The Long Journey Home

A year ago I was anticipating and training for my Camino pilgrimage. Many of you have inquired about my trip and some of you wondered how it all ended, as my blogging seems to have trailed off at the end. For that I must apologize. I had hoped to share much more of my adventure with you, as it was both amazing and life altering. As I indicated in previous entries, the Camino is a journey that tests the body, mind and spirit and some say that the true journey begins once the Camino ends. This has been my experience. I embarked on this journey seeking a spiritual experience, a chance to go inward and take time to consider the direction I would like my life to take. Turning 50 has indeed been a milestone and has coincided with other recent life changing/challenging events- completing my Masters degree, coming to terms with my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and Homer’s melanoma, our children leaving home (although they have been flying in and out for some time now- we have finally dismantled the nest), the terminal illness and subsequent death of Homer’s father. I thought the Camino would be a time to ruminate on all of those things, but that wasn’t the case. There came a point in the journey where the rhythm of walking and fellowship with other pilgrims became the focus. It was enough to live in the moment, enjoying each opportunity to see the beauty all around me; whether it was the magnificent landscape, the birdsong during sunrise, the interesting conversations, laughter and simplicity of life shared- and no media to remind me of the real world and its troubles. It was my vision of paradise, and were it not for the love of family and friends back home, I would have been content to stay. In fact, coming home has been the greatest challenge I faced. Having expereinced life on the mountain top, it was difficult to return to life in the “valley of the shadow of death”. Leaving the Camino and my fellow pilgrims was much more difficult than I anticipated, and I was suprised by my sense of loss and grief. Those who have known me longest, know that many years ago I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder (manic depression), which I have managed to control throuogh life style adaptations, such as limiting caffeine, sleep hygene and long distance running. Unfortunately, at the end of my Camino journey, I experienced a manic episode, and my journey did not end as I anticipated. I have coined this part of my trip the “Manical Mystery Tour”. The challenge for me is that my mania, which has only occurred twice in twenty years, goes hand-in-hand with what I perceive to be intense spiritual experiences, resulting in confusion. How am I to process my thoughts and experiences, when mania changes my perceptions? How do I trust my thoughts, when it is my very thoughts that are altered by the mania? It’s a bit of a chicken or egg scenerio. Which comes first? Admitting this recent episode is a challenge, as I have trained as a psychotherapist and am on the cusp of starting private practice. As much as I practice and advocate for mental health, I still feel embarrassed by this diagnosis and have struggled this past year to get my head back above the water line, as the resulting depression has taken me down. It has silenced me. I feel as though I have been in a cocoon- awaiting the warmth and sunshine of spring, eager to spread my wings and rise above once again. It has been a long winter, but I’m getting there, slowly. “One day I will be a beautiful butterfly, and then everything will be better” (quote from Bug’s Life- which my sister Teresa does with a heavy German accent, and makes me pee my pants laughing… but that’s another story). I would love to share more of my Camino stories, and hope to get a chance. Sorry it has taken me this long to get over myself. Love to you all, Janette

This is a print my youngest sister Rhonda created entitled “My Three Sisters”. I look at it as I sweat out my depression on my treadmill, training for an upcoming run, and I am assured that all will be well.

“…We return coloured bright with the things we learned in the woods.”

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9 thoughts on “The Long Journey Home

  1. Janette, love your sensitive and thoughtful descriptions – also your complete honesty. You are truly one in a million! Love and blessings!!

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  2. I can relate to the cocoon analogy. Spring is coming and…oh wow wait: Ryan is listening to The Ellen Show and she is doing some sort of game show and just asked “How many legs does a butterfly have?” (6)
    Verrryy Eeenterresting. No?
    SO ANYWAY: Spring is near and we shall fly like beautiful butterflies very soon! (*Fall Half Marathon?)

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  3. Really inspiring. Whilst I have been lucky enough to never have experienced any major mental issues in my life I’ve had the experience of being in close proximity to friends and family who have struggled badly…some came through successfully some not. Your honesty and what you have achieved in the face of recent challenges is truly inspiring, thought provoking and touching. Although we don’t see each other often, I just wanted to say your experiences on the camino really moved me and often made me take a step back and think about my own life. Congrats to you and good luck in the upcoming marathon. Whilst all runners focus on times, us non-runners stand back in amazement at the thought of completing a marathon time be damned! Enjoy all that Rome has to offer it is a truly fantastic city and wishing you all the best. Pat

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    1. Thanks Pat. Wish you were closer and could hang with the high school ladies more often! One day we will invade your place in Spain and enjoy all the bounty of that wonderful country! Loved that I could have water or wine at the same price there…. it was like a miracle!

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