On Wednesday March 6th I am back on the trail after a nice Zero (no miles) at Budget Inn, in Hiawassee with Waffle and Hawkeye. Had some great chats and enjoyed the company. Today’s hike started at Dick’s Creek Gap and ended at Blyes Gap, about 9 miles. It was a nice clear day but cold. Camped just beneath a ridge to avoid a cold north wind.
After a cold night -8c, on March 6th we headed to Standing Indian Mountain, about 9 miles. I really struggled today and felt exhausted, the kind brought on by my depression. Focused on small steps and distracted myself taking pictures and enjoying the scenery. Started raining in the evening and it didn’t stop for two days.
On Friday March 7th we only made 7 miles to Betty Creek Shelter. I set up in the pouring rain. I'm getting better at it and not getting everything soaked in the process.
Mach 8th we hiked over Albert Mountain to Rock Creek shelter
about 9 miles. It was a beautiful hike that included some steep rock climbs to the top of Albert Mountain. Too bad the views were obscured by thick fog but it was still beautiful. I hiked 9 miles in 4 ½ hours. My hiking is slowly getting stronger.
On March 10th we hiked 3 miles to Rock Creek Gap and caught a shuttle to Franklin Budget Inn. It’s always nice to have a shower, wash your clothes and dry out your gear. It’s also nice to eat a good meal in a restaurant with friends you met on the trail. Tomorrow is resupply and time to relax and let my weary body recuperate. Really feeling like Waffle, Hawkeye were friends sent by God. They have helped me keep it together when my mind starts slipping down that dark path. It’s the compassion I sense in them and their love for God.
This stretch I really felt the nagging effects of my depression. My mind felt thick and slow and my anxiety was back in the mornings. But I’m learning to fight my way through. As you may have gathered I’m not the fastest hiker on the trail. I’ve been passed by younger people, older people, guys and girls, and people who started a week after I did. It bothers me at times but then I remind myself of where I have come from, 5 years of sitting in my chair especially in the past few months. I was exhausted and inactive a lot. I did zero conditioning for this hike.
Mental illness is humiliating in so many ways. Here is a few things
brought on by mental illness that have humiliated me. First it was not being able to go to work. When people ask me what I’m doing it’s difficult to say I’m unemployed. Every morning I feel out of sorts, guilty, embarrassed that I’m not on my way out the door to work.
Shortly after I realized I was not going to be going back to work anytime soon, I applied for life insurance and was denied. They deemed me too great a risk. I guess they thought I might kill myself.
In about a four year period I had about 7 minor accidents, parking lot fender benders and backing into a tree. It was a direct result of my mind not being clear. Fortunately the worst one, when I tried to take on a City Bus totaled my van but I was unhurt. A year ago I received a letter in the mail saying my licensed was suspended. I was devastated by this. It just seemed like another kick for an illness I could not control. I was able to talk my way out of this and had my license reinstated, but I did receive a nice surprise when my driver’s license cost me $2000.00.
Every Sunday morning I go through a heavier than normal attacks of anxiety. I have gone to church all my life, but now I just can’t face the crowd first thing in the morning. Being a former pastor, people looked to me for leadership and as an example and now I can hardly keep it together.
At a point where I was doing better I applied for a job and got hired. I never made it in for the first day of work. My anxiety went through the roof. It was also humiliating to be hired to stock shelves when you have been in charge of a good sized church, a leader, 7 years of education, and traveling the world as a speaker
Many times I have found myself attempting some project around the home and breaking down in tears because I simply was too tired and my mind to unclear to accomplish it.
Talking to your friends who talk about all that they are doing at work and holidays they are going on. You have nothing to share because you don’t do anything. And then there are the countless times a day my wife has to remind me of things she told me because I forget everything.
I used to be the strong one in the home, the provider, the one with energy and ideas. Now I have to lean on my wife for support.
There are a thousand humiliations for the mentally ill. But I am trying to move from humiliation to humility. Humility learns to accept our weaknesses. It accepts that you simply are sick and not able to do the things you could in the past. It finds peace in this before God. Today I’m not up to doing anything so I will sit here in my chair and try to say an encouraging word to my wife and kids and be interested in what they are doing. A depressed person must move from humiliation to humility. God has allowed this into my life and I have to accept it. This does not diminish my value before God. I can let the humiliation destroy me or I can choose to allow it to make me humble. Accepting myself with all my new limitations but not giving up the fight to get better. Being at peace with God in my infinite value to Him and seeking to live humbly with things as they are. Trusting him with my weaknesses and choosing to make the best of all that I still have. As Paul writes, “ I have learned to be content in every situation.”
The only real security we have is the certainty that we’re equipped to handle whatever happens to us. Too often we try to build strength through position, possessions, family or friends, social and religious rituals— all the outer trappings by which we form our identities. Stripped of them all, we have to draw from what is left: our basic sense of identity as human beings. From there true security is born.
Coffee, Captain Gerald. Beyond Survival: Building on the Hard Times - a POW's Inspiring Story (Kindle Locations 1013-1016). AudioInk Publishing. Kindle Edition.
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