The last two years of my life were filled with devastating moments. I can honestly say it was the most difficult time I have ever experienced. Nothing I had previously gone through could even slightly compare to that time of my life. It began with my breakup with my longtime girlfriend. She felt that we had outgrown each other, and she wanted to date someone else instead.
Afterwards, I continued living in the apartment we ‘d shared and did my best to go to work, hiding the fact that I was heartbroken. I loved my job and it became a place where I would gloss over my emotions, pretending to be okay while there; but once I’d return to my home after attempting/faking cheerfulness all day, my behavior turned to sulking, grieving, and reminiscing about the good times she and I had shared in that home. I would overwhelm myself in my depressing thoughts, unsure of what I wanted, leaving myself anxiety-ridden, obsessing about the future, afraid of moving forward alone. I would destroy myself with these questions, never finding answers to any of them that didn’t sound lonely or upsetting.
Eventually, not a minute could pass after I’d enter my home following work that I didn’t burst into tears, never finding anything around me distracting enough to shake myself out of the immediate sadness I felt after walking through the door. Not reading a book or watching television. Not showering. The apartment held too many good memories for me that I wallowed in, realizing they would never happen again for us. Everywhere I turned reminded me of our relationship.
I wanted out. So I went out. I stepped out, locking the door behind me.. and began walking. I felt instant emotional relief, and soon I began to go on evening walks straight after work. I would arrive home and park my car, not bothering to step inside; I’d instead walk to the nearby park and from that point begin to walk around its dirt path a few times. I began to focus on my steps and sometimes I’d count them. I would focus on my breathing and try to breathe faster or slower, sometimes testing my endurance with sudden power walks. I would walk fast, then slow. My thoughts would shift from thinking about her, to daydreaming about my surroundings instead; and after a few days I felt uplifted enough to first stop at home after work, and socializing a little with my family; sometimes eating dinner with them reassured that the impending depression I felt hovering over me–waiting to land once I became alone–would not come, because I would soon be on my evening walk.
I started to walk around my own neighborhood and after that, distracted myself walking and exploring streets in my hometown that I’d hardly driven on, let alone walked. I really enjoyed discovering details about the home’s gardens and commercial buildings and reading all of the signs. Lost in my own thoughts, I soon became comfortable being alone again, and eventually my thoughts drifted to reminiscing about other years in my life. Years before I even met my ex-girlfriend. Submitting my body to go on long walks felt as if I were subconsciously allowing my legs to enter a trance. The repetitive movement of lifting one knee to land, placing my foot down and carrying the opposite knee up…repeating the motion was a form of hypnosis in which my brain found tranquility.
With my entire body being distracted by the routine of moving my legs, as well as my distraction of my surroundings, I began to focus on my happiness. I remembered that I had been happy before she entered my life. In my solitude back then, I had been happy. Walking helped to remind me of that. I began to walk every evening and my sadness would disappear. I re-emerged–fresh, remembering the joyful and optimistic person I used to be. Walking soothed me and put me in a calm state that I assume someone who practices meditation regularly would feel. Looking back, I truly was meditating.
Within the same year a family member to whom I was extremely close unexpectedly passed away. Her passing struck me and my family unimaginably, destroying all of my happiness once again. Although I still struggle to find my optimism after losing a member of my family, I began walking religiously during that time of my life too; and it helped me settle my thoughts and think about life in many different perspectives. Speaking truthfully, I’ll never say that all of my emotions while walking were positive; I sometimes found myself shedding tears, embracing my sadness and letting out my mixed emotions. But I continued to walk until I would feel a bit better.
It has been about a year and a half since these devastating times and since then I have moved cities and held different jobs. I have also started traveling, and gone back to dating again. Though my happiness and my hope for the future are a constant work-in-progress, I trust that as long as I keep trying to metaphorically and literally move forward, the depression I carry with me gets a little lighter.
Also by Lee: Vegan Champurrado Delight (Cinnamon Chocolate Drink)
More personal essays in Voices: For My Mother, Who Runs
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Photo: Brooke Cagle via Unsplash