Grief Gave Me an Adventure Itch

Shanon Adame
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readOct 7, 2023

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A question from my mom led me out of my depression

“Do you feel joy?” That’s what my mother asked over the phone after I had been hemming and hawing over whether or not I was depressed. I’m the sort of person who will not realize they are depressed until the depression is gone, and I think back to myself, “Wow! I felt like shit!”

I thought about it for a minute. Sure, I’d had happy moments — the sound of cicadas in my backyard on a smothering August evening. Dancing with my husband in the kitchen while the sweetly acidic smell of spaghetti sauce bubbled on the stove. Walking through the woods with my dog. Spotting an elusive king snake while out on a solo walk. But unfettered joy? Elation? Ecstasy? I couldn’t remember the last time I felt those things. Not even when I found out I was pregnant. That was more of a nervous exhilaration followed by wondering how I would balance marriage, school, work, five dogs, and a baby… and still pursue my dreams. These thoughts still come by to bite me with guilt from time to time.

I did not free-fall into grief-based depression. I slowly sank, like when you stand too long in a muddy area and go to move and realize that while you were standing there unaware, your feet have sunk inches into the muddy mess, and you cannot move. That’s how it was for me. By the time I thought, “I have to pick myself up out of this,” I had completely sunk. I was in my junior year of college, which has its own challenges as a non-traditional student trying to make adult life and college life fit together, and I found myself unexpectedly pregnant. My husband and I were certainly not trying to get pregnant at that time, but we weren’t NOT trying either. Just seven weeks later, I had a miscarriage.

My husband calls me a compartmentalizer. I file things like emotions and traumatic events away in the dark admin section of my brain. There, nicely organized and logically dealt with, they make sense to me. The problem with that, however, is that there isn’t a lot of feeling happening. The feeling generally will surface at a later date when it explodes like a pressure cooker.

A great example of this is when the railing on my fridge door broke, and all the condiments fell onto the floor. I was having a hard day; it was my 4th month of not being able to get pregnant after the miscarriage, and my husband and I had gotten into a fight that evening. I’d had a shitty day at school and was feeling particularly low. I picked up the first bottle and, as if my soul left my body, started throwing bottle after bottle at the kitchen window. Mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire… there are still stains on the ceiling that we were unable to scrub away… which I suppose could be poetic, but mostly, it’s just annoying.

After my miscarriage, I took a week off from work (the thought of dealing with customers was too much to bear), but I kept going to class. I just trucked along as normally as I could, and I think this was detrimental because this was when the slow sinking happened.

By the time I entered the second semester of my junior year, I had gained 20 pounds and felt miserable. I had tried to regain control of my body by attempting to get pregnant again for months but was unable to, which only made me feel like I was spinning more out of control. I was exhausted from school, and my company had just started to automate our department, so I woke up every day wondering if I was going to lose my job. I was a mess.

I was lucky enough to have had the foresight to sign up for a class called “Words and the Land,” led by one of my most favorite professors. The objective of the class? Walk. Walk in nature. Sit in nature. Contemplate in nature. And write about it.

I found the walking especially helpful. It felt like if I was moving, then I wasn’t sinking. The walking was so therapeutic that I remember during one particularly uphill excursion, I ended up far ahead of the group. I couldn’t will my feet to stop.

In that class, I was also introduced to the author, Elizabeth Gilbert. We read her short story Elk Talk, and I felt drawn to the simplicity of her writing that could be unraveled to reveal larger hidden themes and issues. I also felt a sisterhood in her care for describing the natural world. I made it through that semester and, over the summer, started taking weight loss pills to try to aid me in losing the stubborn weight I had gained. While the weight loss pills were supposed to boost your energy, I only felt an increased heart rate and a strong desire to keep the blinds drawn and lay on the couch, which I did for most of the summer. I also didn’t lose any weight. It was at this time that I decided to read Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.

I felt like I had never related more to a person or story in my entire life. I, too, felt suffocated by depression. I, too, felt stuck… running on a never-ending hamster wheel of work and classes. I needed and desired BIG changes but was not in the season to have them.

I too wanted to run, to discover, to adventure. My copy of her book is creased, underlined, and stained with food because if you have read it, you will understand how hungry the first half will make you. I thought, this woman knows exactly what I am going through, and she helped herself by running off to different countries and exploring different lives…and by doing that, rediscovered herself.

All I could think was, how do I do that? I started to burn with excitement. I needed more. More change, more movement, more adventure.

Realistically, I can’t. Not now, in my last two semesters of school. To up and leave, no matter how tempting, would be to throw away years of hard work and sacrifice and I think my husband would have an aneurysm after the amount of money we have spent on this degree. I decided that if I couldn’t go on grand adventures, I could at least go on small ones. A trip to a state park. A walk through the woods. A bike ride through the neighborhood. And really importantly, solo trips.

I needed to feel, at least sometimes, that I was taking on these adventures alone. I realized I needed that when I received a free trip to The Biltmore Estate through my work to be honored as an exemplary employee. My husband could not come with me, so I made the drive to North Carolina alone and spent a weekend with myself, touring the ornate house and walking through the farmland. I felt like, just a little, I was able to return to my former self. The me, pre-grief.

So, that’s how my grief gave me the adventure itch. And how the adventure itch pulled me out of my sinking mud hole. I’m hoping to go on many more mini-adventures these last two semesters and then on to much bigger ones when I graduate.

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Shanon Adame
Human Parts

Freelance Writer, Ameteur Traveler, CrossFitter Extraordinaire