Today is my birthday. I hit 63 years old today, April 16th. I’m somewhat surprised that I made it to 63.
That said, I decided to give myself a present – a new “About” page.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the blog lately. A lot. It’s sure taken on a different tone from when it began back in January 2015. That’s when the last “About” page was created. Things have changed. Really changed! So much so that the original page no longer contains “Must Know Info” … stuff that, if not read first, would cause you to be totally lost. Like “not watching the first two years of Breaking Bad and expecting to understand the plot” lost.
So here’s what I think you need to know.
- We left Charleston, SC in May 2015 and hit the road. We’re basically vagabonds, except that we’re vagabonds with a plan. We stay in government-owned and private campgrounds. We have an itinerary. We have a budget. We have a plan … and the plan is to see the entire country while living off my $1,750 monthly social security check.
- Oh yeah … “we“. We is Frank and Jeff. I’m Jeff, the human. I do the driving, itinerary preparation, shopping, bill paying, the writing, etc. etc. Frank is my companion. Mi compadre. My trusted adviser … and the chief navigator on this little expedition. Frank is my 10+ year old (I’m guessing) beagle. Frank and I met in the summer of 2014. He’s a rescue dog, from the Humane Society. Technically though, I’m not sure which of us was rescued and which one was the rescuer. Outside of a brother in Indiana, Frank is my entire family.
- This trip was a “desperate measures” idea. I’ve suffered from a lifetime of deep depression and massive anxiety. They’re symptoms: the diagnosis was “complex PTSD”, but those are just words. Besides the diagnosis wasn’t made until about five years ago. Before that and for the last 40+ years, I was called everything from “Type A” to “depressed” to “perfectionist” to “crybaby” to whatever. I was diagnosed with everything from depression to ADHD to bi-polar to I-don’t-even-remember. There’s plenty in the early part of the blog that discusses the reasons behind the final diagnosis. If you’re interested, you can go back and look. Me? I think I’m finally past it. I will say that I was suicidal at the end of 2014. I was a shut-in, experiencing long periods of dissociation – “time holes”, so to speak. I’d slip out of reality for an hour or three or five or longer. I couldn’t meet client obligations … at least I couldn’t meet them to my satisfaction. I was alone. From my perspective, I had ruined every single relationship I ever had. I didn’t trust people: in fact, I had lost faith in the “innate goodness of man”. I was at the end of my rope. I had been there before, but this was different. I made plans to end my life. For a reason that involved Frank, I wound up putting them aside, but recognized that I had to do something drastic. I couldn’t be a shut-in anymore. I had to engage the world.
We started out in a tent. A nice one, 14’x10′ of area with an airbed and lots of accessories. It was very comfortable, but incredibly time consuming to setup and break down. Then stuff started happening. The air bed went down (twice) and was ultimately replaced by a cot. We lost our first tent to October 2015 storms near Corpus Christi. The second tent was heavily damaged by high winds near Harlingen a couple of months later. It finally went down for good in February when the primary crossbeam snapped, the results of the damage done in December. The timing couldn’t have worked out better though – through the help of friends, we were able to buy a used camper trailer, appropriately christened, “The Nutshell”. A teardrop, as they’re called … although mine isn’t the classic shape. It’s more “boxy”. But it’s light enough to be towed by my Azera, is comfortable as all hell, offers a “kitchen” galley that’ll keep me honest on my diet, and simplifies getting in and out of camp beyond my wildest dreams!
- We’ve come a long way on this trip, and I’m not talking mileage. Mentally, I’m better than I’ve been in a long time: I’ve not experienced a single “dissociative” episode since leaving Charleston. My depression has lifted considerably. I had a few moments early on, but where they typically would have lasted weeks or months, they only lasted a few days. I can’t remember the last one, but it was before the holidays. I’ve gotten hold of my anxiety, too. Sure stuff happens, and I am occasionally anxious. But I no longer have overwhelming attacks like I used to. The kind that comes on for no apparent reason, and you drive yourself crazy trying to figure out “why?“. Anxiety is now more centered and much easier to put aside, too. Emotionally? I feel peace. I feel happiness. The challenge now is to hold those feelings. To fight the “other shoe” syndrome. If you’re like me, you understand what I mean: “You may be happy and at peace now, but something bad is going to happen. Something bad is going to happen.” That really hasn’t been a problem. So far so good.
- I started out telling people that this was a three year camping expedition. That was just to keep things simple and avoid having to answer questions. In reality, I don’t know how long Frank and I will be on the road. Last birthday, I didn’t expect to make a year. Today? I’m figuring out our itinerary and I don’t see how we can pull off a country-wide journey in less than five years (with one almost under our belt). So I’m leaving it open ended at this point. We’ll be off the road when it happens. It could be four years from now. It could be sooner: if we find a place that feels like it could be home; or if some health issues pop up. I said something to a friend the other day, paraphrased to, “Don’t worry about where you wind up. Focus on the journey.” Not bad advice. Figgered I should listen to it.
- I post with a variety of tags that represent vagabonding, camping with a beagle, and full time RVing. I also post with a variety of tags such as depression, anxiety and complex PTSD. I’m going to keep doing the latter. It’s been only recently apparent that the tone of the blog has become lighter. My symptoms no longer occupy as much column space as they used to. But I often include some ideas that have helped me effectively deal with those symptoms. I feel like they’re in regression. So if I can help someone else get closer to dealing with theirs, or at a minimum, let them see that someone else is making it out of the blackness and that there are possibilities, then that’s a good thing, too. I’m not saying you have to take as radical an action as me. But some of the changes I’ve made can be made by anyone – you don’t have to get rid of everything you own and become a gypsy.
So that’s it … except for one thing.
The progress we’ve made towards being happy? It would not have been possible without the support of friends. I’ve been blessed with an untold amount of morale support. We’ve even been blessed with financial support, too. We’ve had friends come out and spend time at one of our campsites. Some folks have even put me up for a night or two (or five). There have been emails and Facebook messages and phone calls, all offering support at critical times. They all matter a great deal to me! They’ve acted as steps, carved into the wall of the bottomless pit I found myself in. It’s a two-part thing. You’ve been there for me … but I’ve had to make the climb.
So. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you become a regular follower. If you want to send a message, feel free to use the form below.