I grew up in a family who liked to travel. My parents both are/were teachers (retired now and well deserved) which meant their summers were open and we were not going to waste it. We weren’t the family you’d find staying in a hotel and taking over the hotel pool. Nope, we were a camping family. We preferred to take over the pool at the roadside KOA. An affordable activity you can do anywhere you can get your camper too. We camped every summer. Mostly, we camped on the weekends. About every other summer we would go somewhere big. All the weekend camping trips became warm up to the big trek to see Mickey or the mountains if we traveled west. I consider myself very fortunate to have been in a family which liked to camp and camp as a family. I have been blessed, throughout my life, to have been able to see some of the amazing places the United States has to offer up. Everywhere we went we did that particular place as well as we could do it. Days at Disney. Days at the ocean. Days in the mountains and days everywhere in between. It was a lot to take in, but we did it and we all grew to love what we have around us because of these early experiences.
My wife and I are currently having our own adventure. We loaded up the VW SUV and headed out east from the center of Illinois. Along with everything we packed, our black lab mix dog, Ben, got to go along with us for the first time. This is my version of a “family vacation”. I have my wife and my boy with me. Really couldn’t get any better than this.
We started off driving out to the coast of North Carolina. We stayed in Oak Island, NC for most of this past week. This area is still recovering from Hurricane Isaias which hit the area in early August 2020. It was super impressive seeing how fast the community was bouncing back. Tourists doing touristy stuff. Restaurants attempting to survive not only the pandemic, but now the recovery and most, or at least all I saw, were open for business.
We stayed in a small house on stilts, on the beach. Oak Island is known for their natural sand dunes that line the back part of the beaches. You would cross through them to get to the beach. These sand dunes were wiped out by the surge. An impressive beach recovery process was, and still is, occurring during our stay there. Large machines and pumps are aiding in rebuilding the dunes. They are making a sand levee where the dunes were located which I can only guess is to help protect from any storm surges in the future.
The speed at which the beach recovery was going on at was nothing short of impressive. The beaches and the town received major damage. The rebuild process is a sight to behold. From the beach recovery to the amount of construction, and even new construction, was impressive to witness. These folks are wasting no time in getting their lives back.
The beaches are open for business and with us being in a more residential part of town, the beaches were not crowded. This was perfect with having Ben with us. We could walk down to the beach and then let him off the leash. The tennis ball addict wasn’t as much into his tennis ball as he was his soft frisbee. Too much sand up the nose for the tennis ball to be it’s usual hit self. The guy loved his frisbee though. We played a lot and the boy also napped a lot as we tried to have as much fun as we could.
We had an awesome deck that overlooked the beach, kind of. The new sand wall that is being constructed obstructed the view of the beach itself, but it didn’t take away the view of the ocean. So we spent a lot of time sitting on the deck staring at the ocean. I can stare at the ocean doing ocean things for hours. I love the sounds of the waves and the birds and I love the peaceful power of the waves rolling in and crashing on the beach.
I was trying my best to take it all in. I was trying my best to enjoy this new and improved me I have been working on over the last couple of years. I learned a lot about myself while sitting on that deck staring at the water. I learned, or at least figured out, that I need to get out more.
What I mean by this is I have been at home a lot more. I have been to myself a lot more. The pandemic, as much as I don’t want to admit it changed me, has changed me. Some for the better, I’ve put a lot of work into the better, but I really learned that I have also developed some things which I do not like and I don’t recognize as myself or what I am trying to be.
I’ve talked about the worrying I do. I am an excessive worrier. I think I’ve made that clear. The excessive worrying part of me I was trying to get away from, raised its ugly worrying head. Ugh. The worst part about it is I even knew the things I was worrying about were not anything to really be worrying about. Especially to the level I was worrying at.
We had neighbors. They were nice. No issues what-so-ever. This doesn’t mean that my brain didn’t come up with countless amounts of junk to worry about. I worried about Ben barking, which he didn’t do. I worried about our noise level and were we to loud. I mean, how loud can two people be? The answer…not very, but the reality of it all didn’t stop my brain from going on a worrying rampage. I worried about people as they walked by the house to the beach. I worried our music was to loud or we were being to loud. Again, I worried about Ben barking, which he didn’t do. While out driving, I worried about everybody driving around me. What is the speed limit? Where is that restaurant and am I going to have to stop immediately to turn in and inconvenience the driver behind me. I worried about the sand from the beach we might track into the beach house. Read that again. Beach in the beach house basically.
So much worrying about stuff I even knew, as I worried about it, that it wasn’t worth the energy I expended worrying about it. But I worried anyway. And it cut into my fun. It cut into the whole reason I was there doing what we were doing. I was struggling at letting go and just taking it all in. It annoyed me to no end, but I couldn’t stop. Now, I did have a good time…I did, but not to the level I feel I deserved or allowed myself to experience.
I also must come clean. Before the vacation I decided to try and take myself off of one of my meds as it was such a low dose and previously it had made my head foggy at higher doses. Folks…NEVER stop your medicine on your own. Not smart on my part, but I do dumb stuff from time to time. I quickly figured out that this medicine counters some of the effects of my other anti-depressant. Together both aid my depression and both play off each others side effects. Without the one, the other has a stimulating effect, in turn, making it easier for my anxiety to enter into the equation.
This past week at the ocean, I have been an anxious mess. I came to the conclusion, while being way to deep inside of my head, that I am an excessive and possibly an obsessive worrier when it comes to being considerate to others. I worry about every inconsiderate possibility which could arise in the situation I am in and then I worry about that. Excessive consideration worrying is the phrase I may coin. I honestly would like to be more like the people I see who obviously could care less about the other people around them. That would be awesome, but I’m not that guy. I’d honestly settle for somewhere in the middle. Heck, I’d take being anywhere in the vicinity of the middle.
All of the worrying is exhausting, so then you don’t want to do much. All of the excessive worrying isn’t warranted, but I still do it. I wish I could just turn it off like it seems a lot of people can do, but I can’t. I’m working hard on just controlling it, but this past week the flood gates opened and I was really just along for the ride. I like rides, but this ride was seriously annoying and it ate into my time where I should be relaxing and enjoying my time I know I deserve.
I know some of it was coupled with me stopping my medication (I have since re-started it), but everything to me is a test. A test to see how far we have come. A test to see what we need to focus on, whether it be good or bad, and focus on where I need to go with my healing next. The ocean was great, but this time the ocean was also annoying.
I did learn a lot about myself. This is always a good thing, but I didn’t like the manner and the time spent on realizing what I was experiencing. I lot of time was spent inside my head. A lot of reflection. A lot of not nice things said to myself. I feel like I was able to appreciate the blessings I have with traveling, but I also reinforced to myself that I am still a big work in progress and I feel like I now know a big area I need to continue to focus on.
Part of this vacation was to forget about all of the focus I put on myself and my mental health. We should always be focused on bettering our mental health, but I have a habit of taking things too far and having this focus become a detriment sometimes. I honestly was angry at how my mind acted and where my thoughts kept venturing too. At the same time, I am thankful that my mind went there. I didn’t want it to occur during this vacation, but I am thankful for the clarity in which I can now see things better and better.
So, I will take this experience and try and do my best to come up with solutions. I do feel like I understand the worrying side of myself better. I do feel I need to work on my anxiety more. I focus on the depression, but I think it is less of a culprit this time and my anxiety is kind of taking the lead right now. For a silver lining, I am thankful for the worry and torment which goes along with the excessive worrying as I now have a better “feel” for it and where the anxiety is fitting into my life. The anxiety is and still is a huge player in all of this and not one I can ignore or at least not something I can not have some of my focus on.
I will continue to work on myself and see myself as an ongoing work in progress. We all are a work in progress. We all are trying to better our lives and our mental health everyday whether we are conscious of it or not. Wow, this really is a journey! We’ve come this far, so why stop now. I’d like to say we are more than halfway so it’s really easier to keep pushing forward versus turning back and going back to the place we are trying to take ourselves away from.
I did my best (I always think I could do better) to “take it all in”. I love the ocean and the beach. I enjoy relaxing in a chair and watching the waves crash on the beach. I enjoy watching a rebuilding process take place in a manner I do not get to see everyday. What I didn’t understand of “take it all in” was the part of this vacation where I learn more about myself. It wasn’t pleasant going through it, but it happened. I can’t take it back. All I can do is take the information I have gathered and continue moving on. Take it all in…and I mean take EVERYTHING in. It’s not all about the scenery and the relaxation. It’s also about what we can learn about ourselves when we take ourselves out of the situations we know and understand and then seeing how we deal with these situations. So I will keep going and I will keep working on bettering my mental health!
We are a work in progress, but we got this! I got this! You got this! We got this! Let’s keep walking together on this journey.
Part 2 – The Mountains will be next! Wow…the mountains is all I can say right now!
Have a great day!
Please visit: Jason Kehl’s Basement Of Jams: Rocking Mental Health
A website I created to further my mission to spread mental health awareness. This blog and also a podcast I do, live there, as do some other ideas. Please check it out!