Day 62: Sadness in Anchorage

I checked into my Airbnb around 10:00 pm and followed the directions to get inside. I climbed the stairs outside and took my shoes off at the landing. The house had three stories: the top floor where the owners live, the lower level with two bedrooms and a shared bathroom, and the basement level floor with two more rented rooms and a shared bathroom.

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I got settled into my room and went to sleep feeling happy and content. The few days prior to arriving in Anchorage were wonderful, fun, encouraging, and beautiful. They were also tiring. I didn’t get much sleep and I was starting to get a cold. I took some cold medicine and tried to let myself sleep in the next day, but I still woke up after about seven hours. I laid around and got some things done like writing reviews of my recent Airbnb stays.

After a few hours, I headed to Target to do some shopping. I talked with my sister while sipping on my Starbucks latte. For the first time in a long time, it felt like a regular day that I would have experienced before I started traveling.

After Target, I headed to Subway to grab a sandwich. The music playing was a country song I had heard many times on the radio station in Fairbanks. It goes “sunrise, sunburn, sunset, repeat.” It was so noticeable to me because you never hear country music playing in Los Angeles. But I had heard this song so much in the last week, I actually recognized it.

I got back to my room at the Airbnb, ate, and watched Like Father on my iPad mini. A guy I had matched with on Tinder messaged me and asked if I like to watch volleyball because there was a game that night and the following night at the University (my profile mentions volleyball). I asked what time the games were and he said 7:30 pm. I thought about it for awhile because I needed to pay bills and catch up on some work, like writing. I finally showered and messaged him around 6:30 pm asking if he still wanted to go to the game that night. He wrote back around 7:15 pm saying “Oh, I’m sorry Christy! I was just telling you about the game. I came over to my buddies to help him move.” He continued to message, trying to get to know me.

What the heck?! Who does that? I felt like an idiot for thinking he was asking me out. My face literally got flush with embarrassment. But then I got irritated wondering why he would ask me if I liked watching volleyball and then give me the details as far as days and times, but not actually ask me out. That’s pretty crappy. I didn’t respond to his other messages.

My parents called and I talked with them for awhile about their current trip in Colorado. I briefly mentioned that I was on a dating site. My dad started into a rant about what I need to look for in men worth marrying. This really frustrated me. I told my dad I do not plan on getting married again. It cost me significantly, both emotionally and financially, to get out of my marriage. Nobody can ensure their partner will actually be a decent person for decades. My dad was not happy about this and the whole conversation left me feeling incredibly judged and alone.

I want a life partner. I want someone who loves me for me. Not for the person they think I am or for the person they wish I was. I want someone who sees me. My ex-husband never saw me. He didn’t notice anything about me. He didn’t love me. I want someone who actually remembers things about me, asks about my day, asks about things that make me who I am.

I was feeling incredibly lonely. Not just lonely, but completely alone. It’s the feeling that I am not “number one” to anybody. Not a single person in this world puts me first. I am nobody’s “person.” Friends, family – they all have a number one. I am not it. I am somewhere on the list, but will never be number one. There was a pain in my heart knowing I was down on every single list.

I felt sad. And then I felt frustrated. I don’t want to get married again and people can’t seem to understand that, especially my parents. I do want a partner. But there are no guarantees in life. If that person is not who they led me to believe or they change drastically into a terrible person, I want the freedom to get out easily without losing all of my money.

Marriage is one thing in life you cannot control. You can work so hard, do all the right things, and it can still fail. You cannot force your partner to invest in the relationship, and if they don’t, you have two choices. Your first choice is to stay in the marriage, unhappily and hope it gets better. A lot of people do this. I see people all the time who are unhappily married. Your second option is to get a divorce. That’s it. There is not a third option.

This is a bad deal in my eyes. I feel that when people are married, they know they can slack off and their spouse will not divorce them for little things like forgetting a birthday or not helping out around the house. The thing is, all those little things add up. That’s what makes or breaks a relationship. If you’re just dating, people know it’s easier for their partner to end it so they’re more likely to keep investing and be a good partner. Because if not, your partner could easily end it. But with marriage, there’s no such thing as an easy ending.

I was frustrated with the fact that I could have a few amazing days and suddenly feel so sad and lonely. My Myers Briggs personality says my personality type is the type most at home in a relationship and always looking for that life-long partner. It feels like a curse. I am independent and I would rather be alone than be with the wrong person. But yet, I still want that partnership. I want the love, the intimacy, and the adventure. And I don’t have it.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider
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Day 48 – Tear Inducing Scenery

The Liard River Hot Springs was only a 45-minute drive north from where I was staying at the Northern Rockies Lodge. I drank a protein shake, loaded up my car, and headed to the hot springs.

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When I arrived, I paid a small entrance fee and the guy at the gate told me I would need to park and then walk for about 15 minutes on a boardwalk through the swampy area to get to the springs.

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The area was surrounded by trees and was very beautiful, despite the strong smell of sulfur that emanated from the springs. After changing, I slowly got into the hot springs. The further to the right that I went, the hotter it got. It was quiet and most people weren’t talking. I felt awkward just hanging out alone.

After 15 minutes, I swam near a few people so I could listen in on their conversation. They talked about the fires in Toronto and how it was going to take hours before the redness subsided from their face due to the heat.

After 30 minutes, I was getting too hot so I got out, changed, and walked back to my car. Shortly after leaving the hot springs, I came across buffalo on the side of the road! There must have been more than 20 of them on both sides of the highway, and occasionally crossing the road. The few of us on the road pulled unto the shoulder to take pictures and video. It was slightly raining, but the buffalo didn’t seem to care. They just kept nonchalantly grazing.

I continued north as dark blue clouds rolled in, making the mountains look even more majestic.

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I crossed into the Yukon, which is a different territory than British Columbia. The landscape was so beautiful and so isolated, that tears came to my eyes. I couldn’t believe I was fortunate enough to be here and experience this wondrous place.

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When I arrived at the town of Watson Lake, I saw a forest made entirely out of sign posts. I pulled over and saw thousands of street signs from around the world! It was incredible. The signs were nailed to giant wooden posts standing far above my head.

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In 1942, the town of Watson Lake didn’t exist, but there was a US army camp located there. It was common for the military to put up a sign post indicating the direction of surrounding communities. One day, Private Carl K. Lindley was recovering from an injury at the base and added his hometown sign of Danville, Illinois because he was homesick.

The Sign Post Forest has become world famous and there are now over 72,000 signs. Visitors who didn’t bring their own can buy a piece of wood from the visitor center. I walked through the forest amazed and got excited when I’d see a sign from a place I knew. It was such a neat concept and I had no idea it existed.

I drove to the gas station next door to fill up and to see if I wanted to stay the night in Watson Lake. The gas station was sort of like a truck stop, with a small market and a restaurant attached to it. In the restroom, there was a large orange bucket on the counter filled with condoms. The sign warned of STI’s and said the condoms were free. I thought, “Whoa, looks like I’m in the Yukon now.”

I sat in my car and decided to stay in the next town, Whitehorse. I booked a place on Orbitz that was a B & B but they only offered a very small breakfast. The drive continued to impress me and the fellow travelers became fewer and farther in between. Sometimes I pulled over in one of the look-out areas, and other times I just stopped right on the road, rolled down my window (or quickly stepped out) and took pictures.

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The rain stopped and I passed a coyote on the side of the road. The road winded through the mountains, and lakes just kept appearing. The Yukon was giving British Columbia a run for its money. The dark blue clouds returned, bringing forth more rain. The sun reflected off of a giant lake as it started to set. Everywhere I looked was like a postcard.

It was more than eight hours of driving that day, but I never got bored. People have asked me if I listen to podcasts and wondered how I could tolerate so much driving. If you saw the scenery, you’d understand. It’s breathtaking and peaceful. All I need is my music.

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I successfully arrived at Whitehorse, but was struggling to find the B & B. I called the owner and he explained it’s actually located 30 minutes south of the town, which meant I passed it. As I left town, a rainbow appeared but I was heading into dark storm clouds and it was getting dark.

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Since it was dark and raining, I couldn’t find the small gravel road that would take me up the hill to the small B & B. I called the owner again and he stayed on the phone with me for several minutes until I could find the road.

I drove to the top of the hill and arrived at 10:00 pm. There were a few cars in the gravel lot and I ran inside, trying to avoid the rain and the cold (it dropped to 50 degrees F!). My room key was on the small entrance table, so I grabbed it and walked down the hallway to my room. It had two twin beds and I had my own bathroom. Of course, there was a creepy spider hanging out inside.

The B & B had a shared kitchen, living room, and dining room. There seemed to be around five rooms and I could hear some kids playing around in a room near mine. After a nice warm shower, I went to sleep.

In the morning, I woke up too late to have the small breakfast and coffee, so I packed up my stuff. I was getting really behind in my blog posts so I asked the girl who was cleaning rooms if I could stay in the dining area and use the Wifi for a little while. My room was emptied so she could clean it. She let me stay and I ended up writing for the next two hours.

I had a great view out the window and I enjoyed being in the middle of nowhere. I like cities too, but after spending 15 years in Los Angeles, I prefer less crowded areas. Being in such a remote area, I realized how much light pollution there is in cities. The darkness and lack of people makes life feel simpler. It helps clear my head and not to be caught up in the rat-race.

Post Edited By: Mandy Strider

 

 

Day 5: Depression in Roseburg, Oregon

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.

Post Edited by: Misty Kosek