Anxiety And Depression On The Range

Deconstructing a lifelong pattern of negative thinking.

In addition to stories of our adventures, I sometimes like to talk about some of the other challenges I face. Following is a somewhat metaphorical account of the way I see anxiety and depression and one way towards wellness.

Always there.

I’ve written from time to time about the fact that I suffer from chronic anxiety and depression. I’m accustomed to their constant presence. Anger is supposed to be the base emotion beneath them.

They run like a background program on a computer in my brain and haunt me to a lessor or greater degree at any given time.

Like an overly thick wool blanket they drape heavily over my soul.

All I see is cast in shadow: my perception tinged an ugly grey. I struggle to part the dark material to get a glimpse of the world but the fabric is too heavy and dense. I’d like to take a pair of scissors and cut the cloth wide open and rip the mantle into two.

But these sad things have not been content only to cover me: they have grown into every fiber of my brain. They have curled around every neuron and imposed themselves into every synapse to form a mosaic of gloom. They’ve woven themselves into my grey matter – making us one.

I might have been infected in utero or before. Perhaps I was assigned the burden of these mental disorders in order to learn lessons I didn’t learn from a previous life (if you believe in that sort of thing). Nothing like a walk in someone’s else’s shoes to learn empathy. Was I not kind to someone at some time in the past?

However anxiety and depression came to inhabit me – they have a stranglehold.

I want out. Rather, I want them out but the growth is so thick I have to be careful in extricating them. Too fast and they might notice what’s going on and tighten their grip – perhaps around a vital organ.

The first step I made was to see them.

The shadows had assumed their position so carefully, I was completely unaware of their existence. Disguising themselves well, I accepted them as a part of myself.

The sunlight grew ever dimmer over the years; too slowly for me to notice. Like shades drawn down in tiny increments – imperceptive as the advance of the hands on a clock.  Suddenly it was twilight. Where had the day gone? It was just dawn!

Then the day came when I saw through a tear in the shroud.  Light. I had finally seen something radically different and in that glimpse, I knew there was something else I could feel.

I wanted more. The gig was up. Awareness of what I was missing drove me to face my oppressors. I could now see them.

I could now call them by their names.

Knowledge is a powerful thing but a lot of work would be required to peel back the years and layers of self deception that had formed my paradigm.

I became aware of the effect my negative thinking was having on me. I had a moment of clarity one morning when I saw for the first time, how absurd it was to spend my time in such a state of mind. It was pointless. It ate away at my energy and left me feeling drained.

But I was comfortable being miserable. That’s all I knew. Anything but being pissed off felt dull. I believe am addicted to the dark side.

I started to pay attention and when I began to fall so easily into the range of self-defeating thoughts and emotions I have come to know are grouped together, I stopped myself. Anger is an emotion of pride and it isn’t easy to quell. I had to ask myself why I wanted to hang on to it with such ferocity. What made spite so attractive to me?

I’m learning to recognize the moment that electrical impulse zaps down that familiar path towards self-loathing and despair and I’m jumping in with affirmations such as “this is made-up – it isn’t real” or “this is nothing but an old lie I believed”.

I question myself and do my best to replace chaos with reason. The amount of mental effort is tremendous and it doesn’t always work but I fight the fight when I’m strong. I put my sword down in times of vulnerability and cry.

But I’m making progress.

The very writing down of my thoughts and feelings is a gentle sawing away at the chords. Tight knots are loosening – nerve strand by nerve strand.

Like the way they insinuated themselves sneakily into my world, I’m methodically undoing my old ways of thinking and building new neural pathways that serve me rather than break me down. I sew up the old rotten holes left behind – hopefully for good. I carefully rip the seams apart one by one so as not to destroy the host.

It’s a process, and not an easy one. It requires discipline and a desire for a better, happier life.

What you believe is reality so change what you believe.

Anxiety and depression may forever be a part of my physical makeup but I’m using the tools of awareness and mental discipline to take control. I believe that I can change now. I try to pay attention and I say “NO” when the heaviness creeps in. I am now on watch.

Today, for four minutes at a time – maybe ten – twenty, I decide what is allowed to flourish in my head. The results might be imperceptible like the motion of the hands of the clock but I believe there will come a time when depression and anxiety will become a threadbare remnant of the past.

 

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Photo by Elias Tigiser on Pexels.com

We’re Human

We are the family with the un-mowed grass at the end of the block.

I’ve been comparing my blog with that of others who write about the subject of living off grid – perhaps unfairly. Most blogs offer accurate information and how-tos, informed by education and experience. People like blogs that offer useful information.

Mine is stories.

When we left our old world for our new, the adventures began and I felt compelled to record them, and maybe share them with others. I hope to turn our tales into a book.

Neither me nor my husband or super go-getters so almost nothing we do is top-notch although we try. We end up stumbling along in a human rather than super-human manner and the results of our efforts are often just-enough and not pleasing to the eye.

When I take pictures, I avoid the trashy looking parts of the property. My husband says I worry too much about appearances.

We do all of our own repairs so half of them don’t get done if we can’t find instructions of the internet. That would include our central heat which stopped working when we attempted to install a propane fridge which is now sitting in the shed getting dusty.

I built our generator shed out of pallets and it looks like shit. I also built all of the shelving in our shed from pallets. They aren’t Pinterest-worthy but they hold stuff.

Our garden fence was constructed from trees and old barbed-wire fencing left on the property seventy years ago. Our solar panels were mounted on plywood for the first six months we had them.

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We are experts at nothing but the journey seems to be what is worth writing about. I wonder how many people are like us – that just do their best which is far from perfect but they still live a rich life despite themselves.

Although we’ve struggled financially for the past two years, we haven’t been sitting around doing nothing. We were working on something that has finally come to fruition and the rewards are just beginning.

Now we can pay someone else to fix things or just buy new ones. We paid off our current property and are now in the market for a larger chunk of land with a house.

I’ve thrown some money at my blog hosting site and hope to reach more people in the coming months.

In the meantime, you won’t find hacks here – just stories of how we fudged this or that. I hope that revealing our humanity is enough to keep someone coming back.

 

 

 

Memorable Moments

Times we won’t forget since we moved.

Here is a list of some memorable moments we’ve had since we left “civilization” over two years ago:

  • Finding a man asleep in the back of his pickup truck minutes after a bear ransacked his belongings at his open tailgate – inches from his feet.
  • Driving with a twenty-five foot trailer behind me for the first time and coming to a halt at a bridge we weren’t sure was wide enough for us.
  • Shaking a skunk out of a cage at 2:30 in the morning.
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    A passerby.
  • Watching the solar eclipse on the beach of a river at a campground.
  • Coming home from work to the first snow we’d seen in years. Three feet of it.
  • Hitting the ground after a bullet ricocheted off a tree near us and yelling “there are people down here” when our neighbors almost shot us.
  • My husband walking out the door to our RV to see a bear about thirty feet away.
  • Finding a skunk in my kitchen in the middle of the night.
  • The night our cat jumped onto the canvass of our camper-trailer, collapsing it onto my head and my half-asleep husband mumbling “are you sure that’s the cat”?
  • Bambi
  • The night we packed our trailer to leave for our new home in eastern Washington in a monsoon then having the lights on the truck go out on the freeway.
  • Getting a flat tire while pulling our trailer out of the woods and living in it for two days on the outskirts of a residential area while we had the tires replaced.
  • Letting an extremely aggressive wildcat we’d caught out of a cage.
  • My husband listening to the bays of a wolf pack while he stayed in the trailer alone one night. We found tracks outside the trailer the next day.
  • Striking water under pressure and seeing it gush out of the ground while we were digging our spring deeper one summer. We’ve been set ever since.
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  • The family from hell we camped next too while on the road who got drunk every night and fought. It ended with half the crowd screeching away in a cloud of dust and spraying rocks one morning.
  • Driving down the highway as we neared our new home with Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down a Dream playing on the radio as the sun tipped the horizon to the east.
  • Runnin’ to a dead-end after we discovered the road to our property had been washed out and having to back the trailer into a dirt ravine to turn around.
  • Pulling up our driveway for the first time on the morning of September 18th, 2017.
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    Our latest four panels.

Outdoor Theater

The sky becomes a screen at night.

My husband loves to look at the heavens at night. He has a much better view now that we are away from the light pollution of the urban areas. The difference can be stunning.

Away from the cities, outside becomes like a darkened theater. The screen is the sky and it stretches from horizon to horizon.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve spotted strange lights, some of which have moved erratically then disappeared in the blink of an eye. Others have glided across the sky slowly only to blink out suddenly. UFOs have sometimes been linked to military bases and Fairchild AFB is near us. You never know.

Last year we spotted a very bright object in the southern part of the sky. It didn’t look “natural” so I got out my camera and recorded some video. It appeared every night for a couple of weeks before we lost interest.  Strange Bright Light Moving Across The Sky Near Colville, WA.   This year we realized it was just Venus after my husband checked a star chart.

The Milky Way is more visible in the country and my husband likes to point out the constellations and explain the origins of their names. The stars shine down on us with light that originated thousands of light years in the past and I wonder which of them might not even exist anymore.

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 A few weeks ago we spotted the perfectly lined-up Starlink satellites recently placed into orbit by SpaceX. I counted at least eight spaced equally apart as they traveled together across the sky.

Yesterday we had a Super Moon. That’s when the moon is closest to the earth and appears unusually large, especially when it’s close to the horizon. I made sure I got some shots with my camera.

During the day, we often get an airshow compliments of the pilots from the Air Force base. Once I looked up and saw what looked like a giant penis-shaped contrail in the sky. I later read that a pilot got into some trouble for that.

I say, let the flyboys and girls have a little bit of fun. They’ve earned it. 🙂

 

The Definition of Perfection

What is perfection?

Most of us strive for it but never fully attain it because we’re human and because the idea of perfection is so intangible.

Is it being better than or having more than someone else or does perfection lie in one’s behavior, actions and conscience?

It seems to me as if society measures perfection by accomplishment but I believe a truer measurement lies in our attitudes and conduct, including being honest about ourselves.

I struggle with my self confidence a lot because I tend to succumb to society’s version of what “perfect” is. I see myself as falling short if I don’t perform as well as others or have as much.

When I’m working on my blog, I try my hardest to stay grounded until I go on the Internet and suddenly see hundreds of great looking informative blogs that seem better than mine. Its intimidating and makes me feel inferior when I compare my work to others.

Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband who sees perfection in ways I sometimes can’t.

When I recently told him about my insecurities, he said he thought my quirkiness and personal foibles made for interesting stories and that he valued originality.

He ventured that having a successful blog is about more than having a professionally made logo, being an authority on something or landing an early placement in the search results. He said personal stories can’t be stolen or duplicated.

He also likes my stick figure drawings.

The pep talk brought me back to my senses.

I understand hard work is necessary to build a successful blog or no one will see it but I’m going to concentrate on seeing myself and my blog as perfect the way they are.

Perfection is ultimately subjective and if we see it as being human, we’re already there.

The Patriot

A suburban solution to a rural challenge.

I found it at a garage sale about a month ago. It cost us twenty dollars and is probably twenty years old. Its housing is made of ugly green plastic with Stars and Stripes and the word Patriot on its side.

It’s an electric chain saw. Had I known such a thing existed, I wouldn’t have squandered two years of wood-cutting.

Everyone around here uses gas-powered chainsaws to cut timber down for firewood. I won’t ever use one because they seem too dangerous. Whether or not that’s true I’ve made up my mind. My husband seems neutral. Either way, we have some wood cutting to catch up on now that we’re not afraid of removing a limb while we’re removing a limb.

We had three huge trees cut down that have been laying on our hillside for a couple of years. We hacked and sawed off all of the branches and removed the bark for firewood but we couldn’t cut the giant trunks. They were just too big.

Enter the Patriot. the patriot

It probably has half the power of a gas chainsaw but that’s what makes it so great: less probability of bouncing off a knot and wreaking havoc with the human body. I feel I can use this thing safely.

The day we acquired our new gadget, I ran a couple of extension cords down the hillside and commenced to “bucking” one of the humongous logs. To my surprise, the chainsaw works really well for being electric.

Now we can cut the giant trunks into small sections that my husband splits into firewood. All of that wood that’s been sitting around taunting us is now thinking twice.ax1

I feel accomplished. I can slingshot and I can buck lumber. I feel I have earned the Carhartt jacket I bought last week.

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Blast From The Past

About a year ago, I found a broken and rusty bracelet in the farmer’s dump on our hillside. It’s embossed with a boy’s name.

Bottles and jars are cool to find intact but whenever I’ve uncovered something personal, it’s always gotten me to thinking about the person to whom it belonged to and what life was like when they lived here so long ago.

Our property had not been occupied since about 1957 until we moved in. Back then, people threw their trash in dumps right on their land. Their trash is now my fascination – but back to that bracelet.

I wondered who this kid was and I figured there was a chance he might still be alive so I looked through the list of previous owners and did some additional detective work on the Internet and found him! He is 80 years old and still lives in the state.

I prepared a script before I dialed his number and he actually answered the phone. I felt a bit awkward but I asked him if he had lived where we are now and he confirmed it. I told him we had bought his family’s old property and I explained how I’d sifted through the old garbage heap on the hillside and found many items that were most likely deposited there by his family.

I told him about the bracelet with his name on it and asked him if he remembered it. He hadn’t, to my slight disappointment, but he was friendly and open to conversation.

I described the horseshoes, TV dinner containers, bottles, toys, and marbles we’d unearthed and questioned him as to whether or not he remembered them. He mentioned he had two older brothers who might have been the marble’s owners.

I told him I was using what may have been his Mother’s can openers and how what might have been her egg beaters were now growing into the side of a tree. He laughed and told me he was nine when his family moved here.

The call was very pleasant although, for him, it had come out of the blue. I said goodbye and thanked him for his time. Although he didn’t recall everything, I’m hoping he’d hung up the phone with some old memories rekindled.

It felt nice to make a connection with someone who had shared the history of this property with us. It once was his own.

I forgot to ask him if they had a well and where it was located. The privy too. Those are supposed to be treasure troves!

Wild Turkey Anyone?

My husband calls them The Horde.

They are the collection of wild turkeys that cruise the area searching for food and doing whatever else turkeys do. They seem to live in loose groups and there’s no shortage of them here in eastern Washington.

We often wake up in the morning to the sounds of hungry fowl outside our windows. They surround the RV (have you seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds?) making their expectations plain – it’s breakfast time.

My husband knows his job: He roles out of bed, throws on some clothes, grabs the thirty-pound bag of food with the cup and steps outside to feed “his” flock. They chitter, pip, pop, peep and sometimes gobble loudly in unison while they skirmish over the offerings.

They nip at each other, driving away their competitors for every bit of seed. Some are scraggly, some look a little sick and it makes me sad. Nature is nature though. I throw food to the ones who look like they need it the most. The rest look pretty healthy aside from the wind-tunnel look.

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We started feeding them a couple of months ago. When we pull into our driveway they make a bee-line to our RV. Most are hens but the males are standing out this time of year.

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It’s the beginning of the mating season and the Toms are dressing up in full window display. To make themselves look most presentable to the females, they “fluff up” with an audible swish of their feathers. Their heads flush with color and somehow they manage to cause their plumage to stand upright.

They angle their tale swag from side to side, as if tuning in a radar array. They tuck their chins in and glide across the ground as if on wheels. Or they stand stock still while the hens ignore them. Somehow, despite the rejection, little hordes inevitably appear in the following weeks. We call them gobblets.
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The Muddy Season

You people with your sidewalks and your manicured lawns – I envy you right now. We moved onto raw land on purpose but I didn’t anticipate having to train for a cross-country event just to get to the car.

At this time of year, when the snow melts and the ground is still frozen, our property becomes a quagmire.

Imagine plopping down somewhere in the woods to live. Wherever you walk, you trample the grass down leaving only dirt, then mud, when it rains. Everywhere you drive, the same. Without driveways and sidewalks – mud is what happens.

To get to the car we have to zigzag between patches of snow, muck, and the boards we put down to prevent us from leaving our boots behind.

We’d be stuck here without four-wheel drive and we meet in the war room to strategize our route out before we hop in the car The Long Long Long Driveway.

It’s almost spring and water from the melting snow is trapped on the surface by an under-layer of permafrost. It has nowhere to go and mixes with the trampled or driven-upon topsoil to create a real mess.

Where pools of standing water form, we discovered that hammering holes through the frozen ground to the unfrozen earth below allows the water to drain. Where that doesn’t work we cover the goo with boards or fill it in with rocks.

The place looks classy.

Until the thaw is complete and all of the snow melts, I put on my rain boots no matter the outfit. At least I fit in here in rural America.

Preparing For Coronavirus

I don’t scare easily but the coronavirus outbreak is a little bit different.

I have asthma so I am one of those people with an underlying condition and am theoretically at higher risk for complications or death. I have significant problems breathing some mornings and a little bit of exacerbation would not be a good thing.

I’m glad we’re out here away from town and not in close contact with other people. Our plan is to stay put for as long as possible when the crap hits the fan – which it will. I don’t know what the life cycle of this virus is so perhaps we aren’t being realistic. Still, minimizing our exposure to others seems prudent.

Today we stocked up on things that would help us stay comfortable for longer on our own. We grabbed a bunch of canned dinner-type items such as spaghetti and meatballs – things that provide protein but will keep indefinitely. A bag of potatoes and sweet potatoes seemed like a solid idea also.

We meant to buy some hand sanitizer but it was already sold out. Instead, we grabbed a few bottles of alcohol and some wipes so we could make our own version of sanitizing wipes – one for the car and one for home.

My husband grabbed the extra gas cans and propane cylinders to fill up.  Other than that, I’m not sure what else we can do. Our solar isn’t running at full strength but we can run most of our appliances and charge our batteries during the day.

We have plenty of wood on the property for heat and if it came down to it, for cooking over a fire. We have an unlimited water supply.

I looked up some natural antivirals and none are proven to be effective in warding off this virus but no proof doesn’t mean they don’t work. There simply isn’t evidence either way so we eat lots of garlic and I add coconut oil to my coffee for now – just in case.

Our entire school district closed this morning and some individuals are awaiting test results. The high school our son attends is being sanitized. I hope he isn’t sick.

If it wasn’t for my asthma, I wouldn’t worry as much but because I’m at a higher risk,  I’m ready to call the number that is listed in the local health department press release at the first sign of symptoms.

Being able to sustain ourselves for a good month is reassuring to me. But can we outlast the outbreak?