A Letter to my Daughter, Part II

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My dearest Zoe, today I took a trip to Zion, which was badly needed. I dropped Brook and the kids of at the school around eight and headed east towards the park around 8:30. I arrived at the trailhead for Angels Landing around 9:40 and headed up the trail as fast as I could. I needed to be back at the school by 1, so I had to hustle in order to reach the summit and return in time.

The Angels Landing trail is considered by many to be one of the greatest in all of North America, and ever since I first reached the lofty summit of this magnificent peak in 2011, I have wanted to take you on it. (We got about 3/4 of the way up the trail about a month or so ago.) I sincerely look forward to the day when you and I can do it together. Of course, being that this trail has massive exposure, we will have to work on regaining a lot of trust before I take you on it.

I thought of you a lot as I hiked, but I didn’t once think of that terrible scene from a week ago. This is a trail that requires full concentration. Being freed from that God-awful mental loop was a major relief for me. This is one reason why I climb, it frees me from any and all issues I might be experiencing back in the “real” world. I think that you too will utilize this aspect of climbing as you grow.

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The famsters on the Angels Landing trail, in Refrigerator Canyon

 

I want to return to the thread I began in my last letter to you. I ended it by recalling how I ended up moving to Southern Oregon. Despite living about an hour from you, I made every effort to see you on the weekends, often driving over one thousand miles each month in order to do so. I am proud of that fact. I would have done it even if the distance had been further.

Shortly after moving to Roseburg, I met Brook and we fell in love and created a family together. Your brother Ryan was about a month and a half when Brook and I met, and you were so excited to be an instant older sister. You were six when this happened. For a while, you and Brook had a somewhat harder time bonding, but when you admitted to being jealous of her, everything changed. You guys grew closer and closer as time went on, something that made me profoundly happy. Eventually you even started calling her mama.

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This was during the worst period of chronic pain, as evidenced by my gaunt appearance.

 

These were some difficult times for all of us. My chronic pain issues reached their peak, and there were times I seriously considered suicide myself. I was in so much agony then, and it seemed like there was no escaping it. You were always so protective and compassionate to me when I would be wracked by pain. It was hard for me to be as good a father as I wanted then. Thankfully, I would eventually find the medication that would unlock the doors of this prison.

Despite that rough time, we still managed to find time to go climbing and hiking occasionally. I remember really well when you were seven, and Ryan was a year old, we hiked to the top of Mt. Bailey, an 8000′ mountain just an hour from home. That hike was a true mountain climb: 11 miles roundtrip with something like 3000′ of elevation gain. But you did it, and all under your own power. I was so impressed. On the way back down, you were so exhausted that you kept falling asleep on your feet as we walked.

Zoe, Brook and Ryan on Mt. Bailey

Zoe, Brook and Ryan on Mt. Bailey

Then a couple of weeks later we made an attempt on Union Peak, a smaller mountain in Crater Lake National Park. Again, you did great, but neglected to tell us that your ill-fitting shoes were forming blisters on your feet. When we were within a few hundred feet of the summit, the pain got to be too much and you had to stop just short of the peak. Unfortunately, your feet were so thrashed that you had to be carried out, something like five and a half miles. My friends Scott and Eddie took turns carrying you. Luckily you were small enough that this was possible.

Zoe on the way up Union Peak

Zoe on the way up Union Peak

During this period, we had a lot of financial struggles, and had to move several times. We lived for a time in a mobile home on the banks of the North Umpqua river and that was a magical time for us. Our good friends Amy and Erik lived next door, and their son Hagen and you really enjoyed being able to see each other that often. But all good things come to an end, and more financial struggles forced us once again to move, this time relocating to my Mom’s home.

Around that same time, you and your mom moved north to Portland, and my ability to see you on a weekly basis came to an end. This was probably the most difficult period we had faced, but again, we managed to stay close.

End part II

Zoe swims

An Update

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Well, the news is better today. Had a really good talk with both Zoe and her mom today, and after some going back and forth, we decided that Zoe should start taking an anti-depressant, specifically Zoloft. So tomorrow she will begin, on very low doses and monitored closely by the staff at Provo Canyon Behavioral Hospital. I am beyond relieved at this point.

Today was really rough before this decision was made, I was having horrible, horrible anxiety, wondering what we could do to truly help my girl. I felt so helpless and weak.

But now it feels like things might turn around. She will be staying for a little while longer while they monitor her and make sure everything is working properly. I miss her terribly and just want her to come home, but not at the expense of her health and her life. This is the right thing to do.

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Tomorrow I am taking a day to myself. I am going to drop off Brook and the kids at school and head straight there. I am assuming that I will probably be scaling Angels Landing via the cables route, but I may change my mind and do something else instead.

I really hope this is the shift we are needing. I really believe Zoe is a changed person after this. I pray that is true, and we can work towards building a beautiful future for her.

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Swallowed by Darkness

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I am not in a good place right now. I know that the main reason is because I am exhausted. Too much work, too many emotions, and not enough self-care have conspired to rob me of whatever shred of positivity I have left. I have nothing left.

I cannot get the images of my daughter hanging from the tree out of my head. It’s bad enough that I keep replaying that scene over and over again, but what I am truly plagued by right now is the what-ifs? What if I hadn’t woken up in time? What if she had succeeded in killing herself? I cannot seem to stop thinking about and imagining this worst-case scenario. I see here there, hanging, stiff and lifeless for us to discover in the morning. It is the worst thing I can imagine, and I can’t stop imagining it.

I need sleep. I need more than one day to take care of myself. I need an outlet. I need medication. I need to stop. I just want to stop. How can I make it stop?

I am such a shell right now. I feel incapable of smiling, or laughing, or seeing good in much of anything. I know I won’t stay this way, but right now, this is where I am. Surrounded by the dark, with a wounded heart and seemingly no light to guide me out of it.