I’ve said for a while now that my anxiety and depression are like vibrations just below the surface. They don’t take over completely; they’re usually manageable on a day to day basis. But they’re always there. And on some days, or realistically, during some seasons of my life, the vibrations strengthen and eventually rip through like an earthquake, creating cracks in my foundation and occasionally experiencing aftershocks that continue to create moments of chaos.
The problem I’ve experienced with my own kind of manageable depression and anxiety, and my own particular body, is that anti-depressants don’t work for me. I wish they could. I am a firm believer that if we would treat physical ailments with medication, then medication for mental health shouldn’t be negatively stigmatized as frequently as it is. Medication can be a great tool. But finding the right one for me has mostly led to dead ends. Which has instead guided me towards figuring out what nontraditional methods do work. And what I’ve found is that the mountains have become my resting place for a body that feels pulled and strained.
I started running in 2009. Little 5ks slowly transformed to marathons which eventually then led to my first of 2 ultra-marathons. And as I trained for these races and found myself spending hours and hours on trails, I realized that these dirt and rocky and rooted paths were becoming a place for me to disappear to.
When training for these races, I was navigating life through a fresh breakup from my fiancé, the deaths of grandparents, and the slow impending deaths of two more people whom I loved dearly. What would normally have me falling completely apart was being quietly processed on the sides of mountains with sweat and muscle cramps and learning how to pee in the woods (no joke, that may have been the hardest part of the challenge). And while I always had someone to run with, the beautiful thing about running on trails, especially for hours and hours, is that you can run together without ever saying a word, and still feel connected.
At another point in my life, when the good finally started to outweigh the bad, but I continually felt like another shoe was going to drop, I left my partner and my dogs for the weekend and I took a trip to stay in a hiker hostel and hike up Blood Mountain. I'd never traveled alone before. I’d never hiked alone. And reaching the top and sitting on a large rock overlooking nothing but trees and clouds, I felt an uninterrupted peace that I couldn’t find anywhere else. And it followed me for weeks.
And so to the mountains I go. It’s harder with a son now to just run away. But I know they’re always there. And when I return, I’m able to be the best version of myself.