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Depression in the Desert
(from Yuma, AZ)
January 17, 2006

Journal Updates


Columbia, SC
Blue Ridge Parkway
Computer Crash!

2005 - 2006
Happy New Year
Hawk's Message
I'm Published!
Sharing Spring
Ways of Writing
Edmonds, WA
Degenerate Neck
Desert Depression
Post Quartzsite
Grandma Malia

2003 - 2004
Alaska Planning
Alaska 1
Alaska 2
Alaska 3
Alaska 4
Alaska 5
Alaska 6
Alaska 7
BC & Alberta
To Lower 48
2004 Recap
Giving Thanks

2001 - 2002
Inspiration's Off!
To Charleston
N. Carolina
To Orlando
Florida Tour
Back in Austin
Albuq. to WA

Malia's RV Pages


Cedar Point


Niagara Falls


New York
  (After 9-11)

Grand Canyon

Arches Nat'l


Victoria, BC

Butchart Gardens



Glacier Nat'l Park


Grand Tetons

Malia's Miles
(new site)

Michigan Miles

I'm getting ready to leave for Quartzsite tomorrow. That doesn't sound like such a big deal, especially since I have been planning this for about a year now, despite my initial reluctance. When Tab first asked me about speaking to the "Graduating Class of 2005" I refused, saying that I hadn't started RVing to plan where I'd be a year in advance and besides, I'm not a public speaker. But as time went by and I read the group's postings on the forum, I was more and more moved and wanted to meet these people, who I felt such an affinity with. They had been dealing with all the same issues all we fulltimers have to deal with at some point or another. Like what kind of RV is the right one for us. Like selling or giving away a lot of the stuff we'd spent the first part of our lives obtaining. And then how and where do we store the best stuff we just gotta keep. Deciding what we must carry with us wherever we go. And how interesting that process is - determining what is truly important to us as we embark on this new phase of our lives.

Lots of questions and answers about the same issues had been posted for years on the Escapees Forum and you could look up discussions today that were being heatedly debated several years ago. But this group seemed like no other before them in realizing what a big and monumental thing they were doing by becoming fulltime RVers. Having no other home but what they drove around, being driven only by what direction they wanted to head that day rather than a set daily routine in a sticks and stones home. I'm impressed with how they've supported and comforted each other through all of the processes and organized a gathering of over 100 rigs in the legendary RV destination of Quartzsite in the desert where we'll all finally get to meet those in person we already feel we know so well and celebrate their "graduation" into fulltime RVing.

So I've looked forward to it as a major event for a longer time than I usually plan ahead. But I recently thought about skipping it, feeling like there was no way I was ready for any amount of time boondocking in the desert. I had come to associate the desert with everything bad that had been happening with me lately and I was ready to escape from dry brown sand in search of greener pastures.

As for Yuma, the only thing I'll be sorry about leaving behind are two of the best friends I've met yet on the road. Pat and Mel and I hit it off right away and felt like old and comfortable friends in no time at all while we were camp hosting in Oregon. Little did Pat know the next time we met, she'd be playing a nurse and therapist role to me.

Yuma was where my mom flew out from following our redwoods tour. It was a bonus to learn that Pat and her hubby Mel owned a lot here with full hookups that I could share until it was time to head to Quartzsite. Only thing I didn't appreciate is that Pat ended up sharing her flu with me as well. Within a week, I was so sick I would have had to improve in order to have the strength to die. Some locals call it the "desert crud" and there's debate about whether it's caused by desert spores or some such weirdness, or just the regular old garden-variety virus. Whatever it was, it really got me down.

I finally went to the doctor and was told I had developed bronchitis, so I was put on antibiotics. I was also given a prescription for a decongestant because I had managed to become addicted to nose spray by then. It was also supposed to help me sleep, something that was becoming more and more rare in my nightlife. But I had a bad reaction to that which resulted in days of dilated eyes and nervous twitching.

Then about the time I was physically able to get out of bed, I no longer wanted to. It felt like there was really no reason to - that I had nothing to look forward to. The dark black cloud of depression had descended. I knew my brain was not working right - my eyes weren't even focusing and my thoughts were totally skewed. It seemed every commercial on TV talked about how depression hurts everyone and how my life was waiting for me. But there was no joy in looking to the future - only dread and fear and a feeling of complete hopelessness that nothing will ever be fun and light again.

It's hard to explain what "clinical" depression feels like to someone who has not experienced its depths. My mom says she's gotten "the blues" before, but not the debilitating paralysis I felt. It seemed too much trouble to do the most basic things - brushing my teeth felt like a major accomplishment - I was exhausted and winded from doing the dishes - washing my hair felt like a wasted effort and going outside became a stressful event.

Even though my doctor said antidepressant medication was called for, I was so resistant to taking it. What about the side effects and am I willing to be on drugs for the rest of my life just to handle my life? Why wasn't I strong enough to deal with this on my own? Hell, everyone that reads my website talks about how brave and inspirational I am. Well, if they could just see me now. I felt like a fraud - certainly I was no longer that woman. Inspiration had died within me and I had none left to impart. I used to tell people that if I could pull off my dreams, anyone could. I no longer felt capable of pulling anything off and I didn't care if anyone else did either. I decided that as soon as I felt good enough to drive, I was going to skip Quartzsite and just head back to Austin, dismantle the websites and get back to the "real" world.

Was this coming from getting older and more realistic or from a chemical imbalance in my brain? Suddenly my aching body tells me not having medical insurance is too scary and I can't begin to afford that monthly payment unless I start making considerably more money than I've made this past year. I had become disillusioned about the possibility of making my living through writing - maybe if I could give it more time or whatever, but for now I had stopped enjoyed the kind of writing I was doing and I no longer had the luxury of savings to support it.

In some of my early conversations with Chuck about travel and writing, he told me about an encounter he had with a very special man named Michael that he met at a beautiful waterfall. When he later learned that Michael had a debilitating illness that was killing him, Chuck realized what he could learn from Michael. While Chuck had spent a few moments at the waterfall to snap a quick picture and then went back to his RV to write about it for his newsletter deadline, Michael sat there totally in the moment and enjoying the peaceful experience for all it was worth.

There was a big lesson there for me as well. When I started RVing, my passion was all about the travel and the experiences. Sharing my journal with my family and friends had nothing to do with publishing or profiting from it. I found I didn't like the combination of what I did for a living becoming tied with what I loved doing - I wanted to just be totally free to experience the moments without trying to figure out how to make a buck at it.

As I began to feel better both physically and mentally, I knew I was being forced to make the decision about continuing to fulltime RV - can I still handle this? Both the RV and my body need repairs. Maybe it would make more sense to move back to Austin, sell the RV and settle back into a permanent job with insurance and stability?

Good thing making sense was never a big draw to me - after some thought, being happy seemed a much better goal to work toward. I may not want to go back to being a temp paralegal in order to continue to travel. But does it really make sense to go back to permanent paralegaling and give up one of the main things that does make me happy? Pictures of the places I've been blessed to see flash across my computer screen as my screen saver and I am sometimes amazed at all the incredible places I have been - I remember clearly how I cried at the side of the melting Kluane Lake on the way to Alaska just from the sheer beauty of the experience. Or stood and watched the earth bubble and boil at Yellowstone. Having bears in my backyard in Alaska and buffalo cross in front of my windshield in Yellowstone - what do I really need to have that would be worth trading those kind of experiences for? How long before I would be full of regret for living my life based on the fear of what could happen instead of the faith in the good that could come? One of the things I read that got through to me was said by Helen Keller:

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."

I'm not getting any younger and RVing will not get easier with age. And it may be difficult, but it is still not impossible, even for a solo woman of my age at this point. I finally realized it didn't even make logical sense financially. I'm better off income-wise having my duplex rented than if I lived in it. I might have to stay in one place longer, but I had discovered that was my preference anyway.

So with Pat's care and comfort, I slowly started to see light streaming through the clouds. Her patience and insistence that I had a treatable condition and that taking medicine for it was preferable to giving up on the life I wanted began to make more sense. I once described depression as a condition called the triple A's - when you feel Alone, Abandoned and Adrift. Pat made sure I never got stuck in any of those settings and I will never be able to repay her kindness and concern. A vendor at the flea market saw us laughing together and asked if we were sisters. We both honestly and instinctively said "Yes!" - and we both do feel that way. I know I'm going to go through a serious withdrawal from her presence when I leave. She is the perfect embodiment of a quote I once heard:

"I believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."

Me and Pat in Yuma

And I was finally able to get out and meet a few of the class who were staying in Yuma. Helen & Bill and Pam & Smokey were so nice that it just made me all the more anxious to meet the rest of the group. And the continuing support and encouragement of my other friends online has been a constant source of strength and again reminds me of my most favorite thing about RVing - the great people involved in it!

Helen & Bill and Smokey & Pam in Yuma

So I'm on my way to Quartzsite - and I'm finally able to look forward to it again. After that, I'm visiting my brother in Albuquerque to talk about a job he has in mind that I may be able to do from the road. Then I'll be in Austin to rent my house out again in May. I'll head to Sacramento for Keala's baby's birth in July. And that's as far as I'm willing to plan or think about at this point.

The most fitting end to this long update is part of a poem I received from a friend a while back entitled "Start Over."

When you've prayed to God so you'll know his will
When you've prayed and prayed and you don't know still
When you want to stop cause you've had your fill...
Start over.

When you think you're finished and want to quit
When you've bottomed out in life's deepest pit
When you've tried and tried to get out of it...
Start over.

When the year has been long and successes few
When December comes and you're feeling blue
God gives a January just for you...
Start over.

It's January, so I guess that's what I'll do.

Inspiration's Journey Home
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