Steele Outside

PCT 2016: the grande shit show spectacular

Feeling all the feelings

I admit I’ve been wallowing. I’ve been sad and confused, unsure how to feel. I’ve been counting my blessings and then completely blowing them off. I’ve been optimistic and pessimistic, up, down and all around. I’ve been in self-preservation mode and in self-destruct mode. I’ve been too busy and not busy enough. I’ve spent some time with friends. I’ve avoided phone calls. I’ve been doing a lot of knitting. I’ve watched A LOT of British crime drama on Netflix. 
  
(Frances has been indispensable to my healing process.)

My first few days in Santa Fe were happy. It was a relief to be with Hunter in one of our favorite places. We spent the weekend with some good friends at their cabin in the Pecos without cell reception. I felt loved and protected. 

Then, the weekend was over, back to real life. Hunter wanted to throw me a party. He was so sweet, how could I refuse his promise of cake? I wanted to see our friends, these people I had pined for in my homesick moments on the trail. But as I started seeing people and hearing their excitement about what I had done and their congratulations, I felt overwhelmed. What could I say? I was still carrying around the secret confusion and embarrassment of the car ride with Jacob, my emotional breakdown leaving Placerville, and realizing I had run out of money. The outcome felt so final, yet so unfinished. 

I wasn’t feeling accomplished or confident. I was feeling confused and unsure. I was feeling suddenly separated from the thing that had been my primary focus for the past year. Even around getting married and throwing a big party, planning and financing the hike had been almost all-consuming. What had happened? What did it all mean? Who was I now? What should I do with myself?

I felt immediate pressure to put a positive spin on things. Everyone was saying, “Look what you’ve accomplished! You should feel good about that!” I knew, absolutely, that everyone really meant well. Everyone I spoke to was happy for me and impressed. I was incredibly grateful to have so much love and support. Still, I felt empty when I said thank you and told them how great it had been. 

For weeks I have hidden in our Santa Fe home, avoiding seeing any but our very closest friends, avoided phone calls, not returned texts and emails. I felt myself spiral into depression, familiar territory. 

At first, I was nervous. For someone who dealt with over a decade of crippling depression and anxiety, even a little spiral downward can feel unwieldy. Then, a new thing happened. I started hearing from people that they hoped I was giving myself the time to grieve, to feel sad about what was happening. This was a new concept for me- to allow myself to feel what I was feeling instead of fighting against it. It took several times of hearing this before I started to understand what I was hearing. It took a few times after that before I started to allow myself to put the concept into practice. As soon as I gave myself permission to feel sad, the weight of the sadness began to lift. 

Disappointment comes in waves. As I accept my emotions, the waves no longer crash over me quite so often and threaten to drag me out to sea. I am more often able to float gently on the waves, breathe through them, really feel the rise and fall. 

In allowing myself to really feel the sadness and disappointment, my capacity for feeling gratitude and joy has begun to grow again, as well. It’s subtle. I have a little more energy and hope each day. I’ve begun to answer and return calls and emails. I’m exploring the possible. Sadness is usually about the past or future. Feeling the sadness, rather than holding onto it, has opened up space for me to be in the present. 

  
(Look how clean my hands are!)

I saw a card the other day that said, “Sometimes it’s not about the happy ending. Maybe it’s about the story.” I see now that I set out on this hike with my sights set firmly on the happy, triumphant ending. Grieving the loss of the story I had been telling myself has allowed me to begin to see the hike, however it eventually ends, as part of the greater story of my life and as a teensy part of the greater story of humanity. And, as a friend reminded me today, I get to decide how I feel about all of it. I get to decide how I feel. It’s not always easy, but I know it’s the truth. 

Knee pain update: My knees have healed slowly. I can now get up and down the stairs in our house without holding onto the wall. Most days, I have no or only very little pain. Hunter and I have done some hiking. I have even entertained the idea of going back out to the trail this year. Lisa, who went home with a stress fracture in Tehachapi, is heading back out soon and I’m thinking of joining her. I still need to add pack weight on my hikes and see how I hold up. We’ll see what happens. I don’t want to go out prematurely only to return a week later. 

Thanks, everyone, for your care and concern. It has really bolstered me. I’m a very rich girl to have so much love in my life. I’ll keep you all posted on my progress. In the meantime, I’m going to write up some gear reviews, so look for those coming up. Thanks, again, for reading my funny little blog. 

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5 Comments

  1. Dawn Henrichon

    How lovely it is to read your words. And some of your realizations are applicable to each of us. It’s good to be reminded of them. I’m relieved to hear that you’re coping in your own way with all the conflicting feelings. Your way is the only way. Looking forward to reading your heart whenever you choose to share with us. It’s truly a treat.

  2. lindasholar@att.net

    I love your writing and sharing like this! And I love you!

  3. Deby

    This is great honey…doing it your way is the best way to go. thank you for sharing. I love you.

  4. Leigh

    I’m so glad you are still telling your story! You’ve been in my thoughts. Best wishes for your journey, wherever it takes you.

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