Resilience

September 19, 2019 – Anne Alexander on resilience:

“It requires a mental suppleness, flexibility, and a raw vulnerability that allow us to dive deeply into our psyche–especially the broken places–and see ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, our beauty and longings, hurts and wounds, shadows, worst delusions and misdeeds, and to hold all of that with compassion, curiosity, and loving care.

I never imagined that at the end of my epic adventure I would feel depressed. After all, having danced with that big black dog as far back as I could remember, I took great care to develop and maintain mindfulness (on and off, but mostly on), work through childhood and young adult traumas with therapists, and identify when I was disconnecting from my loving self and find my way back.

One of the intentions of my solo journey was to “take it to the next level” – gain some ideas about the next phase of my life and where I wanted to go emotionally, mentally, and physically. I didn’t expect to see parts of the life I had built–complete with emotional conflict, insecurity and shame–move front and center, raw and crystal clear, and rip me apart.

The choice now? The only real choice now? Figure it out. Keep going. With compassion. With curiosity. With loving care. With gratitude.

Written by

kyleenaustin

I am passionate about outdoor exploration. In the recent years I have discovered how much more I can experience from a kayak. I am a professional musician and own a dairy where we produce raw milk, butter and cheeses. My son tells me I have "too much on my plate". He is correct, but I wouldn't live life any other way.

11 thoughts on “Resilience

  1. When our son completed his solo Appalachian Trail hike he too fell into a depression. From my readings, it appears to be a normal response and experience after the completion of a major goal, along with the great decrease in daily exercise, exertion and single-mindedness of task. Your depression will pass just like your journey passed. It’s only here now. You are correct in sitting with it in loving kindness.

  2. Hi Kyleen, Liz Ryan here. You may remember me as an old woman Road Scholar paddler who manages a kayak reasonably well (and always enjoys being on the river).

    Have followed and enjoyed your blog. Sorry for what you’re experiencing now.

    Please excuse my butting in. I don’t know much, but I’d like to share something I do know about.

    In days of yore I, though a timid mini-adventurer, hung out with some serious mountain climbing women. For example, Vera Watson, who accomplished a solo summit of Aconcagua (highest peak outside Asia: 22,841′). She made many month-long expeditions, and upon returning to work would regale me of the wonders she had seen and experienced — some beautiful, some scary, some tragic.

    I particularly remember talking with Vera after one of these expeditions, as she lay on her living room couch from which she had apparently not moved in any appreciable way since her return. We were techies, and this was the ’70s, and maybe these facts partly explain why “depression” was not in our vocabulary. So she had gone to her M.D. about her lack of energy for anything and general misery. “Lassitude”, the doctor had said. and explained that “lassitude” was a common experience when the body, after a long period of sustained extreme exertion — physical, mental, and/or emotional — simply declares a system-wide strike.

    I don’t imagine that was the whole cause of what she experienced, but I have observed this in other adventurous friends often enough to accept that this is one of the things that happens after the adventure is over. I speculate that it would also leave one vulnerable to any troublesome demons lurking about waiting for a weak moment in which to attack. In the years I knew Vera, the “lassitude” conversation would regularly be repeated.

    So I want just to say that, from my observation, what you’re experiencing is not unusual, and there’s probably a significant physical component to it. It doesn’t mean that the coping skills you’ve honed over your life have suddenly lost their power or you’ve lost the ability to use them. It does perhaps mean that you need to be gentle and compassionate with yourself while your strength renews and redirects in the “normal” directions demanded by life in “civilization”. Be well

  3. Amen, sweet Kyleen. This is the journey of each person’s life. Praying your “lessons” are not too painful. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. You are a fine human being. Susan Smith-Rife

  4. Liz translated the experience well. I also had a good, long period of depression after the PCT. I’m probably still in it to some degree, to be honest. Adventures like yours change you forever. Afterward, it is hard to adjust to not having the sustained, daily rush of endorphins that you get when you are outside, on the move every day, using your muscles, burning crazy calories, truly seeing the world around you, and tuning your brain to the natural rhythms of life. The best advice that I received was to accept the lows and know that you will push through them, keep life simple, don’t eat like you’re still burning 3500 calories a day, stay active, and most importantly…start planning your next adventure! Welcome home. 🙂

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