Every year in April and May, I write about spring ephemeral wildflowers, migrating warblers, and the first insects of the season, all things that bring joy and help lift me out of the dark season. This year is the same…but different. For the past couple of years I’ve been struggling with a low-grade depression, which was bad enough by itself. But earlier this year the stresses in my life piled up very quickly and just broke me. I dropped into full-blown depression, and it was terrifying.
For most of February and March, I was unable to make decisions, couldn’t think clearly, ate almost nothing but carbs (gained weight, obviously), didn’t exercise, and felt enormous anxiety and exhaustion at the same time. I started to wonder if this was what it felt like to actually lose your mind. And although I want to emphasize that I was never suicidal (my mom reads this!), I sometimes wished I wouldn’t have to wake up and endure another day feeling like that. Every day was worse than the one before. I shirked as many obligations as I could get away with, and was just about ready to resign from my nonprofit board positions because I just couldn’t deal with things anymore. And I was ashamed and embarrassed that I couldn’t function at my normal levels.
That’s all so bleak, right? But the good news is that I got some help. One of my friends tends to notice when I occasionally withdraw from the world, and he reached out to check on me. I told him what I was going through and said that I really didn’t want to take antidepressants, but I was almost ready to do that. He made an alternative suggestion (CBD oil) that turned out to be exactly what I needed. I’m feeling much better now and am happy to be alive. It’s not a ‘dancing in the streets’ kind of joy, but more like a deep sigh of my soul, a release of the endless cycle of rumination and anxiety. I feel at peace, and I’m thankful that I’m able to experience the blessings of this amazing planet once again. In fact, I think I’m more appreciative than ever because I’ve been in such a dark place.
So. Life goes on. And it’s spring!
Yesterday I was awakened early when the Glass City Marathon runners came by my house, cheered on by people ringing cowbells on my front lawn. At 7:00 am. (#NotAMorningPerson) After I watched them for a bit, I decided to take advantage of being up early, and I headed for the Lake Erie marshes to look for some warblers. Arriving at Metzger Marsh, who did I run into but the friend I just mentioned above. Such a happy coincidence! We hadn’t spent time together for many months, and we had some fun watching and photographing warblers (and dragonflies!) in the woodlot at Metzger.
The day was predicted to be quite hot, but in the morning it was still comfortable. But the wind was strong and the birds were moving around a lot, sometimes there and sometimes suddenly gone, probably tucked down in shelter.
We watched a hooded warbler for a bit, trying to get a clear shot of this species that tends to feed in the undergrowth. As you see, I managed one decent shot before we lost him. I’m apparently out of practice for shooting fast-moving warblers, and the bright sun reflecting off the water made it more of a challenge. But I enjoyed seeing my first warblers of the season, and felt a renewed interest in this activity that I’ve spurned in recent years (the bug years, LOL). There were several moments when I stopped to quietly acknowledge to myself that I was doing better. Standing beside the woodlot being buffeted by warm winds felt rejuvenating. The flash of bright yellow as the hooded warbler dove for cover in a brown tangle of shrubs…I’d forgotten that thrill. So much of winter is brown and gray, and the cheerful colors on these warblers are the perfect antidote to the dark season.
Palm warblers were abundant and easier to photograph. Many years ago, when I was new to learning warblers, someone told me that they called them “My friend Flicka,” because of the way they constantly flick their tails up and down. They’re easy to identify by their markings, and if you know that little tail-pumping tip, all the better. I find them so engaging, and when I was alone later in the day, I watched one for a good five minutes as it fed in small trees in the woods at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (which is the adjacent property just down the road from Metzger Marsh).
And speaking of easy to photograph, it doesn’t get better than a veery standing up on a concrete parking lot block, does it? If you know that a veery is a member of the thrush family (Turdidae), you’ll probably recognize its resemblance to the American robin (Turdus migratorius). (If you’re laughing at Turdus, you’re not the only one with a juvenile sense of humor.)
And as migratory common green darners had finally arrived in big numbers, I was able to get my first decent shot of one of them as it perched in the woods. There were many of them flying through the woods and all around the parking lot, the bright blue abdomens of the mature males glinting in the sunlight. I didn’t try for any dragonfly flight shots today because I didn’t want to risk having frustration ruin my first warblering day.
This map shows where I spent the day. Notice the location of the Metzger Marsh woodlot; it’s just a small cluster of trees on the edge of the lake, and yet it’s a fantastic place to see warblers every spring. The famed Magee Marsh boardwalk is on the right side of the map.
So, I’ve been through hell and come out singing. This is a little magnet I bought a few years ago to remind me that I’m more resilient than I sometimes believe. It has renewed meaning for me today, and I feel stronger whenever I look at it. And since I’ve made several major changes in my life recently, it’s hard to know whether I feel better mostly due to the CBD oil or some of the other changes, but one thing I DO know for sure is that spending time in nature absolutely helps me.
Important Note: If you suffer from depression, please believe me when I tell you that there is help available, and you don’t have to feel like this forever. Talk to somebody — anybody — about what you’re going through. It’s really difficult when you just want to curl up and withdraw, but talking helps. I promise. (And as for the CBD oil, I’ll just say that you should talk to your doctor before trying any alternative supplements or treatments.)