Stress, doubt, fear, exhaustion. The great thefts of happiness and peace. Thinking back over the last many weeks it is unclear exactly when the downward cycle started, but by the beginning of August I had fully entered survival mode. There was this shadow of who I am who got up every morning and walked through my life day to day. Standing on the edge of perseverance and overwhelmed. I struggled through many shifts and no matter how much I had accomplished or how many people I had helped it was always the struggling moments that went home with me at night. As I move from one level of training to the next, the change in responsibility and demands felt hard to accomplish.
My work, my calling is one of the most loved pieces of my life. While I would never say that what I do is easy or that it has always come to me naturally, struggling and fear were never part of the equation. So to add the fear of failure and sense of drowning to the largest sector of my life on top of life's other stressors survival mode seemed inevitable. The giggling, the helping the people climbing up behind me, the resilience, the happiness all slowly ended and I became the shadow. The nights that my sister and I texted back and forth about how exhausted and sad I felt are difficult to count and I am so thankful she was willing to keep hearing the same fears and struggles day after day.
Sometimes when you have spiraled so far down it is almost impossible to swim back above water. I was spending my days off catching up on paperwork, sleep, and laundry. After a very trying night at work, I had hit a wall. At 2 in the morning, I was falling apart by myself in my very quiet apartment. Saved by one of my oldest friends/sisters who reminded me who I am and what I'm capable of. I knew I needed to do something to get back to being me. To recharge. To begin again.
I had vacation time coming in August and somehow through the grace of the scheduling Gods I got 12 days in a row off. And this scheduling blessing led to 2 incredible weekends home and 5 beautiful solo days in Colorado. There is something about lacing up my hiking boots and setting off alone into the trails. No cell phone signal, no city noises/music, no distractions. Pushing myself to go farther, climb higher, and be present in that moment. It was during those 5 days in Colorado that I found peace and started the climb back up in my life instead of continuing the slide down. Not saying that there weren't complete moments of panic that I was going back the other way, but no path to success or recovery is a straight line.
And so I'm back to remembering why I took this long path to spend every day doing something that I love and remembering my worth. Setting limits with people who drain my energy, protecting myself more, and spending time doing the things that I love.
Last weekend I made the trek home for my grandparent's annual Apple Cider Party. It is by far one of my favorite days of the year. There is something wonderful about homemade Apple Cider. My sister's family and I had a big sleepover in my grandparent's living room and it brought back lots of great memories and giggling. It was only missing a little Simon and Garfunkel.
My biggest new experience was learning how to shoot a gun this weekend. I had Sunday off and it was the Chiefs bye week, so a group of us drove up to the Griffins' for the day. I shot a couple hand guns, which I think it is fair to say I'm still a little afraid of and a couple of shotguns which I really enjoyed. I can't aim a shotgun very well, but I like to shoot it. We had a huge, delicious dinner and finished the night off with a fire out by the pond. There are few things in this world I enjoy more than sitting next to a fire with a few of my closest friends having a couple drinks.
In just a few days, I will be headed to Vegas for the first time and next month I will be taking the last of my step exams. It is hard to believe the end of the year is sneaking up on us. But for now, I'm going to enjoy this gorgeous fall weather and some homemade Apple Cider.