As many of you have (or not) know, here's the quick version:
I was doing well, working on the Appalachian Trail at some hostels for the summer. But things were unraveling, and it turned out me & my revered trail were not destined to be this summer. A perfect storm of happenings led to my current state of mind, dubbed as Adjustment Disorder 1. Basically a traumatic set of incidents put you in a funk that you cannot get out of. 2 I created a video showing a bit of what it feels like here.
And here is the 'all you ever wanted to know and more' version:
I was so completely lost. Where was my old self? Memories of feeling full of life, happiness, and rainbows seemed to have gone on a hiatus. Days turned into weeks, and still the void remained.
Living on the road had completely lost its luster. Steve Blast became my sworn enemy. Strangers became dark shadows. I couldn’t figure it out; I needed help.
After talking to (so) many different doctors/ counselors/ friends/ family/ strangers/ nomads/ walls, one path became clearer than the rest.
Get a place to stay in Buffalo to figure it out.
So here I am, back in my hometown. I moved back into my favorite apartment complex in a suburb called Parkside. It’s more beat up than I remember, but it does have hot water, a running toilet, and even a dishwasher for my three pieces of silverware. I zealously named the apartment Shitbox2 (Steve Blast still holds the title for Shitbox1). It’s small, noisy, and features a smaller bathroom than the camper (who wouldn’t want the ability to rest their elbows on the sink whilst sitting on the toilet?), but it is a solid structure to figure it all out for now. Perhaps it’s good I feel so numb about everything, perhaps it helps this place has more electricity than a 30 amp cord, or perhaps it’s the idea that I can run away whenever I feel like it. Either way, Shitbox2 will be the home base for however long this takes.
Until what takes?
I am still trying to figure it all out.
So, what happened?
Feels like I’ve completely lost it.
Perhaps I did.
Or perhaps it was just the perfect storm.
I stopped being able to think. Rational and contentious are some of my predominant traits, and yet they were no where to be found.
As if the fire went out.
I have never felt this way before. It completely shook me.
“They must be right,” I thought to myself, “I need help, I have problems.”
So off I went. Steve Blast & Indy in tow.
I meandered to a campground 5 hours away. It was the longest I could manage to drive as the tears kept blurring my vision.
Numbness started to wear away as the reality set it. Never in my life had I been tossed out. Add that to the slew of emotions churning up inside, as I saw tally marks form in my mind of all the checks against me. “They must be right.” I murmured to myself, over and over.
The campground proved a good refuge. I arrived on a Friday, along with all the ‘weekenders.’ I was given a small, sandy spot next to two self-proclaimed Grandmas, whose idea of the best-weekend-ever consisted of smoking dabs and sitting in lawn chairs.
The process of figuring out how to park the monstrosity of Steve had officially begun. A few men meandered over to enjoy the show and proceeded with the usual onslaught of questions.
“You’re here all by yourself?”, “Where did you come from?” “Where are you going?”.
I tried to keep it together, supplying them with generic answers. I told them about traveling the East Coast, and my new camper acquisition, but it was so hard to say anything.
The words that once made me proud, the stories of how I did, in fact, come to be here, the plans of future explorations, now felt as if a ventriloquist was making my jaw move as someone else’s words spilled out. I didn’t feel like me. I didn’t know who I felt like. All I knew was I was in some campground I didn’t want to be in, feeling like a complete failure, with nowhere else to go.
I saw people all around me. They looked so happy. They invited me to things like spaghetti dinners and patio parties. One guy gave me enough pulled pork to feed a family for a week. That was before the Jack got the best of him and he aptly fell onto a folding table, cutting his head open. His friends all laughed, the women helped clean up, and bonfires began to pop up all around me. Kids sped by on bicycles kicking up dirt and stones. Women sat under awnings scrapbooking while smoking Marlboros. Were these my people? Was I now in some weird RV subculture? I knew I wasn’t feeling much at all, but one thing I could determine for certain was this was not my happy place. I was so grateful for the kindness of strangers, their relaxed demeanors, and friendly camper advice.
And then, Sunday came, and they were gone.
I sat staring at my neighbors’ empty campsite. The Grandmas had to go back to work, along with everyone else I supposed. Fun was over, back to the real world. Weekenders only kind of place it seemed. No one just out traveling the country, well, no one except for yours truly.
But was I? I needed to figure out what the fuck had just happened, and I sure did not want to spend more time than I had to in an empty campground.
So I called every number that had a helpline in its name.
“This is it.”, I concluded to myself, “I’ve clearly hit rock bottom, the only choice is to find treatment as fast as possible.”
I had visions of Intervention episodes, inpatient facilities with battered women going in, and polished happy women coming out.
I couldn’t understand it, how did this happen? All I could fathom is that it was way bigger than what my brain could handle. So I called anyone that would listen.
Betty Ford, The Caron Foundation, recovery houses from California to Pennsylvania. I told them I must have a drinking problem. They asked me millions of questions, and I answered honestly. Slowly but surely, my list of ten became two. Then two became one. One place in Florida. I talked with them almost every day; they listened and started to change my way of thinking. It turns out I didn’t have a drinking problem; I had an environment problem. It turned out, what had happened to me was all sorts of a messed up situation, a situation that most people could not have dealt with either.
I was even more lost.
Sure, what a nice thing it is to hear that you are a cognoscente person that is just recovering from a trauma, but where does that leave me? Part of me wanted to go to rehab, to be that story of the broken girl that gets all polished up with tools to be the best she can be.
But instead, I was still on my own, left to pick up pieces that didn’t seem to fit anymore.
Instant replays plagued me. Could haves and should haves tormented my thoughts. I could only respond to people with pre-recorded voices. Smiling at them with robotic muscle memory. My brain put me on auto-drive, I didn’t know anything anymore.
All so dramatic sounding, huh? Was it a long time coming? Perhaps I’m focusing on the dark instead of finding the light?
Maybe you’ve felt it before. The funny thing is it’s an odd thing to feel — the feeling of nothing.
Nothing made my throat swell shut. Nothing brought tears to my eyes when people smiled at me. Nothingness was becoming me, and invariably made me feel like I was nothing.
”Think, think, think,” I tried to convince the empty space where a brain might normally reside.
There was no way I was dragging Steve back to Florida. I literally could not function normally (as per the ‘nothing’ disease taking over), so driving 1800 miles south was not an option.
I sucked down more cigarettes as I scrolled through my phone.
One name stood out providing a glimmer of hope. A good friend that was only a few hours away in Albany.
A safe space to disappear to. That’s all I wanted to do, and really felt as if it was what I should do. Get out of these public spaces, away from people. 3
As soon as I crossed the NY border, it felt more like home. The lush grass, trees, and familiar smells came rushing through. A small twinge of something happened in my chest, but it left as quickly as it had come. I prepared myself for interactions with my friend Sarah and her family. I absolutely did not want to be an inconvenience, more so, a detriment to their environment, so I did my best to channel the ventriloquist once again.
I did promise myself one thing; that I would be completely honest about everything that had happened. I wanted to tell anyone that would listen, to collectively gauge reactions and collect advice on what was wrong with me. 4 I was scared as hell, but prepared myself to be ready. Even if it meant moving on.
All for not, their house ended up being the perfect place to slowly regain some footing in my shakey state.
Three geriatric dogs, two toddlers, and one camper spot next to their beautiful house in the Adirondack hills, I couldn’t have asked for more.
I was new at the whole toddler thing, and I got thrown in right away. I will tell you that toddlers don’t care what happened to you, why you’re depressed, or even if you’re hungry. They scream and need things all the time, and basically are the perfect distraction. Sarah’s son would always ask ‘why?’ to everything.
Being fresh into the situation, I could see how that would get super annoying pretty fast, but in my state, I actually enjoyed it.
I’d be off staring, ruminating about things, only to be jolted by a toy hitting my face, or a scream from the other room, or even the tug on my sleeve and a small voice asking me “Tay-tee where’s Indy’s ball?”. “I don’t know,” I shrugged my shoulders as I looked down at an Oreo crusted face. “Whyyyyyyy?” he threw up his arms in exasperation. I took a moment to think about it. He’s not wrong, why didn’t I know where it was? It’s easy to shrug it off and assume things get lost all the time, but I was rather enjoying his demands, which in turn made me think a little deeper about things. Sure, it was just the issue of where a ball was, but when you get stuck in a black hole of numbness majority of the time, having a small person rattle your thoughts is a welcome change. It helped me think deeper into my situation, “why did this happen?” “why are these feelings not going away?”.
I spent the next two weeks looking for answers.
I talked to the rehab facilities, looked at outpatient programs, different types of therapy, jobs all over the place, you name it, I was the Queen of Google and phone calls, anything to figure out what to do next. I truly wanted the best for me, to be my best self, even if I had no idea what that meant. People on the line offered to help but mostly more assured me that I didn’t need rehab, perhaps just some good old therapy.
I felt too crazy 5 isn’t there and intense help program for people that think they are crazy? OK, why do I think I’m crazy? Ah, yes, the return of my favorite toddler question. It was a good point though, and I started to slowly realize, maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t crazy.
Let me assure you, talking on the phone, even video chatting with people is just not the same as in-person contact. Being able to share my whole story with a person that I am confident knows me down to my latest tattoo 6 makes all the difference, and was something I needed. So between naps, I told Sarah everything.
Sarah and I were pledge sisters in college. Let me assure you, after pledging in a sorority together you quickly learn someone’s core being. Even if we only see each other once a year, there’s still a close bond. We are both artistic fishes (Pisces), love our dogs, adventures, and finding humor in odd places (a vital trait, in my opinion). She is someone I know I can trust, and while the numbness remained during my stay, I am hopeful that one day I can repay her and her family for what they did for me. What they did was incredible to me; no questions asked, told me I could stay for as long as I needed, and they would help me out anyway that they could.
I tried to enumerate what to do next.
Stay in Albany? Get a job with the camper? I felt in my heart I need a safe space for at least a few months, but….where?
More Google. Less answers.
I remembered an old habit I used to do on the road. When I was feeling lost, I would daydream about what life would be like living in my favorite apartment complex back in Buffalo. It was a beautiful historic building, right next to my favorite park, the park in which the coordinates are stamped on my necklace. There are never any units available, as most tenants stay for years (as I had done before), but I had the website saved they would post to if any apartments became available.
Low and behold, they had one unit ready for September 1st (it was 8/28 when I found it). I couldn’t believe it, was this a sign? It would be so nice to go back to a place where I know the people, the parks, and more importantly, the sweet, sweet food.
I called, they emailed a lease, and I became the tenant of Crescent Avenue once again.
So here I reside in Shitbox2.
A short climb up two sets of stairs, a creaky door, and inside lays an RV queen mattress covered in fleece blankets. Turn the corner toward the black & white squared linoleum floor, and you’ve reached the kitchen. This is where I spend most of my time, standing at a table procured from Facebook marketplace. I currently go to yoga, therapy, and groups. And I still Google. Anything and everything that might help me get that spark back.
More than anything, I miss myself and will do whatever it takes to get me back…someday. 7
- Adjustment Disorder is defined as is a group of symptoms, such as stress, feeling sad or hopeless, and physical symptoms that can occur after you go through a stressful life event. The symptoms occur because you are having a hard time coping. Your reaction is stronger than expected for the type of event that occurred. (medlineplus.gov) ↩
- So for the big question: What happened that made you leave the hostel? I will leave it as this: it did not work out. My closest friends, family & counselors know what happened, and we are working on it together. It’s something I hope to learn, grow, get over, and never let happen again. ↩
- I had been convinced I was crazy. I thought I could harm people, that people were out to harm me, and maybe even harm myself. I didn’t know what to think at the time. It wasn’t until being on my own and talking to others I realized none of that was true. ↩
- Because it had to be something was wrong with me, right? Wrong. I was dealing with a traumatic incident and didn’t even realize that what I was going through was completely normal. ↩
- This doesn’t even make sense, but at the time that was what I kept telling myself, that I must be crazy. ↩
- Which is my hipster way of saying a person that knows me very, very well 🙂 ↩
- One thing that finally woke me up was the song Volatile by Matt Taylor. The lyrics resonated with me so much that I felt inspired to create a short video showcasing how I’m feeling. Link to the video is below. ↩