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Coming back up from a deep 2020 depression, one week at a time

Everyone is in the same boat this year, at least those of us lucky enough to still be floating, precariously, above water. 2020 has been a sinkhole of emotional despair for me, however. Mainly from the sheer isolation of it all.

I canceled all of my backpacking trips this year in an effort to honor, and help do my part, with the red level alert that my home city has been under until just very recently as we wax toward orange. Also, I have heart disease. I’m a younger guy who is at risk. This being the beginning of September, we have a long haul through Fall and Winter ahead of us when, no doubt, the second surge will reveal itself.

While I love my home, that and being able to afford to make a living, a status that has been ripped away from so many Americans this year in an economically devastated nation. This is the third-largest economic disaster, by GDP shrinkage alone, in the past 100 years. Spanish Flu being the least, WWI taking the next rung up, COVID (currently) the second-worst only to WWII in the first place. Again that’s the current numbers as the Pandemic still ravages our Nation in the total absence of any National response or leadership actions that would have actually made a real difference as seen in other parts of the world.

There was a moment in the second or third month where I kind of lost it emotionally. The point where I realized I was more depressed than I had ever been in my life. I started to feel hopeless, sucked of all energy and motivation, just tuning more and more out in an effort to dull the pain. That’s when I realized I had to do something about my mental health. Pretty immediately actually. So I dusted off my home workout equipment, bought a Schwinn exercise bike, dragged my old backpack out of the closet and packed it with my camping gear then stowed that in my truck. The workouts have been steadily increasing for me in both regularity and intensity. I’m still working on my diet as, that too slipped during the pandemic in favor of actually comforting, but not healthy, foods.

I’ve missed this so much. It’s been so good to put foot to trail once again.

However, the backpack and a place called Great Seal State Park for me have been some of the best things I have been doing every weekend now since June. It’s got some of the most challenging hikes here in, mostly flat, Ohio. I know this as I first found it during a group hike a couple of years back with the folks from Hike Ohio on meetup.com, I got sidetracked, turned left, and found this tiny little camping area. Less than 20 sites. Mostly equestrian. Very empty. Perfect for social distancing.

But yeah, as I stated before, I love my home. However, it’s also become my office, my gym, my outdoor experience for a time via my urban balcony and hammock. Remembering Great Seal State Park changed all that. I was suddenly able to escape my place in the city. Pitch a tent. Still talk with friends on the web and phone as it’s near Chillicothe and boasts good cell signal. I could have campfires again and lay in the grass late at night and look up at the silver curtain of the Milky Way once more. It was as if my gears started moving again after having stalled, rusted, and then froze into a locked state. I was breathing again.

Sugarloaf Mountain, a great hike from my campsite and part of the Great Seal of Ohio.

It took me a while to get here, and I have a long way to go, but at least I am finding slices of life within which to, well, live again. Even if it’s devoid of human contact. Running, working out, biking, and camping is where my hope renews every damn time.

My wish is that everyone else is also finding sources of joy in an otherwise devastating year. It’s tough work, but worth it.

Every fire starts from the small stuff, just like the emotional stability.

Here’s to 2020 though, even though we are still in the thick of it, all the people we lost, those who lost homes, food security, those who had to crack open and drain off retirement funds just to get by, and those who could not make it and became homeless with no safety net or assistance by the Nations “leaders.” My heart goes out to everyone tonight as I sit here writing this, taking a break from my daily anxiety, about to light a campfire in around two hours, listening to music, feeling grateful to be here, for my health, and to be alive.

Published inpersonal

4 Comments

  1. Carol Dameron Carol Dameron

    So glad to find your blog. This has been a frightening year for many of us. I have never suffered from depression before and for me it was quite eye-opening. I am a retired teacher and have two of my three children and a grandson living with me. Obviously it wasn’t so much loneliness that got me but rather a feeling of hopelessness. In all of my years I had never felt this way before. Add to that less ability to exercise because of chest pain and unadulterated fear at my health slipping. Actually it is easier to tell you these things than my children. I have made an effort not to scare them. I wish you the best in your exercise routine and am hopeful that will raise your spirits. Be well my friend!

    • Thanks, Carol, I know those days are in my future too if I am lucky enough to survive a second heart attack, mortocycle crash, or fall off a cliff ledge in the dark in my case. I never felt hopeless in my life, until some very dark moments this year. So I think I understand where you are coming from to a degree even though our respective scenarios are different. Life is full of chances, mishaps, and things we just can’t control. Thank you for your words of kindness. Stay healthy for your family and live life to it’s fullest.

  2. Mary Mary

    Hi Jeff,
    I too have hit bottom and still struggling. It was soothing to read that you have found a soft place. I am happy for you, it is well deserved. I was doing okay at the beginning of the covid thing. After what NY went through, I thought the rest of the country would take care not to follow. But, like you said lack of leadership etc… It is worse than ever. Somewhere in the midst of all this I was sucked up by PTSD from the heart attack and am struggling with it. I too bought a Schwinn to work out on, trying to get on track. Your post helped me see that I can do this and get on top again. Thanks Jeff, keep up the good work and stay in this good place that you have found.

    Mary (yes, that one from AHA)

    • Mary,

      It’s great to hear from you. Yeah, When I got Katie’s email I realized I was falling back into my old behaviors of not sharing and hiding the pain hence the post. Sounds like we are on a similar trajectory as far as recognizing where we are and course correcting thoguh. Keep up the great work and stay both healthy and strong.

      Best,

      Jef

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