When I woke up that sunny, summer morning I didn’t know that at some point that day I’d be naked in the middle of nowhere, covered in bug bites and trying not to drown in a muddy river.
24 HOURS BEFORE NAKED DRAMA
I was dealing with relationship problems which were getting worse. (Don’t worry, I’m better now and I’m happy with someone else who is super awesome!) I kept needing time away from the situation. If it had been possible, I would have spent time away from myself. One thing life doesn’t let us do, right? Funny that we are eternally stuck in our own company. A friend saw my need to get out and about, inviting me out to a park of wilderness and natural springs.
In Florida, especially where I was, it’s all about water. It’s everywhere. Every type of H2O form there can be, it’s there. Swamps, bayous, pools, ponds, lakes, creeks, gulf, brackish, hurricanes, water funnels, torrential rainfall…I swear, there’s water lingering in the air. The humidity is so high that I could straightened my hair and step outside for instant curls. Fruit rotted by the time I got home. Mold is a real issue for everyone. Spiders swim. Side note: going from there to Canada was a shock to my skin. I’m basically bathing in lotion everyday.
The most interesting form of water there were the natural spring waters. Fresh, cold, clean water from deep, deep underground eventually finds the surface and bubbles up, making lovely springs to swim in. We decided to visit one in the middle of nowhere, because nothing could possibly go wrong.
MORNING OF NAKED SITUATION
My friend, her toddler, and I packed into a truck with snacks, drinks, towels, and a map, The first leg of the trip was driving for a bit on normal roads. I don’t remember how long, perhaps an hour…I think more like a couple of hours. Later events take over my memory collection of that day, so who knows.
We spent time talking and laughing and reflecting on life. Our friendship is non-existent these days, but at the time we were close. A couple of years later I would fade out of her life, bearing no ill will to her, but deciding for myself that I can’t be a part of her life. She’s awesome and it’s difficult to explain. I miss her. She’s a great listener and great at being with someone in the moment. She was being a great friend for me. This adventure was supposed to be a fun, relaxed time for all three of us.
T-MINUS ZERO TO NAKED
We get a little confused trying to find the spring and are driving pretty deep into woods and mud paths. We were close to the spring when we drive past prison-workers without a guard. Several men were working on something in the middle of the woods with only a port-a-potty and tools. Neither of us are the judging type, but we’d rather not be in the woods alone with strangers. We both decide to not care unless it becomes an issue. Little did I know, it was foreshadowing to the tone of the day: surprise!
The spring was tucked away in a large, group camping area with a picnic bench deep in pine tree forest. The shade was cool, but the air was still hot from new summer sun. It smelled like trees and dirt; I was in heaven. The spring was larger than I had imagined. It was probably more than 20 feet wide in some places and several feet deep in a few spots.
We had forgotten about the rain from days before.
For those who are more city-folk than country-folk, rain changes bodies of water. They can get super muddy and even dangerous. The spring was so muddy it was impossible to see into the water. The current was swift and strong.
“We’re strong swimmers!” we said. None of us brought swimsuits, but being women alone in the woods just means swimming in the skinny. This is when things turn for the crazy. Keep in mind, I’m white as the moon. Seriously, I glow in the dark. The Florida sun was shining off my white skin like a reflector. Perhaps that’s how the demons found me.
Standing in the nude several feet from the water I was attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. For those who don’t know what a mosquito is…it’s the devil spawn of hell. Mosquitoes activate my darkside, turning me into a lord of darkness bent on world domination and complete annihilation of all things mosquitoes. Think Kylo Ren from Star Wars. If I was a bard retelling the story to drunk warriors by a hearth, I’d say 10,000 demon blood suckers swarmed us and we fled to the water for our lives.
You know how sometimes you enter natural water with caution because it’s so cold? You stand in it waist-deep for a minute and wait until you’re more comfortable? You giggle about how cold it is and splash your friends because you all are making funny faces?
I ran into the cold water and dived in like a polar bear who’d been living in the Sahara for ten years. Fear of cold was silenced by blood-sucking biters. My thought was, “ArrrRRrrggGgGGghhHhHH!“
IT GETS WORSE
Now, two adult women and a small child are in underworld cold water bear butt and covered in bites. Don’t worry…the ice muddy water blunted the pain at that point…but we’re moving…? I tilt my head as I notice the shore is moving away.
The current is strong. At least, both of us being optimists, we smile and say things like, “Oh, the current is fast” and “it’s been awhile since I swam last”. Then panic sets in as we’re trying to swim. I try to swim across the spring to no avail. Keep in mind I’m a natural swimmer. I don’t have amazing form or anything like that. I can’t dive right most of the time, but I feel at home in the water. A good current though and I’m helpless. I’m only part-mermaid. My Viking learned that in the gulf last year…that’s another story.
Anyway, I try to swim across the spring to the other shore. Nope. I lower my standards to a large branch sticking out in the water. Nope. I lower my standards more, aiming for a root. Nope. Okay, perhaps just not get swept away? Nope. Every muscle is working to just not float away. The toddler is climbing unto her mother’s head. I hadn’t thought about how her work was even harder and I move to help. The child now goes back and forth between us as we try to stay afloat.
We’re fighting the current in cold water, naked and afraid of biting demons. We try to make the best of it and are eventually like…This is not what I imagined or hoped. I am not relaxed.
There was actually a moment I started to worry. Legitimate fear crept in and started to imagine myself on a shore miles down the spring with no clothes.
After a long struggle, we managed to grab roots and pull back onto shore, climbing up a muddy curve into demon biter land again. We rushed to the car, put on the clothes quick as wit, and sat in the truck. I felt gross, tired, winded, wet, and itchy. I had hoped for a relaxing, meditative day in the water and I’m sure my friend did, too. I wasn’t angry or sad, just thinking, Well, that just happened.
POST DEMON LORD WATER TORTURE SITUATION
The outing still helped my mental state, as I was dreaming often about drowning. That’s yet another story for another day, but this unexpected event taught me something. That day and over the span of two years I learned something weird about me that I still don’t understand fully. For some reason, no matter how grim the situation is, I don’t quit. Sometimes to a fault, so it’s a not brag. There are times I should quit and be swept away. I’m still learning, but I’m glad to know I have grit. Swimming in muddy water in the woods isn’t an example of my grit, but it was a tiny moment of my stubbornness.
I SAY ALL THAT TO SAY THIS
I used a funny story that happened to me to mention something else…
Depression is like drowning. We don’t expect a drowning person to save their own life, why do we expect someone suffering from depression to save their own life alone? Change my story…what if it had been the small child alone? Or just the mother and child without me to help? Or just me, plus lost in the woods and injured? Also, telling someone to “suck it up and deal with it” is like telling a naked, injured person drowning in a river to help himself. Uh, not possible.
When someone is suffering from depression, their brain cells are releasing chemicals (summed up in layman terms) that affect their whole body. In some cases, the brain cells are doing this without reason – as in there’s a natural chemical imbalance in the body and it’s not that person’s fault. Even if the depression is caused by an outside force, like something horrible happening to the person, we should reach out like a root in the river for them to hold on to, help them back to the shore.
People don’t walk into depression willing, just like I didn’t walk into a mosquito swarm and fast river with the intent to suffer. Sure, people could try to argue that I should have brought insect repellent or a swimsuit or just not gotten into the water…
Some people don’t have access to mental health care. We don’t choose our life, our body, or our brain. Besides that, people make mistakes. Should they suffer endlessly because we feel better just standing there and not helping? Why wouldn’t you want to help someone?
Spin off from some of my favorite quotes…if you’re not helping people, what are you doing? I’m not wanting anyone to feel guilty, just understand that depression is real and we all can help.
If you see someone fighting the current, reach out.
If you’re having a bad day, just picture a nerdy girl glowing white in the pine forest running from a swarm of bugs into ice cold water. I may or may not have been screaming.
If you have any problems with these sources or have better suggestions, let me know!