Last week, while hiking in Utah, I embarked on a hike that required me to descend (and subsequently ascend) a 45 degree grade, 100 foot rock face into a canyon. As I was crab crawling down the rock, I realized that up until fairly recently, I would have never considered "hiking" a trail like this. I have always been very cautious and risk averse, until my encounter with depression. Making my way into the canyon, I found myself wondering about the best thing about the worst thing that's ever happened to me.
Depression was like a train. It started slow, off in the distance of my mind. Rapidly, it gained speed, but before I could divert the track it was flattening me. When started therapy, I couldn't imagine feeling happy or whole again. The weight of depression seemed too heavy to get out from under. Healing was like the train too. Slow at first, barely a crawl, but faster as I built momentum.
When I was in the deepest hole of depression, I didn't feel much at all, but perhaps the most noticeable emotion missing was fear. I started running early in the mornings when it was still dark out, hiking at night with only the light from the moon. One night, while hiking in the foothills, I heard coyotes yipping in the distance. I didn't jump, my body didn't tense, no flutters in my stomach. I marveled at the absence of alarm. Although I recognized that indifference toward danger was a symptom of depression, I enjoyed the relaxation that came with it. I liked being able explore places I hadn't dared to go before. Therapy and medication pulled me back from the edge, onto solid footing, but not before learning new limits for my body and mind.
The fog of mental illness has dissipated and I no longer feel indifferent toward danger. I love and respect myself and want to be safe. I'm still nowhere close to being an adrenaline junkie, but I've discovered that I can be comfortable being uncomfortable. I know better the bounds of safety. I feel confident that I can recognize danger, while overcoming unnecessary fear.