Now what?

February 28, 2016

It’s been one year since I ventured out to attempt an Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike. This blog – Red Pack Walking – was intended to chronicle my journey. If you’ve been reading my posts throughout the year (or subscribed and experienced inbox bombardment) then you know my thru-hike ended less than 100 miles into the trek with a broken heel on my left foot. Red Pack Walking morphed into an adventure blog with no specific purpose other than to write about what I decided to do with myself post-thru-hike debacle.

My objective of hiking the AT in its entirety was to “…do something that I would normally have never had the drive, energy or time to do…” and in doing so creating a ‘fulfilling life’ with the intention of spreading awareness about the harsh reality of depression and how devastating it can be.

Many of my posts lose focus on the depression aspect, however after a copious amount of travel throughout this year and logging more than 35,000 miles on trails, in planes, cars, and trains, I’m home with no planned adventures in the near future and the reality of day-to-day life has now sunk in.

Before now, I’ve been busy…busy preparing for the hike, busy hiking, busy writing, busy flying, busy driving, busy riding…and prior to that, busy commuting, busy working, and busy doing whatever it was I was doing. Before experiencing a breakdown, my purpose was to work, build a career, acquire ‘things’ and do whatever it was that ‘normal’ people do. After the breakdown, my purpose was supposed to heal, get better, and accomplish something that I wouldn’t have been able to do while I was too busy ‘living’.Prior to my hike, I stated that I wasn’t doing the hike to discover the meaning of life, nor was it a journey in self-realization, as that had already come to me…or so I thought. I knew what I DIDN’T want to do, but I didn’t know exactly what it was I DID want to do (other than the immediate goal of hiking the trail). What’s ironic is that in all the miles I’ve hiked out in the middle of nowhere, I didn’t feel as lost as I do now. Have I been doing exactly the same thing I vowed that I would stop doing so that I could create a sense of well-being? Have I been distracting myself from the real issue and running away from my problems?

All of my adventures are over and now what? I’ve been to so many wonderful places and have seen such fantastic things this past year (the AT, Georgia, North Carolina, Virgina, West Virginia, the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), California, Oregon, Washington, and Japan), yet I am left with a void in my sense of being. I’m more confused than ever as to where to direct my focus, or even how to focus. That abyss is back in front of me and all I can do is look down and despair about how I’m going to get across.

My depression. I guess the truth is that it never went away. The thing with depression is that it never goes away (it’s been an 8-year battle so far since I was officially diagnosed as ‘clinical’), it just either gets masked or you learn to manage it. I was doing both in the past two years; I was managing it through nutrition and exercise, and I was masking it with keeping my mind occupied with planning excursions.

Now, again, I’m faced with anxiety that smothers me. I have a clean slate to start from, yet I’m paralyzed with a gripping fear of what to write in this chapter. I’m afraid of everything and nothing in particular. This is hard for most people to understand, because usually when you’re afraid, there’s something that you’re afraid of, something tangible or fathomable. The only thing I can equate the feeling to is imagine standing on the edge of some towering precipice, just inches from the edge looking down, and scared to make one move as if doing so will cause you to lurch, plummeting you down onto rocks below.

I’m again faced with a darkness that blankets the senses, and deprives me of appreciating the simple pleasures and small moments of joy that present themselves everyday. It’s a blackness that is like an intoxication that keeps you in slumber from which you are too comfortable to awaken from.

I’m again faced with pain that cripples the mind as well as my body. This past year has taken its toll on me physically and has left me with debilitating foot pain that plagues me daily whether I’m walking or sitting. At the point of this writing, I have no clear diagnosis other than the doctors I’ve seen so far want to dissect my feet and cut into my bones. The prognosis isn’t much better as it’s unclear whether the surgery will even alleviate the pain, never mind whether I’ll ever be able to long-distance hike again.

I’m again faced with doubt, an overwhelming uncertainty that obscures the opportunities that I have before me. I’m unsure as to what to do with myself and pondering that question boggles the mind in ways that are incomprehensible. I mistrust my abilities and waver in my conviction. In fact, I don’t know where my conviction went. It seems to have gone away.

I take little steps, it’s about all I can muster up the will to do. It’s like walking through a snow drift, where every step is laborious and only inches you farther from the point where you started. Plodding. Trudging.

Where do I go from here? What do I do now? I have no idea.

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I think this may be the last post for Red Pack Walking. If and when I am able to hike again, I may decide to continue blogging, depending on where my adventures take me and if they will warrant writing about. After all, who wants to read some drivel about wandering aimlessly through the woods? 

I enjoyed writing about my adventures (and misadventures) and I’m thankful for you all who take the time out of your day to read what I have to say.

Thank you for your support throughout this past year.

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