And She Came Out Singing

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.

Augochlorine sweat bee on Virginia spring beauty (Claytonia virginica)

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!

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) at Goll Woods State Nature Preserve in Archbold, Ohio

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.

Hooded warbler (Setophaga citrina)

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 warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

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).

Veery (Catharus fuscescens)

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.)

Common green darner (Anax junius)

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.)

18 comments

  1. Take care of yourself, Kim, and know I am cheering you on! Thanks for speaking out about your depression, and for your beautiful words and images. Cindy 🙂

    • Cindy, I’m sorry I somehow missed replying to your comment! Please accept my belated thanks for your kind words and your support. I’m grateful.

  2. When I was a young mental health counselor, I believed in the mind-body connection but also believed that it was 95% mind and 5% body. Years of living have humbled me both personally and professionally. I still strongly believe in the power of the mind, ie, spirit, nature, community, and God (whatever that might mean for each of us), but I also believe that there can be circumstances and times when for whatever reason(s) our body chemistry gets thrown so far off, we may need a medical/chemical intervention to help restore balance, not because of any frailty or weakness but because of our humanness of being deeply and wonderfully sensitive souls living in a very challenging world and sometimes very challenged bodies.
    Kim, thanks so much for your honesty and vulnerability, and for this this very inspirational post.

    • Ron, I enjoyed talking to you about it a little bit in the park the other day. I’ve felt sad before, but the last two years have had some extraordinary challenges — the violence and aggression in our society have increased exponentially, and those things affect HSPs like me very deeply. What I’ve gone through in recent months is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Thanks for your support — it means a great deal.

  3. I could have written this post. At least the part about depression. I have never had depression like this. I am taking pills that have helped immensely. So much so that I feel I would like to now ween myself off of them. I so agree that being out in nature fills one of those big voids with hope.

    • Hi Lisa. So sorry you’ve been suffering too, and you’re right that being outdoors really helps a lot. Winters get harder to tolerate every year as I get older, and I definitely see why so many older people move south! Hope you keep feeling better, and thanks for taking time to leave a comment.

    • Thanks, Jean! I always have to take a deep breath before publishing something like this because it opens me up to all sorts of judgments from those who don’t understand. But I think it’s important, so I just keep putting it out there. Thanks for acknowledging that this took courage. Hugs to you too!

  4. Liked this blog. Your comments touched others having problems also. Spring is such a wonderful renewing time and the pictures you took are good as usual.

    • Yes, it’s always scary to write publicly about something so personal and painful, but I’ve been helped by other people writing about life’s difficulties, so I hope I can help someone with this.

  5. I’m so glad you have found something that helps Kim. I’ve been struggling with coming off of antidepressants that were used as a sleep medication for fibromyalgia—for 20 years! And for a few months there I was having a pretty rough time. Of all people, my eye specialist (I also have glaucoma) suggested the CBD oil to help me sleep. I wanted to give time for the medication to clear my system as it can take up to 6 months, I’m told, before trying anything else. Meanwhile I’ve used a huge declutter and renovation project here at home to occupy my very tired mind. It doesn’t sound like a good combo, but it has worked to keep me taking each day at a time. I think I’ve turned the corner. This week is supposed to be the culmination point of all the work, but you know what they say about plans and God laughing… Very best wishes to you, and beautiful photos, as always!! xx

    • Ardys, I’m sorry you’ve been struggling too, and I hope things get better soon. The CBD oil works wonders for my sleep! I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in about six years, and from the first day I started taking it, I’ve slept through every single night with no problems. And I’m sure that’s a big part of why I’m feeling so much better and more clear-headed than I have in ages.

      Thanks for commenting, and I’m sending good vibes to you!

  6. Hi Kim, great post. This was also my worst winter with depression. Luckily the warblers are back and it helps immensely.

    The only problem…I missed the hooded this weekend…

    • Hi Dave, so sorry you had a rough winter too. No worries about the hooded warbler, you’ll get another chance! Thanks for reading and taking time to leave a comment. 🙂

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