I recently drove into the mountains with my mom for a relaxing day in the woods. A few years ago, forest fires left blackened, branchless trees standing on the mountainside. From the winding highway, we could see large swaths of charred landscape, but up close, new growth has begun to fill in the gaps. Long grasses and delicate wildflowers are recolonizing the ecosystem, and stands of young aspens have already claimed their soil.
I love the Rockies; it’s where I grew up, and it’s the first environment that nurtured my love of nature. I hope that no matter how depressed I get, I’ll always have an appreciation for the outdoors. On this particular outing, though, my enjoyment of my surroundings was dampened.
We found a set of campsites and picked a spot between them to use as our hammock/picnic place. The scent of warm pines and soil enveloped us while we ate our sandwiches among the bearberry carpet. I looked at an interesting circular lichen and listened to the insects buzzing nearby. Later, in my hammock, I watched a curious hummingbird zip around our site. I noticed all of these things and recognized their loveliness, but was disappointed by the absence of contentment. The person I am at my core, unhindered by depression, adores that exact place with those exact circumstances. But the person I am today – tired and depressed – couldn’t help but think “I wish I were at home, taking a nap in my bed.” I wanted to feel peaceful there, but I was missing that easy contentment that happens when you have nowhere you’d rather be. Realizing that non-depressed me would have enjoyed the day much more was disappointing, which threatened to overshadow what small enjoyment I did get from it.
It’s important for me to get out of my usual routine when I’m depressed, mostly because that routine doesn’t consist of much. When I take the very small risk of leaving my house to do something theoretically fun, it could turn out to be terrible. Mostly, it’s mildly nice, and as my therapist says, “If it doesn’t suck, then it’s worth noticing. It might just be good enough.”