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

Leaving Los Angeles (Part 2)

After leaving my house, I knew I needed a place to crash for a few days so I could sort through stuff that I had frantically thrown in my car. My friend Valerie offered her 1 bedroom apartment and said she’d stay with her boyfriend so I had the place to myself. She has a super cute apartment about 1 block from the ocean in Long Beach. When I arrived Wednesday evening, I had to unload a lot of stuff from my car. After many trips to and from my car, I finally sat down at her kitchen table. Her apartment was similar to the apartments I had lived in when I first moved to Los Angeles when I was 23. They’re all pretty old, have similar old doors and cabinets, and no air conditioning. I had cried (sobbed really) the entire way to Valerie’s apartment. After unloading the car, I finally ate for the day, a frozen meal I grabbed from my freezer on the way out of my house. Living alone means I eat my fair share of frozen dinners. Deafening silence engulfed every inch of the apartment and surrounded me.

I sat there eating in silence, crying. A feeling come over me that felt like I just slid back in life. I spent 15 years building a life; found and married my husband, bought and sold a condo, bought a house, and built a great career. Now it was all gone. I was jobless, homeless, and had no husband. I was back in an apartment similar to one I had 13 years ago, listening to the neighbors fight through the wall. Now I understood why so many friends were shocked when they found out what I was doing, what I was giving up. Fear sweep over me and I wondered what the heck I was doing.

Over the next few days, I sorted and organized my stuff. I bought a GoPro for my travels, and installed a roof top cargo box on my car. I went for a run on the beach, a path I used to run when I lived in Long Beach. I met up with friends to say more goodbyes. I still struggled to sleep. It’s maddening when you can’t sleep, even though you’re very tired.

I planned on leaving on Sunday so I didn’t overstay my welcome at Valerie’s apartment. A friend was having a party on Saturday so I decided to go. On the hour-long Uber ride there, I chatted with the driver and he was about to embark on a 3 week road trip with his girlfriend across the US. I told him about my plans and how I just sold my house and quit my job. My friend Trisha had suggested that I make business cards with my blog, Vimeo, and Instagram information for people I meet along the way. I had literally just picked up the cards so as I left the Uber, I handed him a card. He thanked me and started following me on Vimeo the next day (that was super exciting!). He helped me grab some drinks from the trunk and said “You’re a little crazy. But it’s a good kind of crazy.” That made me smile. I am a little crazy.

At the party, I was able to see several friends one last time. We ended up going to a local bar afterwards and heard some live music. Once back at my friend’s house, I chatted with a couple of friends and fell asleep on the couch around 3am. It was my last night in LA and I didn’t want it to end. Finally around 4am, I grabbed an Uber back to Valerie’s apartment.

At 10am, I met two friends (Karyn and Mo) for breakfast. Knowing I was leaving that day and recently having had my heart broken (that’s a different story), I cried through most of breakfast (thankfully most people don’t go to brunch at 10am). Embarrassing you say? Yes, very much so. I remember the days in high school and college where I never cried in front of people, ever. My friends used to think I was a little cold because I didn’t really cry. Well, apparently my tear ducts are making up for lost time because I’ve cried more in the last 2 years than ever before. I was feeling so much loss, all at once, that I simply couldn’t handle it. Losing the house felt like losing my husband all over again. Maybe that’s why he was able to move on so quickly and I haven’t? I didn’t realize how much of my life with him was still tied to living in that house. My friends were very patient and understanding. They talked me through everything and helped me feel a little less alone. They asked where I was going that night and I had no clue. I couldn’t decide between the coast, up to Mammoth, or just go through the middle of California. After talking it out with them, I decided to head through the middle so I could get to Oregon and start exploring. I’ve seen a lot of California and had to be in Denver by August 31st so I wanted to spend most of my time in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.

After breakfast, I went back to Valerie’s apartment and started getting my bags ready to be loaded up. Two friends (Debbie and Robin) stopped by to grab the spare key to my storage unit and a little safe with things like my birth certificate. Did I continue to cry? Yes.

Around 3:30pm, I was ready to head out but first had to stop at my storage unit to drop off a few more items and go to Best Buy to buy a keyboard for my iPad mini since the laptop I wanted wasn’t available anywhere. My friend, Trisha, met me at Best Buy with her kids so I could say goodbye. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye earlier because of timing. I’m glad I was able to have a face to face goodbye with her and she encouraged me that things would get better. Around 4:30pm, I was ready to head out from Best Buy and hit the road. Trisha asked me where I was going first and I said “Probably Merced”. I didn’t have a hotel booked so I figured I’d see how far I made it.

As I drove through Los Angeles, getting stuck in some traffic, I felt a sense of loss. Los Angeles is where I had just spent most of my adult life and it had become my home. I moved about every 4 years growing up, living in different cities in Missouri and Colorado, and each move was hard. The hardest move was when my parents were separated and my sister, mom, and I were living in my step grandmother’s house while she was touring Europe for the summer. My dad showed up in the evening about a week before school was supposed to start with a loaded Uhaul filled with all of our stuff from storage. My parents said they were getting back together and I needed to pack my suitcase because we were moving back to Missouri (we were currently living in Canon City, CO). I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends and we were gone by the morning. This was very dramatic for my 13-year-old self because I’m someone who needs closure. I need to say goodbye and I need to stay in touch with people. I don’t like losing people.

With this move, I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to my house, and having no clue where I would spend the next few months felt overwhelming. I drove over the mountains and into farmland as the sun set and realized it was June 24th, the one-year anniversary of when my divorce had been finalized. All I could think was “This has to get better, right?”

Post edited by: Misty Kosek