Baby Steps to Freedom

Mexico_Coast_Sunset_cropIt’s hard to believe but even while living in sunny, warm southern California my heart felt frozen for years. Already a full passport at 33 with more than 30 countries under my belt, I got stuck in neutral and didn’t want to go anywhere. The thought of leaving comfy Orange County gave me feeling of dread. How could this happen? And would it ever change?

The wrestling with anxiety and depression for two years wore on my soul and adrenal system. I needed a vacation from my problems like Bob Wylie. But even the thought of going a few hours by car was anxiety producing. And I didn’t get on a plane for probably four years. Baby steps was about the only thing I could do.

I’m very grateful for a few friends who continually invited me along on short ventures outside the OC. These “short” drives to the outside world were the baby steps I could handle at the moment. Joshua Tree, Mammoth Lakes, serving an orphanage in Baja California, and Las Gaviotas (photo above), an hour south of the border.

Even during the short trips I struggled with not feeling completely despondent. Driving anywhere meant driving through the desert, and driving through the desert was the worst kind of torture for me. No where feels more lonely and desolate as the desert to me. Despondency and desolation aren’t a good mix. But it was my necessary tonic.

It’s easy when feeling overwhelmed to avoid stepping outside the comfortable and familiar at all. I’d rather sleep. I don’t want to be with people. I’d rather not deal with anything. All good ingredients for the recipe of isolation. And to come out from under the cloud of depression and anxiety, you need to take intentional steps out from under the umbrella and feel the rain. These short trips were my baby steps. As hard as each one was, and as contorted my emotional state during those drives, each little step helped me get somewhere.

Even looking at this photo I took down at the beach I can still feel what I felt at the moment. A sort of out of body experience where I was so hyper-sensitive to every thought and emotion. When I smiled I felt like it was a violation of my self-imposed prison terms. How can I smile when I feel like crap? But smiling and laughing were baby steps as well–putting assets into an emotional bank account for later. Hope felt distant. But trusting that hope was possible again was the baby step.

I needed these adventures in order to come out from under my cloud. Each step was hard, but each was necessary. Deciding to go when it seemed easier to stay at home. Getting into the car when I could just turn around. Laughing in a moment, trusting goodness was still ahead, enjoying a sunset…all were very real baby steps a better emotional state. It eventually came, but it may not have had I not taken each step of faith.

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