Often, I write prose in my head as I walk. I tell myself that I’ll write it down later, but I hardly ever do. It’s a meditative act, and I struggle to recreate that peace and unease when no longer in the moment. In particular, I prefer to numb myself outside of those moments, scared of feeling too much.
This week I felt too much. The fear of my actions in that moment still leave me in nauseating unease. My fight with depression has become so livable in these last few years, but my God, the control I lost for just a couple of hours on Thursday haunts me like no relapse before.
Someone recently asked me what it was like to fail so hard that I ended up in rehab. He was referring to my stint four years ago at the end of my senior year of high school. It was odd because I’ve always been so scared of failure, and it never occurred to me that some people may view my stay in rehab as that. The only part of me that ever considered it as failure was Ed, my eating disorder. He was quite disgruntled to hit that road block. However, I never saw it as such. In fact, I’ve often wore it as a badge of pride. I’ve survived, I’ve thrived, and I’ve continued to strive for more. It was interesting to be reminded that failure, though considered that in some eyes, is only growth, and the opportunity to see more or clearer.
This week I relapsed, and though I’m scared of it, I’m proud. It was my first relapse in over a year– that’s the longest I’ve gone! I’m thrilled because I picked up the pieces again, I brushed myself off, and I told myself I’ll be okay. I told myself I’ll be okay because that’s what I believe. Except for a few moments of panic, I am in control; I am capable; and I have proved that I will continue forward. It was one step back, but what is that one compared to hundreds and even thousands stepped forward since my last relapse over a year ago? I have faced fear, panic, and depression in between, and I’ve stepped through it all each time.
On Friday, after Thursday’s events, I packed my backpack and headed for the hills. Well, the mountain, actually. I headed for the place where I knew I’d thrive; that I knew would restore my heart, despite the emotional burden that was trying to hold me down. I found great success just by following my heart. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true, and I am proud. On the last day of 2016, I went for my first ever solo hike, and on Friday, I went for my longest ever solo hike. To some, that might not be an achievement, but for me, those seven or eight miles on Friday were complete and utter freedom and bliss.
I was completely and totally alone on that mountain, but despite that solitude, the smile that grew on my face as I hiked higher, could not be chased. My heart was happy and full of joy, and as I reached the top of that bald, I laughed because not laughing wasn’t even an option. Laughing was so natural and so needed, and completely and perfectly okay. I was alone on a mountain, sitting on a rock with 360° views of southern Appalachia all around, laughing as the wind whistled quietly past my ears and lowly over the open mouth of my water bottle. My boots were caked in mud from the soft ground, squishy with melting snow, and black with a richness and happiness that can only mean that spring is on its way. I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked because I wanted to get back to my car before dark. As I hiked downward, the sun disappeared behind some mountains, and reappeared in the dips of valleys and gaps between other mountains. For just that little while, there was enough joy in my heart to quench a generally unquenchable desire for more than just school, work, and stupid expectations of fulfillment from the confines of a tradition classroom.
When I got to my car, I actually switched backpacks and headed back into the woods. I didn’t stay the night, but I gave myself the option to do only what I wanted to do. I ate dinner with a view of the sun setting in the valley. The wind continued to whistle, and at times, blowing out the flame of my stove, reminded me I should acquire a heat and wind shield for my cook kit. As the sun set, I turned on the red light of my headlamp and delved into an hour of reading. With the setting of the sun, the temperature dropped and my shivers made me need to pee three times within an hour. I laughed and made my decision for the night. I’d wait for warmer weather for my first solo overnight, but with the sky only lit by stars now, and temperatures that I’m positive were cooler than the forecast (thanks, wind), I packed up, and hiked solo in the dark, another first for me.
The trail is one that I know well, but the adventure was new. I was completely on my own and completely okay. I know how to care for myself but still struggle to fight off obligation to fulfill other’s desires. I’m learning that 2018 is for me. I may not be graduating on time; I may be pushing back other plans or turning some opportunities away, but I’m making those choices because I am the most important thing in my life right now. I am the only person I will for sure ever live with, and the only person I must for sure always nurture. 2018 is my time to show myself– I am here to stay, and I am here to be healthy.