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Breaking Through

How one woman battling depression finds peace and happiness in nature, on a journey of personal growth.

It hit me as suddenly as the flu. My husband, Will, and I were flying back to Albuquerque after a visit with friends and family in New York. I had felt a little blue and listless as we packed, and I hadn’t been able to shake the feeling on the long flight home. But when we walked off the plane and into the bright Albuquerque airport, a crushing despair engulfed me, a feeling so overwhelming that it took a conscious effort to continue to put one foot in front of the other.

“Anything wrong, honey?” Will asked in the car. I shook my head. I didn’t know how to explain what was happening. Despite the rugged, russet New Mexico landscape sweeping by, the world seemed inexplicably bleak, as if I had stepped into an abyss.

It’s probably jet lag, I told myself that night as, utterly exhausted, I fell into bed. But in the morning it took all my strength just to get up. I felt as if I’d been put on a planet where gravity had been doubled. Dear God, why do I feel like this?

I was depressed. Like everyone, I’d had down periods in my life—but nothing like this. For the next few months, all I wanted to do was sleep. I wandered the house in a nightgown and robe, not seeing any reason to get dressed. I cooked and cleaned in a zombie state. Still, everything seemed dingy.

“Rose,” my husband pleaded, “you’ve got to see a doctor.” But I didn’t even have enough interest in my own well-being to summon the energy to make an appointment.

My will to live began to slip away. A few years back, a bleeding ulcer had put me in the hospital, close to death. Now I thought about not eating and letting the stomach acid do its final work. I considered asking my doctor for sleeping pills, but that would mean going in for an exam and I didn’t want to answer a lot of questions.

Then one cool morning I climbed into our Jeep Wagoneer, filled the gas tank and drove toward the mountains. It was as if the Jeep had a mind of its own. After an hour or so, I pulled over and got out. I was at an elevation of about 8,000 feet, the city spread below me in the distance. I felt so isolated, almost as if I were the only person on earth—an eerie yet oddly comforting feeling.

Ahead I saw a meadow and a herd of deer grazing on whatever frozen grasses they could coax out of the hard ground among the ponderosa pine. I crept close. Just then a doe and her fawn left the group and hesitantly started toward me. I stood stock-still, hoping not to scare them off. They stopped no less than 10 feet away from me, the doe’s black nose twitching at my scent. The leggy fawn peeked from behind her mom’s rump. Their eyes were so big and trusting. Suddenly I felt peace flow through me.

As I stood transfixed, the majesty of my surroundings began to crack the shell of my despair: the jagged peaks dressed in fresh snow; the stillness and quiet of the woods; the pure, thin autumn air flaring my nostrils with the scent of pine; the vast abundant miracle of God’s world.

I stood for a long time and watched the baby, hungry for life, take her mother’s milk while the doe stared at me. Inexplicably, she trusted me. The peace I found within myself felt cleansing, like a release of pain. I cried softly—good, thick, purifying tears. And for the first time in months, I too felt a hunger for life.

“Thank you, God,” I whispered.

I had been brought here to find the courage and trust to go on. Somehow in the simple beauty of a mother giving life to her offspring, I saw that God too sustains us. Depression, the black shadow on my soul, began to recede as God’s love broke through the darkness.

I drove home with a lighter heart. Later, I made an appointment with my doctor for a complete examination.

Today, though I still sometimes struggle, my depression has lifted. Depression affects the body, mind and spirit. But only God can heal the spirit, as he healed mine. I pray that all who suffer from this terrible and baffling illness will find that healing.

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