I knew I would find myself in a mental rut on this journey. That was essentially the point, and I am pretty sure it won't be the last. I find it interesting though, how, for me, I can more easily identify how and why I was in a rut once I am out of it. This of course is not really useful for me while feeling down and depressed, but I am starting to turn my awareness of this into some useful techniques.
You see, I know I have depression. I know there is a lot to be grateful for, and I am fortunate to be here doing this, and I have an awesome support network back home - but that does not change how I am thinking and feeling right now.
It is like I have an emotional 'see-saw'/'teeter-totter' inside me, that I must carefully balance with proper nutrition, regular writing and awareness of how my actions effect my mind, body and spirit. However, this system is not perfect, and depression likes to cheat anyway. I feel like I am doing a great job balancing my 'see-saw'/'teeter-totter', then depression comes along and plops itself down on one end, like an unmovable 500lb grey blob mocking me. The fat bastard begins to block out the sun, until I eventually am suspended in emotional limbo, blind to any feelings that could guide me out of here. Mentally, I am aware of this, but emotionally and even physically, I am powerless to this numbness. This is what a "rut" is for me.
The first step is to try and feel something, anything, positive or negative (more likely negative). I am feeling down, so it is negative feelings that got me here, and are likely the most accessible. I need to identify and feel them fully, which is why the well-meaning "you'll be fine", "stay positive", "it is ok", etc. are actually quite counter-productive. Ignoring or running from the negative thoughts and emotions does not make them go away, and I instead need to start feeling my way through the darkness.
"What is this feeling?" "Where did it come from?" "When did it start?" "When does it become most obvious?"
I am trying to survey the depth and width of this rut, while blindfolded and still inside it. Eventually, I start making some progress.
This rut began when I caught up with a friend from New Zealand while I was in San Francisco. She had recently quit her job and was telling me how ready she was to keep exploring the world, and wondered how she would ever settle back down in New Zealand. I contrastingly replied how I had been on-and-off travelling abroad and around New Zealand since graduating from high school, and had barely seen my family in 3 years now. If anything, I was excited to get home and see them, but first, I have two continents to travel by motorbike. Enter, homesickness.
Then I had a big old rant (as I occasionally do) about motorbike travel itself. This is my first ever trip by motorbike, so these realisations may seem a little obvious to a more seasoned rider. While on the bike, I have more freedom than your typical vehicle. I can weave through traffic, and easily climb up steep, gravel roads. Even just riding down the highway can be exhilarating, leaning the bike over at 120km/h through long sweeping curves, or whipping it side to side for the tighter corners. Off the bike however, I feel very restricted. I am wearing armoured, Kevlar/Cordura jacket and pants with steel-capped boots. Half of my belongings are locked in panniers on the side of the bike, while the other half are tied on in bags or with bungie chords. Therefore, straying from the bike is a heavy, awkward day-hike anxiously considering the safety of my possessions. It has become evident the most enjoyment is to be had on the bike, which will dramatically reduce the duration of my journey.
I started to notice my negativity heightened whenever I had to continue on past a place of interest without stopping, or if I did stop, when I saw families and couples sharing the experience together. I became worried I was missing some important spots, which prompted me to back-track to the unmissable Yosemite National Park before it was too late. It was there I met some amazing people. A trio of travellers I ended up camping with for a night, with whom I shared uncanny similarities in our personal mental and spiritual growth, and a pair of whitewater rafting guides who were riding motorbikes on a similar route to me. I was inexplicably grateful for the positive signs the universe had sent my way, and planned to meet up with the duo in a couple of days to ride south together.
Then I became incredibly ill. Within days, I had met the pair in a hostel in San Diego, but by that point, was too sick to function. The day they left the hostel for Mexico, I could almost not walk at all, and spent the day shaking and being injected with antibiotics at the urgent care clinic, before passing out for 24 hours in a pool of my own sweat back at the hostel. I recovered in a few days, and was again planning my solo route south.
Now comes the mental back and forth struggle. I have already ridden past world class surf breaks and hiking spots, instead choosing to select a few spots to unload my gear and explore, but am I letting my homesickness influence this? The last thing I want to do is waste the experience of a lifetime while I am here. My younger brother is a semi-professional motorcycle racer, but my passions are on the ocean and in the mountains. I don't think my budget or patience will allow me to go any slower though.
The reality is, I was looking for a challenge. If I was just cruising and surfing the whole way south, my writing and videos would be far less interesting, especially as a means to explore my own mental state. What this rut feels like then is a pit of frustration. Frustration that I still have so long until I see my family and friends again, and frustration that this is not a relaxing vacation. Also frustration in myself and my naivety for only realising this now. This is still an amazing unique experience that I will continue to make the most of, I will just need to adjust my expectations.