I have lived in San Diego for about 5 years now, and it is just not my cup of tea. I could tell you all of the reasons why, but that isn’t the purpose of this story. It just isn’t for me, and there are many aspects about it that led me to this conclusion. I will say that the main turn off for me is the heat, which of course probably has you wondering why I moved here to begin with. Well, that is a long story for another time. And even so, I do not regret moving here because I have experienced some immense life changes that I otherwise may not have.
The reason that I mention this is that even with how much I dislike this city, I cannot deny how utterly beautiful the scenery can be. Just driving throughout San Diego county will give you such a variation of sights that you can’t help but marvel at. Ocean, mountains, desert, forest… I have to admit, this place has it all! Unfortunately, due to my distaste for heat and the overabundance of sunshine found here, it took me far too long to experience any of it.
I found myself barricading myself in my apartment whenever possible, which for someone with my particular mental health issues is just about the worst thing you can do. I grew more irritable, depressed, and bitter. Since I really only saw the canyons around my house I always scoffed when people spoke about the scenery here being beautiful. To me it was just dry, dirty, hot, and not worth my time. Mountains? Nope, those are dirt hills. The northwesterner in me was crying to be let out, to be allowed to explore the outdoors and breath in the fresh air. Sadly she was being kept locked in the attic where she couldn’t bother me.
So when we finally made the decision to move, I was overjoyed. I couldn’t get out fast enough, and packed up our apartment immediately. Of course I was jumping the gun, we didn’t have the means to move quite yet. I began getting disheartened again, thinking I was going to be stuck forever. My boyfriend (Jeremy) didn’t want me shrinking back deeper into the hole of despair which I had been fighting so hard to crawl out of over the past few years, so he thought of things that we could do to get ready, to focus on and get us excited for the move. He also lived in the northwest for a few years, and he used to camp in the mountains a lot. This was something that he was really looking forward to about being back up north, and he already had his pack ready to go. He presented the idea of turning our move into a road trip, stopping to camp and hike along the way, which I was hesitant about at first. Being the self doubter that I am, I began telling myself all of the reasons why I couldn’t do it. I’m too out of shape for these hikes. It has been too long since I have navigated in the woods, I might get lost! What if a bear attacks me?! What if a UFO comes down and snatches me from my tent?! What if, what if, what if… While I was excited at the concept, my depression and anxiety were on either side of me trying to squash that excitement by being as irrational as possible.
San Diego had record rainfall this year, which made the girl happy as clam (a really depressed clam). Not only did this help the drought that we’ve been in forever, but it caused what they were referring to as a “super bloom”. Meaning that all of the plant life out in the desert areas were booming! The rainfall had supplied enough water for them to thrive, and everything that had been seemingly dry and dead just burst to life! One weekend we had nothing to do and were up pretty early. Jeremy suggested a nice drive up to Julian, neither of us had ever been and we figured since we were leaving we should check it out. We didn’t really know what to expect, but I don’t think it was anything close to what we found. We ended up just driving through Julian, not even stopping at any of the shops or restaurants. We continued on through the mountains, where we ended up with some views that we had no idea were out there. Though we weren’t nearly as high as I am used to from the mountains back home, we were still high enough to see the sweeping eastern landscape. As we stopped at various lookouts we were given a clear view of mountains, desert, and all the way out to Salton Sea.
As we continued along Sunrise Hwy through Mount Laguna we came across the Sunrise Trailhead, and decided walk a bit of the trail. Jeremy has had a lifelong dream of hiking the entire PCT, so we thought it would be fun to check out a small section of it. We were treated to a small taste of the super bloom, and lots of fluttering butterflies and buzzing bees.
We walked down the trail a bit but ended up finding this lookout where we sat for a while just enjoying the rolling hills, and the peace and quiet that comes from being this far outside of the city.
As I sat out there I began feeling something I hadn’t felt in a long time: contentment. As many know, when you deal with anxiety and depression it is a constant weight on your shoulders. Sometimes I feel like Dexter, minus the murder-y part, and it is as though I have my own “dark passenger”. And when this figure looms behind you in everything that you do, you just assume it is there. In those rare moments when it takes a back seat and the weight is lifted, you may not even notice right away. It is as though you’ve looked down and all of the sudden realized your shadow is gone, and you’re taken aback because a part of you is missing.
I should be depressed, why am I not? So I sat basking in the sun, enjoying a landscape that wasn’t brown, dry, and dead like what I witnessed every day within the city, and I actually starting feeling excitement. I wanted to check out more trails, I wanted to see more mountains. It was while sitting here that something inside began to shake the cobwebs off and come back to life. And on top of that, I realized what a sour puss I had been for the last few years when it came to what San Diego had to offer. I still accept that it isn’t for me, that hasn’t changed and I have every intention of leaving. But in my state of misery I spent all of this time refusing to acknowledge any of the good things about it. This was an unexpected lesson that I was given, though it may seem like an obvious one. I could have been making the best out of a situation until the time came to remove myself from it, instead of allowing myself to sink further into my unhealthy mental state. I hope that I can remember this in the future and stop letting myself “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, as they say.
Perhaps I am not currently where I would like to be, but I have let that be the controlling factor in my life instead of enjoying what I could in the meantime. Our circumstances are not always as we would like them to be, but we cannot live each day with the idea that “well, life would be great if only…”. I found something to focus my depression on, as though it was just the fact that I didn’t like the city I lived in that caused the 15 years of depression I experienced before living here. It is funny how these few moments of peace that I received out here gave me the clarity to see what a jackass I had been. A much needed revelation, to be sure.
We eventually made our way back to the car, and continued on our way. As our day began nearing its end we found a few more lookouts off of the road where we stopped to admire the landscape. I felt like I could stay out there all day, but it was time to head back home.
Once we got home we began looking at other trails, mountains, and landmarks that we could explore. We began compiling a list of the areas we wanted to see before our move, and though the little monster inside was still causing hesitation, I didn’t feel quite so held back anymore. This short day trip out into Eastern San Diego gave me the motivation that I needed, I found something to focus my attention on and I was ready to see where it would take me.