I want to thank all of you who followed me on my journey on the Appalachian trail and more importantly my journey with depression. I am amazed at the number of people who followed my journey and encouraged by the many who have personally told me how much they appreciated it. Although I did not respond to all your comments, I did read them and appreciate them. I do believe one of the best antidotes to depression is connection with others.
My goal was to hike for 3 months and 1 thousand miles but circumstances at home brought me home a little sooner. I made a
total of 470 miles in 64 days. If I had continued for the full 3 months, I estimate I would have made around 800 miles. I did feel I had accomplished what I had set out to do as far as processing my depression and burnout and breaking out of the rut that I was in and was ready to go home if I was needed there.
I went on the trail in hopes that the exercise, fresh air and being in nature would bring some restoration, healing to my soul and a closer walk with God. I wrote the journal in hopes that by sharing my story, I might encourage others and that it would enable me to process my own feelings and find healing. I do believe the time spent processing what led to my burnout was very worth while. I feel at peace with my past and at peace with God about all that happened. I feel I have a better understanding about how the choices I made, life circumstances along with my personality led to my fall. I am much more at peace with God and I do feel loved by the church or the people of God. I went to church for the first time in a long time my first Sunday home and I felt truly loved and appreciated. The nicest thing was I did not feel my heart pushing people away or rejecting the efforts of people to connect with me. It felt like the jadedness or bitterness was gone. All my life I have struggled with feeling alone even amongst friends and family. This was severely heightened with the onset of depression. In fact, one of the reasons I avoided church is that I felt more alone when I was
there, than staying at home. But my first Sunday in church I sensed that wall was gone and the dark shadow no longer hanging around. Although the people in my church are not perfect and at times, I felt they failed me, I can say today that I love my church and I feel like they love me.
I can’t say I had any easy days on the trail, but I did have one exceptional day when I felt energetic and completely alive. On that day I easily walked 18 miles of which 12 miles were uphill. It reminded me of the person I used to be before I crashed. Most days I struggled even though I enjoyed the trail and the scenery. I did get frustrated at times when I saw people easily walking 15 – 20 miles a day and I struggled with much less. I became more and more aware of how my mental illness was sucking the life out of me physically. Although I made incredible strides from walking 8 miles a day to being able to walk 12 – 15 miles, it was never easy, and I was always exhausted by the end of the day. On my last night on the trail I overheard a young couple talking about finishing their second 30-mile day. It’s hard to accept your limitations and learn to be content with them. I still struggle with exhaustion, but I do have more energy then when I left for the trail. I also still deal with depression although it also is not as overwhelming as it was before.
The most important thing I gleaned from my adventure was the sense of God’s loving hand in mine and Sharon’s life. I truly sensed God’s loving hand of provision and care on my life during my time on the trail. Not
only did he care for me, but he cared for Sharon and my family as well. The abandonment that I felt has become a whisper in my life that still seeks to be heard but has mostly been drowned out by the love of God and his people. God works through his people. All the stories of God’s provision that I have shared are only there because someone obeyed the voice of God and reached out. I also feel like I have let go of the bitterness I felt towards God. For a long time, I focused on the question why God allowed this into my life when I was so committed to serving Him. I have let go of the why, I don’t expect it to be answered on this side of eternity. I am choosing to focus on what now, what is God calling me to now and how can I best live with the limitations that I have.
I ask you to continue to pray for me as my battle with mental illness continues. I feel I have made some powerful strides forward, but I am not completely free of exhaustion or depression. This may be my lot in life and if it is, I want to face it with grace and dignity and not let it define me. I want to continue to battle and work towards complete healing but at the same time, be able to accept my situation and be content with all that God has given me.
For those of you out there struggling with mental illness I encourage you to keep fighting. I encourage you to find the thing in your life that still grabs your interest and pursue it. For me the only thing left that intrigued me at all was the wilderness, camping, hiking or canoeing. I have spent many hours looking at gear and researching hikes and canoe routes. It brought some joy into my life and made me feel at least a little alive. I used it to try to break out of the rut I found myself in after so many years of fighting against depression. I felt that the rut was so deep it would take something drastic and outside of my comfort zone to break the hold it had on me. My faith in God, even though a struggling faith, was strong enough to take a risk and step out into this journey.
I believe that for now God is calling me to be available and active in the lives of my family. I am hoping to get a part time job for about 20 hrs a week. I also want to become active in my home church again. This fall I am considering taking a few courses at CMU to complete my MA in theology. I also want to encourage others who battle with depression by sharing my own struggle. I want to continue in faith believing that God will provide me the strength and energy to do whatever it is He calls me to do. God has promised that when we obey Him he will provide us with everything we need to walk in that obedience.
Again, I thank all of you who have followed me and prayed for me during my journey. A couple of people have asked if I am going to write a book. I’m not sure if my story is important or helpful enough to put into book form. If you have any thoughts on whether I should attempt to write a book please email me at [email protected]