Well, I’m back. After the USA Today article came out my vacation was timed perfectly. It allowed me time to decompress, not think about my depression and anxiety and just enjoy the company of family and the beauty of Alaska.
Haha, just kidding! Yeah, as if depression and anxiety let you take a vacation. This trip challenged me physically and mentally. There were times where I had to grit my teeth and push through, times where I needed others to help lift me up and times where I almost lost it. But I did it.
First, let me say that overall the trip that really were fun and relaxing- I did get to spend time with people I love, I saw the beauty and the indescribably massive scale of the land that is at once both humbling and awe-inspiring. I got to go hiking, camping, sea kayaking and ice climbing. I had some incredible meals (I still have dreams about the oysters at the Crow’s Nest and the cedar-wrapped salmon at the Majestic Valley Lodge). I got some great photos. We saw some really cool wildlife, including a mother bear with two cubs. It was awesome. I’m already thinking of trips for next year.
But, like I said, the depression and anxiety come with you on vacation. We were hiking up a valley in Denali National Park and I was exhausted. Physically and mentally drained. It was about a week into the trip, we had already done a few shorter hikes and the kayaking and ice-climbing, and I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep in my first night in the tent, sleeping on top of tundra. Despite the progress we were making, the ridge line we were hiking up to didn’t seem to get any closer. It was looming above us. I needed to take frequent breaks to catch my breath or take a swig of water. Everything hurt. The rest of the group was moving at a faster pace and I started falling behind. And I started to think “Catch up! They know there’s something wrong! Don’t be the last one up! You probably can’t even make it up the hill! You weren’t in shape for this! What were you thinking!?” and so on.
So know I’m carrying the additional burden of the anxiety up the mountain with me, and I’m getting nervous and I start doubting myself. Telling myself I overreached. Panicking about how am I going to get off this mountain!? Even if I can get back down to the lake I’m a 40 minute float plane ride from the nearest town!
And then my brothers and my brother’s girlfriend told me I could do it. Told me it wasn’t much further. They hung back and walked it with me. They took breaks with me and encouraged me.
And when I got up to that ridge line we could see Denali (Mt. McKinley) through the clouds. We saw the Ruth Glacier snaking it’s way through an enormous valley. We saw the snow capped peaks of Mt. Foraker. We looked back down the valley we had come up.
I sat down and cried. I had done it. I needed help and encouragement and love, but I did it. I made it. I tried to quickly recover (mustn’t let people see you cry) and we took some photos, had a snack and then proceeded to make our way down the other side to circle back to camp.
The hike was a microcosm of my treatment over these past few months. It can be really hard to interrupt negative thought processes. It can be hard to maintain sobriety. I need help and love and support and I’m very lucky to have that in my life.
I don’t know if you ever get to a ridge line or a peak with treatment, but with every step it’s good to make sure you acknowledge how far you’ve come and how much better the view is from how low you were.
3 thoughts on “Back from Alaska, aka, the view from the mountain”
Paul , I wish I was with you on the trip . Your writing makes me feel like I was . Love Dad
This is my favorite post yet. What a powerful trip. ❤ Emily