I have battled anxiety and depression for most of my life. I have treated these with a plethora of prescriptions, I’ve self medicated, and I’ve been to therapy. All have helped me grow and have a better understand of my mental woes. I would consider myself an advocate for proper medication and therapy treatments for those of us fighting. In addition to the treatment, there is one place where the depression and anxiety seem to melt away. The wilderness. No pills or doctors necessary.
Day to day life can take it’s toll on the best of us. As we grind away at work, take care of our homes and families, we sometimes forget to take time for ourselves. A day in the wild, along a steam, cleanses the mental stress away better than any drug I’ve been on.
If a week has been particularly hard, an early morning jaunt to the local stream helps immensely. As I drive to my home water, I unknowingly begin to fret less. My mind starts processing the cloud cover, the temperature, thinking of the water levels and the last good rain we got. In doing so, my mental break begins. My problems don’t go away, but they do recede for just a bit.
When I reach the water, I can smell the creek, can see the leaves gently dancing on branches with the wind, I notice a squirrel shucking a walnut. My mind has begun to process where I am. Alone in the woods, I am free. I am able to escape every day life, even if it is just for a moment.
There is a small trail down an embankment, and a jump over an ancient fence to get to the stream. The fence is the last physical barrier between myself and a day of solitude and reflection. The first strip of line, and the first cock of a false cast and I am completely in my element. Making my way down stream, casting, reading the water, targeting trout with nothing else on my mind. After a good walk in, far from my truck and other anglers, I lay down my bag and rod and sit on a downed tree and open a beer. The beer itself is a ritual. One shared by generations of my family, passed down from grandfather to father, and father to son. While sipping on the lukewarm Miller High Life, my mind drifts back to my real world. Alone in the woods, the problems I brought with me begin to seem smaller. Realizing if I take a step back and really look at myself, I can do this. Natures healing has begun.
After my beer, I am back on the water. I begin assessing what flies are working, where the trout seem to be, and how much weight I should have on. After a few more cast and hopefully a few catches, I am back on the bank to have one more beer. This beer is different though. This is my relaxation beer. The one where I lay down on the bank, my head on my bag, legs out and feet in the stream. I lay there and breathe in. The scent of pine trees and wild flowers, the sounds of the stream rolling over stones a millennia old, birds singing around me. I am but part of the world, and I am home.
As the day draws to a close, and I am driving myself home, I am refreshed. My problems of yesterday have become manageable items on the to do list that is domesticated life. All it took was a day on the water, and a love for where we explore.