The Airbnb owner, Victoria, had recommended that I check out this wildlife Safari nearby where animals roam, you can drive your car through, and the animals walk right up to your car. I arrived around 11:30am and was told it takes about an hour and a half to drive through. I also signed up for three expeditions: meeting the elephants, feeding the giraffe, and feeding the lions.
First, I drove through the park with my windows down. It was really neat to see animals roaming freely with the breeze rushing by. I was able to see all sorts of animals like zebras, bears, deer, buffalo, and ostriches. I fed deer through my car window after I purchased a cup of food for $5. The buffalo walked right up to my car, so much that I had to roll up my window.
After driving through the park, I ate in the café while I waited for my first expedition to start – meeting the elephants. All throughout the day, feelings of sadness came and went. As I drove through the park, it seemed better because I tried very hard to enjoy the animals and the experience. But sitting alone in that café started to get to me. There weren’t many people there because it was already close to 2:00pm. I was sitting at a large, round table that could seat six people. I was in the corner, looking out the window. I felt so alone as I ate my burger, seeing all the families and couples. I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and had to tell myself, “Get it together, Christy. You cannot cry while eating a burger in public. You’re at a really cool safari, enjoy it!”
After eating my burger, I rode in a bus down the hill to meet the elephants. There were lots of people and we were able to take a photo and touch an elephant’s trunk. After that, I went in an open-top bus to go feed the giraffes. This was really cool! We were able to hold out a piece of lettuce and the giraffe would poke his head inside and eat it right from our hands. This was a good distraction and for a brief period of time, I felt better.
The excursion for watching the lions feed wasn’t until 4:45pm and they were running late. I was sitting outside at the entrance, waiting for the tour guide to show up. I received a call from my doctor so I stepped away, down the sidewalk a bit. I had sent her an email earlier that day asking if any of the medications I was on had side effects because I was feeling extremely depressed and had been for days. I was on a few medications, trying to kill off some bacteria.
My doctor asked what was going on and I told her, “I’ve been feeling very depressed. Very depressed. I’m not usually like this. I’m usually the happy one. I’m usually the one who sees the good in things. I know I’m going through a lot of change right now but this feels extreme.” My doctor knew I had sold my house, quit my job, and was traveling. She said she knew I was going through a lot and asked more questions. I started to choke up and cry and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop the tears.
She asked if I had any thoughts of hurting myself. I grew up with family members who struggled with depression and threatened suicide many times. When I was around eleven, my older brother was sent to the state hospital for threats of suicide. I remember seeing his pain and then seeing the look of terror when he spent 10 days in the facility. He was terrified being around mentally unstable people and pleaded with my mom to let him out as he sobbed in her arms. I know the answer to my doctor’s question is always “no” unless you want to be locked up so I said “no” through the tears.
My doctor told me there were two medications I was on that could possibly be causing depression. It usually manifests into anxiety but could be causing (or at least contributing to) depression so she told me to stop taking them.
I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t control my emotions. Embarrassed that I was crying in a parking lot at a safari, where I should be enjoying myself. Embarrassed that I needed help.
I ended the call and shortly after, the lion feeding expedition began. I got myself together and it was just me and a couple. We walked down and saw one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen. Six or seven lions feeding on their dinner (parts of a horse) within about a foot, through cages. Their power is incredible. One lion looked up from his dinner and made eye contact with me, slightly lunged towards me, and gave a slight roar. I was paralyzed by his power and a shot of adrenaline rushed through my body.
After the safari, I went to a park near the Airbnb and ate some fruit. I sat at a table in the sun, with nobody around. I was exhausted and needed someone to talk to so I went back to the Airbnb and called my cousin, Misty. All of the depression hit me. I sobbed on the phone and told her how alone I felt, how the depression was crushing me. She listened and tried to help me see all the wonderful things going on in my life. And how things will get better. I kept telling her things won’t get better. I couldn’t see the light and couldn’t climb out of the depression. It was a dark hole. I didn’t feel like myself. My energy was off.
A few weeks earlier, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. I remember the shock of everyone as they seemed to have everything. A friend of mine, Dave Kooi, wrote a great piece on Facebook about the tragedy of people who seem to have everything we all want, but choose to end it all. He said the problem is we over-use the word “depressed”. He described all the scenarios we use it, like “I’m depressed about the cubs”, “I’m depressed a triathlon was canceled due to fires”. Because of this, the word “depression” can mean many different things.
Dave suggested we call this deep depression the Bourdain Syndrome and said “Because apparently it’s a condition in which you can be the coolest and most interesting man in the world – charismatic, talented, admired, charming, attractive – and have a life that everybody wants – yet still be dying on the inside. That’s a pretty awful and powerful condition. A brain turning on itself. And it’s a condition that’s certainly not on the happy-sad continuum. That should be clear enough now. It has nothing to do with that. It’s in a league of its own.”
I agree with Dave. I’ve had many friends and family members struggle with depression and there is no easy solution. I’ve known people who have committed suicide and threatened to commit suicide. It’s something much deeper than being sad. Prior to the last two years, I hadn’t struggled with depression, not much anyway. I am usually a light-hearted, happy person. Friends and strangers tell me this all the time. My energy is usually open, friendly, and fun.
Feeling this incredible darkness made me unable to feel anything else. I hated that I couldn’t stop it, that I couldn’t fix it. I hated not being in control. I felt alone, deeply alone. I couldn’t see a future where it would get better. It made me feel even worse knowing that I should be happy. I was living the dream, my dream, my “best life”. I was doing what most people dream about – I quit my job and was able to spend a long time traveling, just living and experiencing the world. Knowing I was expected to be unbelievably happy made me feel worse.
I never felt regretful of my decisions. It wasn’t that. It was a feeling of being unwanted, unloved, and alone. Misty kept reminding me that I had people who love me and it would get better. But I couldn’t stop sobbing. I wanted to feel like myself again. I was happy that the AC unit was loud and prayed that the owners of the Airbnb couldn’t hear me.
I got off the phone with Misty and wrote. I needed to post on my blog so I wrote the first post titled “Why am I doing this?”. It helped me to start writing. For me, writing has a way of helping me express what I’m feeling. Sometimes I struggle verbalizing my feelings and writing allows me to get it out without having to verbalize it. I went to bed and prayed to God that he would take away these feelings – to make me whole again.