Returning to Redwood Therapy

Unknown

The magnificent redwoods, my therapists

When I started tapering off bipolar meds in 2012 (which I’ll never do again since I almost died) hypomania caused me to become an exercise fiend. I was experienced at working out because I worked as a certified personal trainer at a gym for a few years. But when given a choice, I definitely preferred exercising outdoors. Bypassing a gym was economical as well, so I felt good about my fitness plan.

The road in front of my home wasn’t pedestrian-friendly; it was “pedestrian-deadly”. Our steep, curvy mountain lane was devoid of sidewalks, and speeding cars barrelled down it every few minutes. I needed a safe walking option, so I headed for nearby Fall Creek State Park, home to a centuries-old redwood grove.

Fall Creek is a tree lover’s dream containing old-growth woods such as Douglas fir, madrone, oak and ponderosa pines. I know it sounds hippie-dippy, but the energy in this forest felt almost magical. A unique sort of quiet enveloped me as soon as I got on a trail. Thick rays of sunlight peeked through the tree branches so that I didn’t feel claustrophobic. I loved smelling the fresh, pure air.

The state park attracted many visitors, but it was so large that I seldom came across other hikers. An occasional horse or two startled me, but they seemed mellow. As much as I enjoyed the lack of people, it was cause for concern, especially as a woman hiking alone. (This was before my glorious, protective collie Lucy came into my life!)  

HobbitHole

A place I call “The Hobbit Hole”

I bought a pepper spray and reviewed how to use it properly.  I always told my husband when I’d go to the woods. He wasn’t thrilled about my hiking in such isolation, but the pepper spray made him feel a little better. Whenever I went to Fall Creek I held the spray in my hand, ready to use it at any moment. I always brought my fully charged cell phone, and I was lucky I had good cell reception in the forest.

There were other risks besides meeting an unsavory human.  Mountain lions have roamed these hills for ages. Sightings were very rare; at least there weren’t any bears!

Unknown-1

A baby puma/mountain lion

However, there have been a few times when I felt that my sanctuary had a sinister feel. I think the creepy sensation was more about my projecting my dark mood upon the innocent forest rather than there being an actual cause.  This gloominess usually happened when the sun disappeared from view.  Sunlight always has had a tremendous affect upon my psyche, and I’ve used a bright Sunbox light for over a decade now.

When my med-free attempt failed and I relapsed, I admitted myself to the mental hospital once again. I was in the unit three times that summer alone. Patients weren’t taken outside unless they had a doctor’s note. (I wasn’t informed of that ludicrous policy when I was there. I found out about it long after I was released. It was truly insane that patients who were able to handle being outside with supervision weren’t exposed to fresh air and sunlight.)

After I came home from the unit, I couldn’t stop thinking about the forest.  I felt like a caged animal who had finally been given her freedom. The day I was able to drive to Fall Creek and walk on the paths I tread so many times before was a momentous accomplishment.  

During my summer hospitalizations there were many times I thought I’d never be in a forest again. After being cooped up in what I can only describe as a horrible hell, it was incredible to use all my senses to savor Fall Creek once more. While I was still depressed, it helped to be around my “redwood therapists” for their very real comfort.

Being in a mental hospital does many things to you.  For some resilient souls, they stay at a unit, they get out, and they don’t look back too much or get stuck when they reflect.  On the other hand, and I don’t use the following term lightly, I know I have PTSD from being in these units multiple times.

The difference between a locked-down unit full of suffering and a spacious forest comprised of graceful trees and streams is enormous. It doesn’t get more “bipolar” than the difference between sterile civilization and majestic nature.

This summer not only did I return to my beloved Fall Creek forest trails, but I brought Lucy for the first time, and per their spirited request, my two girls! Now more than ever before, I’m grateful for the freedom of being able to visit such a stunning, peaceful place with the ones who I love with all my heart.

I hope that each of you enjoys your own special place in nature as often as possible this summer!

Love,

Dyane

Mom & Girls @ Felton

Enjoying a yummy lunch at the historic Cremer House before heading to explore Fall Creek State Park

Girls

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.

Advertisements

42 thoughts on “Returning to Redwood Therapy

  1. Lovely writing. It reminds me of my walks in Balls Head Reserve when we lived on the north side of Sydney Harbour for a while. You can see some of the photos on my new blog at anneskyvington.com

    1. Thanks so much, Anne! 🌞
      I’ll have to take a look at the Balls Head Reserve photos – congrats on your new blog. 👍
      I hope this finds you and your precious daughter doing well!
      Thanks for stopping by; sending you hugs & my 💗
      take good care,
      Dyane

  2. Hmm lovely lady look at you! I mean it congratulations. You got me to go back on one of the most challeging trails I used to use back then in 2010/11. Challenging not because it was as ‘exciting’ as your redwoods with the snakes and pepper sprays, but because I had problems with my feet at the time and you need to see me walk especially going down a stair or slope etc. I will lift the leg, hold it with my other arm, and then gently put it down … It was scary and I opted to go there at 3/4 am when few people apart from bugglars will see me struggle. Twice they saw me and stopped me menacingly, but I assured them all I was doing was learning to walk and do some exercise. Since I came back last year and moved back to that neighbourhood early this year, I have passed there in a car/cab etc, but never tried that on footing. It took me 45 mins to do the round yesterday, back then it could take 1.5 hrs or so. Thank you so much, and yep it was so therapeutic to do that. You know lady, this is what I love about blogging and books and art and all, the help not only the author/artist, but you just never can tell who else… please keep it up and I sincerely can’t wait for your memoir. Now you see why I read and liked the post yesterday, but could only comment several hours later hahaha

    1. Sorry to reply so late, lovely Marie. I’ve done that quite a bit with my favorite bloggers lately, please fporgive me!

      Wow – I’m amazed you went on that trail in light of your challenges with your feet – well, I wouldn’t expect anything less from the magnificent Lady Marie! I’m thrilled you returned to the trailthis year and that it only took you 45 minutes!!!! So proud of you!I’m happy it made you feel good!

      I promise you I’ll keep it up on the blogging front and when the memoir comes out I’d be honored for you to accept an ARC (Advanaced Reading Copy – did I get “lingo” that right?) and I’ll bribe you to write an awesome review. I”M JUST KIDDING! Well, maybe not! 😉 hee hee !!!!!
      Lucy sends you her love and so do I!
      XOXOXO

      1. Lady, you ain’t late and we just have to take it as it comes one mood and minute at a time no joke. Hmm, you know me I don’t mix it up in my reviews, just keep it real and it flows – hence no need to bribe me cause once am in am in hahaha – so sure I’ll get the ARC and devour it hot – let me just whisper this new undertaking of mine if I hadn’t done so yet: am ebarking on a 3 year phd program uh huh – so wish me so so much well. my regards to all
        xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxooxoxo or is there a limit to the number of xos

  3. It’s so great that you have an escape place, so to speak. It looks and sounds beautiful. And how cool is it that you can now share that beauty with Lucy & your precious daughters!?!

    1. Believe me, I’m so thankful for my woodsy sanctuary, my dear!

      It has been amazing to see my girls’ reactions to the place. I didn’t think they’d want to go in the first place, and I thought if somehow they DID go, they wouldn’t be into it.

      It has been one of the best surprises of my life to see them enjoy the woods like I do! 🙂

  4. This post made my heart sing and cry all at once. I cannot fathom a small room with hard walls being my world. That you survived this AND conquered the inner darkness….you have got to be the strongest woman I now, Dyane.
    And I do not say that lightly. xxxxxx
    I’ve also relished time in the woods–the reach of the trees through sunlight into heaven, and the quiet disturbed only by one’s feet in the dirt really is magical. You’re right, though, that our mood can sometimes offset the magic. The silence goes from peaceful to eerie to menacing, so that even a simple twig-snap makes us feel like we got to run for the car because there MUST be a masked man with a machete out there. So I’m glad you’ve got two fantastic kids and a furry bodyguard to keep that mist of Dark Mood from settling in.
    And however did you find that hobbit hole? It’s perfect!
    Cheers, O Lovely Friend of Mine– JL xxxx

  5. Love hiking among the redwoods. Truly magical. Hospitals, especially psych hospitals, would be so much better if designed like a hacienda, around a beautiful garden. I was lucky. The hospital where I stayed had ocean views, and once well enough we took supervised walks as a groups with a psych nurse in the Laguna Beach hills. When partially hospitalized, we would go walk down to 1000 Steps Beach and enjoy the beach during lunch. Great work out walking up and down the approximately 230 steps which just seem like 1000.

  6. I love this post. The majestic redwoods saved me a few years ago. There is nothing quite like being amongst the beauty and serenity of the redwoods. That and the ocean. Without those two things my life would have been very dark these past few years. I went through a really horrible time and hiking amongst the forest and walking along the bluffs at Wilder saved my life. xo

    1. Hi Kelly!

      I’m super-thrilled to “see” you here – I apologize it took me forever to reply!

      I hope you get notified that I did, in fact, see your comment. I’m also incredibly happy that you found healing in the redwoods & ocean too! I’m so sorry you went through such a hellish time, and I hope things are 10,000% better! 🙂

      I love the Wilder area as well – yesterday I took my oldest down to the Westside (okay, we went to Companion Bakery for the first time for the $%&* of it!) and I bought a coffee instead of one of everything, ha ha ha! They have amazing coffee. We got a walnut loaf and she chose a piece of strawberry peac hpie – she’s not like her chocoholic mom, strangely enough.

      Anyway, we drove by the ocean, my old stomping grounds, and while it was not my favorite weather, of cold ‘n foggy, which she loves, it was so good to breathe in that air and see the waves crashing.

      Hope you get lots of great outdoor time the rest of summer and fall, & thanks again for stopping by!

      XOXOXO Dy

      p.s. I’m only on Instagram and this blog right now – I’m taking a Facebook & Twitter break until Oct. 1 XO

  7. I’m glad you have such a lovely place to go for therapy. I live on 13 acres, most of which are woods. I’m grateful to have beautiful spot in my backyard.

    1. Thanks so much, Sheri! That’s awesome you live on a chunk of woodsy land! I used to live up in the mountains on a property located next to many trails, some of which led all the way down to the ocean. It was amazing, and I miss the ease of being able to walk out my studio’s front door and immediately have that access. At least I’m not that far away from Fall Creek, thank goodness!

      I appreciate your stopping by here, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
      Take care, Dyane 😊

    1. How I wish you, S., Lucy & I could trek there together, although Lucy probably would be too aggressive for S.’s comfort level – the Hobbit Hole is way freakier and bigger-looking when you’re there in person. You know I’m no gifted photographer like, ahem, you! And speaking of you…

      Been thinking of you, and I (along with many others) *really* miss you online, but we know you have stuff going on, ahem.

      Sending you hugs, big ones! 💙
      Fryane

  8. Curses!!! I wasn’t able to post it on the WAAAAY BEYOND LEMONADE page! If you could do the honors, Dyane, I’d greatly appreciate it. I think this has to do with the audience you chose for the post. Boo hiss! I’d love for my likers of that page to become acquainted with your writing. xo

    1. I just did the honors, my lovely, and I sure hope that it worked! 👍

      I didn’t even realize I could choose audiences for my posts – drat!!!
      Do you have any advice for Honey Pot WordPress luddites like me? 😽

      1. Yes, it worked, and I thank you again!

        Facebook likes to complicate our lives. I think ordinarily, posts are for friends only, but you can make them public, block certain people, etc., blah, barf!!

  9. This is such a wondrous post, Dyane. I want to post it on my Facebook page for WAAAY BEYOND LEMONADE. I share your connection to the natural world and maybe like me, it is your greatest healer as well. If I lived there, we’d go on many hiking adventures in Fall Creek! Bright Blessings, my dear Honey Pot! I love you!

    1. Your comment was AWESOME to read, dear Merry!

      Yesterday I had a long, challenging day in which “Shrew” would’ve been a more fitting name for me.
      I didn’t get over to Fall Creek with Lucy (boo!) like I planned, so yes, it was extra-sweet to read your affirming words!

      I went over to your Facebook page and copied this post’s link – I hope I did it right!
      Please let me know if I didn’t! Love you too, my nature-lovin’ friend! 🌅🌈💗

      ❤️
      the one, the only….Honey Pot!!!!
      🐝
      😻

  10. What a wonderful place to be! I have a ‘Thinking Tree’ in a local(ish) park. It has a low branch I can sit on and looks out over the lake. I feel such peace there 🙂

    1. Yes, Laura – Fall Creek incredible and my words can’t begin to do the place justice.

      The “Thinking Tree” sounds fantastic! 🌳 Especially since you look out over water!
      What an ideal combination….

      Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment. It lifts my spirits to read encouraging words such as yours, and I’ll catch up at your blog ASAP. I’m more behind with my WordPress reader than usual, but I use the weekend to get back into the swing of things.

      Take care & enjoy “your” tree to the fullest! 😊

  11. My Fall Creek is the beach. I would be there all day every day if I could. Glad you found your sanctuary and glad you have your pepper spray

    1. Thanks, my friend! I forgot to post our Lose It! Group info., but there’s always next week. 🙂
      You’ve been going on some incredible walks at the beach lately (10+ miles, ahem!) and I’m so proud of you. Thanks for stopping by and let me know what you find out about comments going astray – we can’t have that! 🙀

  12. Your girls are so lovely, love the picture of the three of you! I so agree with you about the therapeutic effect of trees, I love them and feel a strong, protective emanation from them as well. What a lovely place Fall Creek is, hope you have a wonderful time there. xxxxoooo

    1. Hey there beautiful Lady Samina! I know how much you love and appreciate the power of nature! I didn’t get my “Fall Creek Fix” yesterday and I hope today I get over there. If I do, I’ll dedicate my hike to you!
      ❤️

      p.s. Have a good weekend – I know you’ve been through so much lately, so I hope it’s restful and you treat yourself especially well!

    1. I’m happy you’re the first, Jess! woooo hoooo! 👍 You make me laugh! I know you’d love Fall Creek as much as I do. And it’s so nice -the redwoods don’t send me evil bills that aren’t covered by my insurance. They’re so considerate, are they not? 😛 Sending you big hugs – you are such a sweetie for commenting and retweeting; I can’t thank you enough but I’ll keep trying. ❤️ U!

I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s