The Walk - A Healed Hope
(original post October 25, 2013)
I just returned from The Walk and am sitting here resting my ankle and listening to James Taylor (Gorilla). The Walk is the “stroll” I began taking when I was one month off the last dose of Klonopin. It begins at the driveway of our house (at the base of the mountain), winds its way up the mountain and traverses about a third mile, and finally descends through a couple condo communities for about another mile. The first half ends at the corner of a retirement community. Of course, the second half of the walk is the reverse.
I first took The Walk in September 2010 when it was getting cool again after a summer about which I remember absolutely nothing except the intense misery of benzo tolerance withdrawal. I had been off K since the beginning of August and I was in indescribable mental anguish – black depression, anxiety, intense derealization, fear, and the extreme fatigue that goes along with depression.
No matter how exhausted or afraid I was, I took the exact same walk every day for about 4 months (until winter made it unbearably cold). It was one more of those rituals of my withdrawal. In fact, The Walk took exactly 66 minutes – or at least that was what my brain told me how long it should take. On days that I completed it in less than 66 minutes, I would freak out because I figured my anxiety level was getting worse and making me walk faster. That was an indicator to my sick brain that I was not healing. Of course, when it took more than 66 minutes, I would be afraid that I was getting physically sick or that my depression was getting worse because my energy level was lower.
During The Walk, I would always force myself to wave at every vehicle that went by to “prove” to myself that I could do it and to possibly help me heal. Somehow I thought that was normal behavior at the time. Now three years later I have to ask myself –“Who waves at cars like that?” My thinking was so distorted then. I was so very sick. I’m sure people were wondering why that depressed old man was always waving at them. I even kept a record of how many waved back. I was very obsessive. My therapist thought it was a great thing – or at least that is what she told me.
On The Walk I obsessed constantly about how long it would take for me to heal and get back to work. I had accrued nine months of sick and vacation time over my years of employment. Surely, I would be back to work before using it all up. But, “what if” I was still too ill to return in nine months? I was terrified of the answer to that question... and it played constantly in my head. My brain was fixed on calculating my time left as each day passed.    
Back in those early days, The Walk was a form of self-therapy – something to “hang my hat on” – evidence that I was not completely insane and something that might eventually help me get well. It was a form of hope – a hope born completely of fear, but still hope.
Today, it is now three years later. This is the first time I have set out on The Walk by myself since I healed long ago. In some ways, it is like déjà vu, but in most respects it is vastly different. Today I was wearing an air-cast boot from ankle surgery – so I was moving much more slowly. I found myself staring at the mountain and appreciating the changing color of the leaves. When I was ill, I would look at the mountain – but only because I was “trying to feel” the beauty as though I knew that was normal behavior. But I felt nothing but misery which only served to enhance that misery. It was proof that I was not normal – and maybe never would be again.
The Walk today was very relaxing – even hobbling along with the boot on. I thought back on all the times I had taken The Walk when I was so sick. There was never a glimmer of peace or enjoyment then. It was simply “work” – something I had to do. Nevertheless, it shows me how very far I have come – how very strong and content I now am.
My hope now is no longer born of fear and dread as it was three years ago. It is not a hope that is based on simply escaping from the present – but rather it is a hope that loves the present and knows beyond a doubt that what lies ahead is even better. It’s a hope of anticipation and not one of escape.
Yet, it is the hope of escape that kept me going in my own withdrawal. It was what got me through. It was necessary. It was fueled by “healed ones” who told me that one day, after my escape from withdrawal, I would also have the anticipatory hope – a hope that “knows” life is amazing and “feels” that amazement.
As I would read accounts of such hope, I really could not believe them….but I still hoped (at least for escape from my misery). But I am here to say those accounts are truer than I could have ever imagined… and they will be yours. Keep on keepin’ on.