better?

Those who loved me gently nudged me, maybe you should get back on your meds. They help you. Like insulin for a diabetic. Early in december I would have rejected this. I would have sworn it was the meds fighting their way out of my body. The awful, evil, unnecessary meds. But by Christmas, I was in so much pain. I felt incredibly raw and out off energy. I had been on the cusp of something, I thought. But here I was, lost and lacking motivation or desire to do anything but sleep. I had all the usual symptoms - I lost interest in photography, in the idea of travelling or hiking. I was tired, I wasn’t hungry, I lost weight effortlessly. And I started to face the descriptor on my pill bottle, major depressive disorder.

Oh.

I made an appointment with a psychologist. I got back on my meds. And since, I have been making the steady climb out of that deep hole. I am now back to my 150mg dose of Effexor. I am going to yoga and working a couple of great jobs. And I’m working on my van. I plan to take it on a trip in June and see where it takes me later this year. I am not happy every day but I am learning to be okay with that. I sit on the other side of this mountain I just climbed and I am in awe of the universe, and how it gives and takes exactly what you need.

Like last minute trips to visit your bestfriend to hike a grueling hike that fills you to the brim with accomplishment and love for your body and what it can do. Celeste and I took a trip to Payson and hiked in the Hellsgate wilderness. Hells Gate Trail is a 15 mi out and back trail with 3,339 feet of elevation gain. It was steep, covered in loose red rock, and accompanied by beautiful mid 60s weather. Nonetheless, it beat the hell out of us. And we let it—asked for it even. We stopped and napped in meadows and ate packets of tuna under the shade of trees. We camped and drank wine by the fire right next to Tonto creek, completely alone. We even saw a Coati- which we had never heard of or seen before. He hung twenty feet away in a tree staring down at us, before fleeing back up into the mountains. By the end we both wished we could live this life, together and hiking, all of the time— and have started a plan putting that into the works.

All my love to everyone who has reached out to me in this difficult time. Thank you thank you thank you. I am so grateful and am feeling glad to be alive more and more everyday.

Photographer on the road