Ever since I was a kid I’ve felt like there was something wrong with me. I don’t know that it was BECAUSE of my diabetes diagnosis, but it was around that time in my life that I became aware of it more acutely. I’ve struggled a lot with depression–which is difficult to discuss because people closest to you always want to help–and problem solve. ‘Try doing this’ or ‘maybe you need more of this in your life–or less of that’. But circumstances don’t dictate depression–they can enhance it, but they can’t take it away.
People less close to you just figure you’re full of shit and don’t want to be bothered. Eventually it’s tough on the people close to you when they see there’s a hole in your life that they can’t help you fill, no matter what they give you–and they walk away. Sometimes I’ve walked away in anticipation of that happening because I can see it coming from a way off and I don’t want to deal with it.
I’d rather deal with it on my own. I figure if I can patch the hole, I can become “seaworthy” again. But it’s not always easy to find it, let alone resolve it. For many years I have tried to fill that hole with relationships, climbing, Project365, writing and other creative endeavors. Trying to run from my demons has been motivating and has yielded some wonderful things in my life, but those distractions never buy a solution, they only rent it.
Even when I can’t pinpoint a “thing” in my life that is creating problems, the depression is still there–because it’s not “about” things that are wrong. It’s some facet of ones mind that creates something wrong no matter how good or bad the reality of the situation. It’s the conspiracy of your mind against you.
Over the last two years, I have been in a particularly dark place, made worse by the fact that I have been trying to spearhead a “positive” diabetes movement. I felt like I was living a lie because while I tried to empower others to be positive, I felt like I was trapped in a bottomless pit, sinking deeper and deeper. My personal life was mostly in wreckage and of recently I was trying to prepare for a baby arriving into all of that.
The night before Lilo arrived, I was in the hospital with Stefanie. She was dealing with the unpleasantness of labor and I was trying to help, knowing everything I did would be wrong. “Good preparation for the rest of my life” I thought. I hated myself, for no reason I could pinpoint, but it seemed natural to me that if I felt this poorly about myself, my daughter would pick up on it and feel the same. I tried to think what my first words to her should be–and all I could come up with were “I’m sorry”.
I felt scared, depressed, useless and even resentful. The self-loathing welled up in me at the realization that I was resentful of a baby, my own daughter. I wasn’t happy–I wasn’t put back together–my heart was in pieces and I just wanted it to all go away until I had a grip, some sense of self that wasn’t so dark–upon which to build.
I’ve spent a lot of time searching and running and agonizing and torturing myself. I’ve tried “sucking it up” and facing the problems head on–denial and the like. I’ve tried all the tricks I know to manipulate my surroundings and feelings and fix myself. I reached utter exhaustion because nothing I could do seemed to work. So I gave up on fixing myself and just let go.
I’ll skip the gory details of childbirth, but it’s not something I’d downplay in terms of significant life accomplishments. That’s not my story to tell but it’s one of the more impressive things I’ve ever witnessed firsthand. When it culminated and Lilo emerged, it was like the volume on my world suddenly was turned down to zero. I think I acknowledged comments from the other people in the room but that was just an unconscious tic. I can only remember thinking “act normal so they’ll leave you alone”. I knew that I was expected to feel certain things a certain way–and I just wanted space to feel what I actually felt with no projections from anyone else. I wanted to feel the magic for myself.
In all the days leading up to the birth, it had been difficult for me to deal with people predicting what this would feel like or what it would mean. People get excited and pencil in their own details into your experience and what they hand back to you is a beautiful picture that you don’t recognize. On the other hand, as I tried to be independent and sketch out my own vision, it was far from ideal.
Then someone handed Lilo to me for the first time. I think it was Stefanie who did. I just remember the way she looked at me. There were no visions of my own, no projections from other people. No good intentions, no resentment, no self loathing, no voices in my head, no confusion, no doubt. There was just love. Lots of love. So much so that I couldn’t fit anything else into the experience. My circumstances hadn’t visibly changed–I was still vaguely aware of being confused, unprepared and upset about other things. But suddenly none of that mattered anymore. I just couldn’t care about anything but her–and as I tried poking around inside my mind, trying to find that gaping hole that I’ve tried for years to fill with good things and bad–the emptiness was just gone. My baby turned my world right side up, just like that.
I’ve never been happy like this before. Its also hard–waking up constantly in the middle of the night,not knowing what to do when Lilo is screaming, knowing that all the things I need to do are going to take me away from her. I’m acutely aware as I plan this summers expedition to Wyoming that is going to be a month long. Training is a lot harder too. I’ve decided that in the next month as we begin raising funds to support the creative side of this expedition, I am not willing to nickel and dime, raising a little money here and a little there, hoping to get enough to make the films and justify the work down the road. It’s got to be a done deal, up front and it has to be clear that it’s supported.
But in the end, it’s good to have a reason to do–whatever it is that needs to be done with regard to upcoming climbing film projects. I have a good reason to climb harder and faster if the omens are good, and I have a good reason to bail if things look dicey. I have a good reason to make a series of films that will blow away Project365–and a good reason to let it go if it’s not in the cards. I have never felt this happy before, never before felt whole. I thought this would be the end for me and it’s the best beginning I couldn’t even have imagined on my own.
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