About a year after graduating from college, I started running on an underdeveloped trail I had found near my house. The trail wasn’t clearly marked, but I wasn’t worried; I loved the freedom that came with trail running. But one day, on one of my runs, I didn’t pay close enough attention to where I was going. Eventually, I stopped, looked around, and realized I had no idea where I was. I instantly began to panic.
My first thought was, “I am going to die out here.”
My experience on that particular run mirrored what I was experiencing emotionally at the time. I had taken so many twists and turns and had become so entangled in my depression and self-injury that I didn’t know where – or who – I was anymore. I was lost, and I was convinced I was going to die.
When I was panicking in the middle of the woods, I convinced myself to calm down. I knew I needed to picture where I had been, and I knew I had to take the trip back to familiar ground slowly. There were times when I made a wrong turn and had to backtrack and start over again, but eventually things became more recognizable. Soon, the beginning of the trail that I knew by heart appeared under my feet. I saw a wide-open space through the trees and knew that home was near.
The same was true for my struggle with depression and self-injury. I needed to get back “home” – to the real Anastasia – and the meant figuring out how I had gotten to where I was in the first place. So I started going to therapy and taking medication. I learned that it was OK to not have it all together or to know where I was; I just needed to know that I couldn’t stay in that place. Just like on my run, I had to slowly and thoughtfully figure out each step back to where I wanted to be.
Although it was terrifying being lost in the woods, the sense of relief and exhilaration I felt when I finally found my way back home made the run worth it. And although I still struggle with depression and thoughts of self-injury, I hope that one day I’ll feel a sense of relief when I look back see and the journey I took. I hope I’ll be able to tell someone else who is struggling to keep putting one foot in front of the other because it will get better, that it is possible to break through the forest of darkness. And maybe one day, I’ll be able to say, “Welcome home.”