The Ladder Up

Hey, guess what?
GREAT NEWS!
I found the Ladder out of Depression!
The LITERAL ladder.

photo 3 (53)

^^^ Bad news is, it looks like this. ^^^

……….

Several months ago, I found myself back in the Depression Hole, which was an enormous surprise given the fact that I wasn’t sad. An occasional teeny, tiny raging bitch, perhaps. Nearly beside myself with anxiety anytime I left my children, sure. More and more reclusive, absolutely. And having a terrible time breathing through it all. But not “depressed,” per se. Evidence mounted, though, that I had a Big Problem and that the only way out was to start climbing. Again. Which felt very pppffffftttt. And blerg. And OOF. And it’s been slow going, this determined walk toward slow hope, which seems kind of sucky except when I remember that “slow going” and “slow hope” include the words going and hope which are enough for now because they’re progress, and progress is better than being stuck.

Great news, though!

photo 3 (53)

I found the Ladder out of Depression last week!

The LITERAL ladder.

Or, OK, to be specific, literal ladder which is the path up to Arizona Hot Springs from the Black Canyon portion of the Colorado River, but pretty much exactly like the Ladder out of Depression in that it’s long, high, slippery and kind of intimidating, and also more securely mounted and with a reward at the top that’s more blissful and worth it than I think it can possibly be while I’m still at the bottom looking up.

photo 3 (52)

On the down side, the ladder is as hard to get to, as remote and secluded, as we all suspected, in a deep canyon with sheer rock walls. And there’s just no way to discover it other than deliberately. On purpose. With planning and forethought and friends who’ve marked the way. One-Foot-in-Front-of-the-Other Style, and with help, which is a bummer for the part of me who prefers to be entirely self-sufficient — an I WILL OVERCOME kind of person!… A POWER THROUGH IT kind of person!… an ALL MY BYSELF kind of person! — and a triumph for the wiser part of me who knows I’m just a person person, the human kind who is both stronger and weaker than I ever imagined and who needs help to overcome.

On the bright side, that Ladder out of Depression? It’s not impossible to find, or hiding like I thought it was, or a moving target like I’ve long accused it of being.

photo 2 (73)

There are maps, friends! And more than one right path to the ladder! And people who’ve gone before! And encouragers along the way!

There are even guides who will walk with you and show you where to put your feet and say things like, “Follow me,” and “Almost there,” and “Wait ’til you get a load of what’s at the top; it’s AMAZING!” Which is good and important and very, very necessary, it turns out, because sometimes my faith in what is unseen isn’t enough to get me up the ladder, and I need to rely on the vision of others for a while. For just a little span of time.

Until I can catch a glimpse of the Light myself.

photo 4 (32)

And follow it home.

……….

photo 1 (65)Many thanks to Helen of Desert River Outfitters (highly recommend!), John of the Just Finding Our Way blog, and Kathy of Kindness Itself for your companionship, hospitality and expert guidance on a truly WOW day in the Black Canyon on the Colorado River. For specifics on our day trip, launching from the base of Hoover Dam (pretty dam incredible!) and more pictures of our adventure, check out John’s report here.

Disclaimer: no promotional consideration or blah-blah-blah was paid for this post. I just think Helen, John, Kathy and my cousin Leslie, who joined me, are rad.

……….

P.S. I suppose what I really want to say here is this: if you’re wondering whether there’s a ladder or a path forward or a way out, there is. And if you’re wondering if the Light is coming, it’s on its way. And if you’re looking for a companion in the dark, I’m waving to you, friend. And if you’re too tired to take steps right now, it’s OK – it is – we’ll just sit on the path together for as long as it takes and send love back and forth.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
21 comments
  1. Thank you so much for your posts! They keep me going every day and make me feel like I’m not the only one struggling through yet loving motherhood. I have a one year old, a two year old, and trying for another. My two year old was taken from me suddenly when he was nine hours old because his breathing was shallow. He got sepsis from the hospital and had to spend a week in the NICU. I miscarried the baby after him. I felt like a failure of a mother and struggled with depression without realizing that I was. I thought it was normal motherhood anxiety. But it was hurting my marriage, I was scared to death to drive or fly, and I convinced myself I did not want another child because I was afraid I would fail again. I finally sought help from an amazing woman at my Church. I’m still in the process of healing, but I’m finally ready to just trust God and to love and welcome another child. Your blog has been such a huge help and inspiration! Thank you for sharing your struggles with depression! 🙂

  2. I wanted to thank you for your very honest posts about depression. I was going through a dark patch seven years in the making. And I thought my husbands midlife crisis was the reason. Then the year I was in another state for a year away from my family. Then my pregnancy that sent my husband into a mind-numbing depression. I uttered the “D” word for the first time in our marriage. Then we went through the darkness of raising a baby with an eight year old that was no longer the center of attention. And when I thought we might survive, I got pregnant – on an IUD! I had to go through two years of fertility treatments the first time. And I felt like I was broken. And then my heart stopped during my delivery and I really might not have survived. And so I was afraid to sleep – afraid of dying – and certain my husband didn’t care about me, but liked the VALUE of this crazy story to tell anyone who would listen. I was 38 and my body felt broken and I was so so tired. And so I went to doctors and raged when one if them dared suggest I was depressed. I was a strong, independent person and I just needed them to tell me what vitamin or mineral or whatever I was missing. Give me a shot so that I can hunker down and be superwoman again. I had three boys, a full time job, a house to care for, a marriage that needed tending. I DID NOT need their incompetence in not finding my medical issue.

    And then I read your post about depression – and I realized I was wrong. So I went to someone and literally squalled as I agreed to take medicine. I left there feeling like the biggest failure in the world. I wasn’t enough to fix it and it killed me to have to admit that.

    But after 2.5 months on meds, I feel that they were right. All of the doctors who thought I could be depressed – even though I wasn’t sad. And you were right. And I am so grateful to you. I’m 40 now and we just celebrated 17 years of marriage. I feel we have a chance. That we aren’t driving down a one way road to Splitsville.

    I’m not up the ladder yet. I am still fragile. So my hubby doesn’t know that I am on meds. My family and friends don’t know. I’m afraid if their judgement. I don’t want them to know how broken I was.

    Thanks to you, and your post, I am on the way. And that means the world to me.

    May God continue to bless you and your blog as you continue to light the way for others.

    Kindest regards,
    Tracy

  3. I love you, Beth. I love who you are so much.

  4. Oh, honey, way to capture what it feels like to climb back out. I have been there. More than once. Hoping to avoid it again, hoping to lend a hand to anyone who finds themselves way down there to get up that slippery ladder. Sending you good energy.

  5. Life.

    It challenges, it gives and it takes away.

    It twists and turns, throwing us around like we were nothing more than a grain of sand.

    One grain of sand is powerless, but many grains make a path, an infinite number make a beach. A shoreline. An island.

    ((hugs))

    … and a giant wave back from my own secluded beach 😉

  6. Dammit Beth you always make me cry.

    I am so tired. I can’t breathe. I would sit on the path but it doesn’t feel like there IS a path. It feels more like a thicket. A forest would be nice, because then there would be trees. This is more like 8-foot brambles. I can’t see over the top, I can barely see through, and I definitely can’t sit down.

    The baby just woke up, so I have no time to think of something witty to redeem this. Thanks for telling me about your ladder and the light.

  7. Yeah. Kinda love you.

  8. My 11 yr old son was mopey this morning & I asked him if he was depressed and he said “I’m emotionally tired, but not sad.” Not exactly sure why he’s feeling this way, but glad he’s able to put the feeling into words!

  9. It lifts me out of depression knowing that there are still people–and people who are friends of mine–who know what the word ‘literally’ means.

    People also have enough sense of irony to know that many people don’t.

    1. People WHO also have enough sense of irony…

      (And are still friends with people who don’t know how to proofread)

  10. There are guides? Where do I get a guide? I feel like I’ve been walking for hours trying to find the ladder ;(

  11. I am grateful that it is rarely considered to be spiritual failure any longer to be depressed. Does anyone else blame everyone else in their lives for not changing? It must be hard to be married to me and around me at times, even though I am functional and working. And sometimes good company.

    1. I do this, too, Annette. Sometimes I even wonder (way back in a very distant, tiny place in my mind) why I am acting like that, but I can’t seem to stop myself. Sometimes, I don’t know why my husband hasn’t given up on me and run away a long time ago. But some days are good…really good. And I just hope that I can string enough of those together to not feel like I’m faking it anymore…or to keep anyone else from discovering that feeling like I am faking it every day is my big secret. I can’t tell you anything about making it better….I haven’t figured that part out at all. But I wanted you to know that (as Beth says) I here in the mud with you.

      Thank you, Beth, for a wonderful space to find out we aren’t alone. I love reading your thoughts, and knowing that someone else thinks a little bit like me (although in a whole lot funnier way than me!). I have lurked for awhile (and even read all of your archieves!), but am just getting brave enough to venture into the conversation. I’ll keep my shoes on! Thanks for having me!

  12. Been there, climbed that ladder! Now as a youth leader, I’m helping teenagers who are struggling with the big d to see some hope, see a counselor, and know that depression is not something you choose to have, but you do get to choose if it has you!

  13. thank you. Just… thank you.

  14. Thank you for this! I too am in search of the ladder but feel I am in quicksand right now. It’s the little subtle things that make you finally realize that the big D is back & you need to work your way out. One step at a time.

  15. I’m there, sister. I’ve been falling for months, not realizing it. Then the wagon tipped over and I fell off – pow! Almost two years of sobriety, gone. Thank God I had a friend to rush to my side, kick my ass, and throw my sorry self back up on that ride. And now I feel better than ever. Sometimes rock bottom is the only place where you can push off and swim back to the surface. Keep kicking, friend. Keep kicking.

    1. Keep fighting, Nancy! My dad “fell off the wagon” after 8 years, but has now been back on for 16. As his child, I see the fruit of the work he put in in my life and my sibling’s lives. It is always worth it.

      1. Thanks, Christine! I was lucky it was a short trip and I appreciate my sobriety more than ever. We all fail at some point; it’s what you do next that’s important. 😀

  16. I was in a depression a few weeks ago. I felt like I was walking in molasses. My goat had died and it hit me hard. A goat. He was my buddy I hung out with when my day was rough. He was always happy to see me and nibble on my sweatshirt strings. A lady I know lost her husband to cancer that same week. I felt worse for being sad when she has just lost her soulmate but still the depression continued until the sun broke through and I felt like I could breath.

  17. Wow, wish I had seen this 20 years ago. Knowing that there were others that felt exactly as I did, would have been a big help. The going is slow, one careful step at a time, sometimes even an inch at a time, but as you progress, you get braver, stronger, less intimidated, and you will reach the top. You might only see a tiny glimpse and have to back up a bit and try again, but when you finally get there, the view is incredible. You are a new person, you whole life changes, everything around you changes. And if you fall back into that hole of depression, you can keep telling yourself, I’ve been to the top, it is worth the journey. The ladder may be slow and slippery, but if I perservere, I will succeed

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