It’s been 7 years today. 7 years since we left my home. 7 years since we started the journey North to make a new one. I left the ocean to make a home within the woods, and I spent half the years I’ve been here deep within them.
But I’m working on emerging.
It hasn’t been easy. Postpartum hormones left me lost in the woods for about 100 unrelenting days. It started right after I had him. His doctor was the one to spot the symptoms in me at his one week appointment, then again at two weeks. I cried when I finally made the appointment for myself with the receptionist. I didn’t want to have it. I didn’t even want to say it. I had a beautiful healthy son whom I loved more than life and I had made it through the whole high risk pregnancy and surgery – so why couldn’t I stop crying?
The trees wrapped their arms so tightly about my chest that I haven’t wanted to speak about it, but now, their grips loosen with each passing day. 4 months later, I can see the clearing up ahead.
But around Christmas, I was still deep within the woods. So I sought help.
I couldn’t even remember her name.
That was all I kept thinking in early January as I sat across from her in the office, looking at her heavy turquoise laden fingers as they typed words onto a screen that I couldn’t see as I answered question after question.
I glanced at the lonely couch beside the armchair I sat in, a bit surprised to find that these doctors truly had them. I suddenly felt like a characature of myself within my own life: red rimmed eyes a bit glassy as I talked about Zoloft dosages. I sat up straighter in the chair, my feet firmly on the floor as I glared at the couch.
We’d already covered the dreams. God help me, the dreams. Nightmares that had started when he’d joined us, realistic terrors with music and smells that hadn’t relented for nearly 3 months. Terrors that turned me into a zombie by day and a watchman by night, falling asleep in the early hours of the morning only to meet the demons that waited for me in the dark kitchen, in red bathtubs, in empty rooms with dark stained floors, beneath the forest roots.
We’d talked about the intrusive thoughts that took me by surprise by day: the pictures that would paint themselves as I did ordinary tasks like walk across the yard, take a shower, or make dinner. We talked about the anxiety that had been ruling every decision I made for the last 3 months – anxiety that had left me at home and turned me into an island. I hadn’t driven in 20 weeks. The weight of my fears had turned my bones to ivory anchors beneath my skin and my heart to a stone within my chest.
Doctors and failed medications had finally led me to the woman in fringed boots before me, asking about my access to firearms. I looked out the window.
“Tell me more about your life before,” she said to me from her desk, this woman whose name I couldn’t remember.
My mind went back.
Back to the friends. The job. The busyness. The music. The music.
And so I sat there speaking to the woman with no name, and I painted a picture of the life I used to have, of this person I used to know – used to be. I kept talking as the minute hand slowly dragged by, and my whole life began to take shape in the room between us. And finally, as I sat back and watched the paint dry, I began to see that my canvas might not have been as smooth as I remembered it being.
I’d loved the people I worked with, yet my job hadn’t fulfilled my spirit.
The town I grew up in was sharp around the edges.
The music I’d made was fueled by the tumultuous relationship I was in – the one that had broken my heart again and again and given me song after song.
My heart had been a mess most of the time. I may have been on the coast, but I had still been in the woods. So why was I going back to those years in my head as the easy ones? The ones when I was somehow better because I was more social, more efficient because I worked outside of the home, more productive because I was creating music – when in reality, I may have been standing in the treeline the whole time?
It’s so easy to believe the lies of the world that we aren’t enough as we are in this time, in this place, in this moment. Just as we are. This is one of the biggest lies of the enemy that I’m guilty of falling for again and again.
For 7 years now I’ve been mourning the loss of my music that went hand-in-hand with my move up North. My diagnosis came at the same time, and the combination sank me. I let it sink me. I lost my momentum, I became overwhelmed battling a rare auto-immune disorder, I started losing the people I loved, and I just stopped moving. I stopped pursuing the things that I’d loved. I hid in the trees.
I wish I had fought harder.
Sometimes I get caught in the trap of thinking that the grass was greener before. When times are hard, it’s the easiest thing in the world to miss the past. To miss myself in the past. But God, help me remember that the past had its own set of woods. And if I’m not careful, the cycle will continue. If I’m not careful, one day the present will be the past that I romanticize. God, help me to praise you for this day.
I should have fought harder yesterday. So what do I have to do now so that I don’t have that same thought tomorrow?
“What do you do now that you enjoy?”
I was jerked out of my own head and back to her turquoise hands, opened to the air in a question.
I opened my mouth to answer, then paused. What did I do? My life had been so consumed with anxiety, sleeplessness, worry and fear for the past several months that it felt like I’d done nothing but be each day. I liked to joke about life, but my chronic pain had become such a constant dark current within my own body that sometimes I just didn’t know how to deal with it, and the thought of it living with me every minute of every day until the end took my breath away. The 9 months leading up to the last 3 had been full of anxiety: the quietest fear in the back of my mind whispering that I wouldn’t live to see his little face. Whispering that if I did, my central nervous system would be so broken down in the process of getting him here that my best days would be behind me. Whispering that all of his memories of his mother would be of a broken one. Every morning I took inventory, assessing the nerve damage throughout my body. Checking for new breaks in the system.
“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
I’d been so busy not dying that I’d been forgetting to live.
My mouth opened again, then closed lamely. She handed me a tissue.
“Don’t let yourself forget the things that you loved. Remember. Start doing them again.”
I want to remember.
That was a while ago now. I like to think that things have started to change for the better.
The dreams are fewer and farther between now. I’ve started driving again. I finally went back to church. It’s been a while since I’ve made that call for an Rx refill. I’ve scheduled appointments with doctors for my pain management. I’m taking a writing class and every week my mom takes me to actually create something again. I see my family every Sunday night, and in my mind – those evenings glow with a special kind of light that lingers on into the next week. We’re packing up our babe and hitting the road back to CA. We’ve planned hikes in Washington, Oregon and California.
I’m slowly finding my way out of the woods.
Today I came across a piece of writing of mine from 7 years ago, the night before I left my home for the last time. It was the night before I moved here, to this property, sight unseen. I sat in my old empty bedroom, writing about the future that I’m living in now.
“Tomorrow marks the beginning of a new adventure. A new chapter. A new life. I am excited. I am terrified. I am sore at heart.
Tomorrow we go North to see what awaits us.
Tomorrow, it begins.”
I could never have imagined the story that awaited me in this Northern town. The mourning, the love song. The storms and the sun. God led me from the coast and through the woods to a man who loves me, and He gave me a son who has my high cheek dimple and my husband’s widow’s peak. A man who researches hikes that will cause me the least amount of pain. A son who smiles when he opens his eyes to me in the morning.
He led me to the love of my life here, a man who helped me out of the woods once. He walks beside me when I wander back in. Now we walk with our son. They’re both made of sunlight.
This path is still covered in roots, but I can see the sky.