This weekend, I went on the most peaceful, beautiful, and adventurous trip to the Smoky Mountains with the most patient, kind, and wonderful human being–who I love to call my boyfriend.
The first morning there, I was bright-eyed, cheerful, COLD–but too happy to care. My boyfriend, Michael, and I walked around for 2 hours searching for a store that sold the kind of jacket I wanted and needed to endure the cold. (I know, I was so unprepared for the mountains in the winter!) Michael looked on google maps at every apparel store nearby, and he led me to every one–each one leaving me disappointed, and anxious, and cold. (Surprisingly, mountain stores aren’t big on selling jackets!) I kept looking over at Michael to see the frustration build up on his face, but it never appeared. He just grabbed my hand, smiled, and said “We’ll find one, babe! I have a good feeling about the next one!” And on we went. About 8 stores later, we finally found a store with an overwhelming amount of jackets–I found one, bought it, and we went along our merry way–finally starting our day at about 1:00! The rest of the day was magic in the city.
The second morning, I woke up, and I couldn’t seem to find energy. I was slumped over and just bleh. There was so much to look forward to this day, and I was pushing myself pretty hard to just get dressed and move forward. Baby steps. Michael would come over and kiss my forehead and my hand and let me take my time. At one point, I looked up at him and said, “I’m sorry, I’m really struggling this morning.” He pulled me into him, hugged me, and said, “That’s okay.” And he held me. He said nothing else. Just held me.
I finally finished getting ready, and off we went to the hiking trails. We, of course, chose the trail less taken to avoid a crowd of other hikers, but lemme tell ya, there was a reason there were hardly any hikers on our path, because it was HARD! I’m not a fit person whatsoever, so this hike up the mountain was NOT an easy task. But Michael let me take the lead and move forward. Onward and up. We had to stop (for me) to catch my breath approximately…way too many times, but we took in the beauty of the scenery along the way. The once large, busy city of Gatlinburg, where we were staying, was now nothing but an anthill. Onward and up–we continued. We were out of water (because ya girl was thirsty okay?!) and the sun was just glaring down on top of us. The closer we got to the top, the more articles of clothing I tore off. At this point, I was just angry at this mountain. How dare this mountain be so big and hard to climb?! I began to yell to Michael about being over the whole thing, and he calmly pointed to the man-made stack of rocks, explaining, “We’re here. This is the end of the trail.”
LAWDDDD, when I tell you I could have cried tears of happiness. I was proud of myself. I pushed myself beyond what I thought were my limits. And in the amount of time it took to look over the breathtaking view of the Smokies, I had also forgotten any prior feeling of despair or hopelessness. I made it up my mountain that day.
Monday morning was a little different, I woke up and I felt nothing. I felt numb. Michael didn’t have to ask. He didn’t say anything. He just let me go through the motion of putting my clothes on. He’d kiss my cheek and he’d give me pecks on the lips. I felt loved; I felt cared for; I felt safe, but mostly, I felt nothing. He started playing music and I recognized all the songs, but I thought maybe it was a coincidence. But then Leon Bridges started flowing through his speakers, and I said, “is this my playlist?” He said, “yeah, I thought your music would cheer you up.” I kissed him, told him I loved him so so much, and I was ready to just push through again at that moment. But unfortunately, I couldn’t. I was silent the whole drive up the beautiful mountains and I just let my tears fall down my face, and then down my neck. Michael took my hand, squeezed it, and sat in silence with me.
We were headed to another high point at Clingman’s Dome. Although the trek wasn’t as treacherous, my legs were so sore from the day before and I just really had no interest in making the climb in the freezing cold. But I grabbed Michael’s arm, and we began. Onward and up. We made it with little to no complaining from me and the view was just stunning at the top. Michael hugged me, told me he was so proud of me, and then he took my hand–after offering to carry me back down–and we descended back down the mountain.
That hike down just destroyed my lower back, my hips, and my feet. And it somehow also took what little high spirit I gained from the hike up.
The long drive back home was filled little conversation, but a whole lot of hand squeezes, head scratches, and ‘I love you’s’.
I uploaded pictures from the trip, and my family and friends are led to believe that the whole trip was rainbows and sunshine. “Alex and her boyfriend are off again on another adventure! They look so happy!”
Depression does not discriminate.
Just like the hike up and down those mountains, my depression comes and goes in waves. Sometimes it feels like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, but then that light smacks me right in the face.
Currently, as I’m writing this, I’m trying to make it up my mountain again. And I’m trying to do that by counting my blessings. Michael is a blessing, and my inspiration to write again. I’m forever grateful for the healing hands he provides me.