How rock climbing became the unlikely cure for my depression.
I’ve always considered myself a happy and optimistic person with a variety of sports and outdoor activities serving as a reliable source for my emotional balance. Although this mindset carried me well into my thirties, eventually I found myself sliding down a slippery slope of depression. I was unable to recognize, control, or counteract the forces in my mind that were suddenly dragging me down. What happened?
As you can imagine, I dealt with my share of injuries through my passion for sports. Most were easy heals, but in my mid-thirties I was faced with a setback that turned my world upside down. I underwent a major reconstructive surgery on my knee and during the operation contracted an infection. The aftermath resulted in five additional operations, extended hospital time, intense pain, and nearly a year without the use of my left leg.
While my knee eventually healed, I grew fearful of reliving my prior pain when returning to the sports I loved. I gradually stopped playing and lost the crucial key to my sense of fulfillment. This is when my depression set in. As I sunk deeper into a personal gloom, I came dangerously close to losing my wife and even contemplated suicide. Conventional therapy and other psychoanalytical treatments helped to an extent, but they mostly served as temporary Band-Aid fixes.
When my wife became pregnant, I knew I had to heal from this internal struggle or I would lose everything I loved. I had to find a healthy activity to bring my body and mind back to focus.
In my good fortune, a friend of mine managed a local rock climbing gym. Climbing was a sport I had tried, but never put much energy into. After pondering its prospects, I decided to take up my buddy’s invitation to give it another shot. I joined the gym, bought some basic climbing shoes, a chalk bag, and a harness. This small act made a huge difference!
In climbing, I finally found a community and physical outlet that was sorely missing in my life. The excitement, energy, and confidence I built scaling those walls helped me overcome the depression rooted inside me. I met new and interesting people, many of whom were like-minded, adventurous, and partaking in other activities I loved. I even started taking yoga classes each week before climbing sessions. I felt inspired and challenged again. Each time I completed a climb I had not priorly been able to scale, I was building back the confidence in myself I had lost.
Bit by bit, I literally “climbed” my way out of depression and continued to reach upward to greater sights and steps in my life.
Today, I still climb regularly and use my skills to get outdoors and fulfill my need for nature and adventure. That first step of trying something new opened me up to yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices. I also brought kayaking, hiking, and mountain biking back into my life, and created a wonderful morning routine to shape each day. I have made great strides in my career and social life, and of course, am happily sharing my experiences to help others to find the strength and purpose they already have within themselves!
I recently turned 40, and depression is a part of my past now. Overcoming this adversity ultimately shaped me to be the best version of myself—with the strength, resilience, knowledge, and mindset to be the most amazing husband and father I can be! I am so thankful for overcoming this difficult chapter, and for the wonderful life I now get to live.
For those currently experiencing depression, know there is a bright shining light inside each of us. The activities and mindsets needed to overcome it will be as unique as the causes, but there is always a way through. I hope sharing my personal story will in some way help others to find their own way to “climb” through their struggle and rise above.
Author: Rama Davis
Editor: Danielle Beutell