Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Healing Powers of Nature

It was a sunny Friday afternoon when I found myself standing in the middle of the sidewalk next to the Farmer's Market in tears calling my husband to tell him I couldn't breathe. "Do I need to come pick you up?" Me (sobbing): "No, I'll be okay, I've just got to put one foot in front of the other." I wasn't sure how I was going to walk the quarter mile back to my office, but somehow in a teary-eyed blur I made it. Trouble was brewing.

The following Monday morning I woke up, showered, dropped my son off at daycare, and took the elevator up to my office. I sat down and opened my email as I do every morning, and immediately burst into sobs. A kind coworker heard me and came over and patted me on the back and said "You're going to be okay", but I was definitely not okay. In fact, after I had dropped my son off at school earlier that morning, I secretly hoped I would get in a car accident. Not bad enough to kill me or damage my life forever, but to give me a legitimate reason to not have to open those emails for the next couple of months. I was completely overwhelmed, but in my mind I had no good reason for feeling blue.

When the sobs didn't stop over the next hour, I made the decision to get up and leave. I drove over to an emergency care clinic in East Nashville and walked in hanging my head, embarrassed of my red, flushed ugly cry-face. I told the receptionist I needed to see a doctor. "Sure, and why do you need to see the doctor today?", she asked.  I replied in a whisper, "I'm having a mental health crisis."

The next thing I know a nurse is whisking me off to a waiting room and chides me for not calling my primary care physician first. In my head I'm yelling back, "Can't you see I'm having a fucking meltdown?!" But instead, I made up some excuse as to why I didn't call my physician first and a few minutes later the nurse practitioner comes in with a prescription for Ativan and an appointment to see my primary care physician the next morning.

I show up the next day at the doctor's office and after explaining how I've felt over the past few months, I'm prescribed Abilify on top of Prozac and told to come back in two weeks. I ask her how I am going to go back to work in the meantime? She suggests quitting my job. Yes, because it's that easy. The last thing I need at this point is to lose my health insurance, but still, I toy with the idea for a couple of days. I could pull Ben out of daycare, we could sell one of our cars and stop going out to dinner. I could exclusively shop at thrift stores most definitely get rid of our monthly cleaning service. But then I remembered how depressed I was during my three month maternity leave, and I realized this is not the answer. Plus, I really like my job and feel like I'm helping to make the world a better place.

It's here that I say I'm incredibly blessed for my spouse, family, friends, and coworkers as they all support me and ultimately want to see me do what's best for me right now.  I'm still not sure what that is. You see, I've suffered from anxiety disorder and depression since I was a teenager and am smart enough to know it's not going to disappear over night.  I've largely managed it all these years through medication, counseling, exercise, and surrounding myself with amazing people. But I still act like it's this big, bad secret and probably don't tell enough people that I struggle with it on a daily basis.

The one thing I do know is that my silver bullet for anxiety/depression is nature.  Woods, sunshine, the sound of birds singing, and leaves rustling.  But how do I incorporate nature into my daily existence? I work downtown in a concrete jungle and come home in the evenings to your typical suburban, postage-stamp size lot.  On the weekends, I turn into an adventure warrior and drive out to Mother Nature to hike, kayak, or throw rocks in a creek with my son. But it's not enough. I need it everyday. Now don't get me wrong, I don't want to permanently go off the grid, but I do sometimes fantasize about a life without emails and phone calls.

So for now I'll keep hiking as much as I can in order to heal myself, and hope that this long-winded post about my struggles with depression and anxiety makes at least one person feel a little less lonely. And if you ever need a hiking buddy, call me.

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