At Hike the World, we share stories about how nature and hiking can ease the struggle with depression and anxiety. We share stories about strong people who have felt lost and alone in the hopes that others feel safe enough to tell their stories. Erica's story is a powerful one and we are very thankful that she felt comfortable enough to send it to us.
She first messaged us about how hiking helped her deal with the grief of losing her mother. Her raw honesty about her struggles impressed and touched us. She is now a hike leader for the LGBTQIA+ community with the Dyke Hikers, a volunteer trail steward with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and an outdoor mentor to new hikers.
My entire life I've struggled with understanding my purpose and have merely existed through each day. I've battled severe anxiety, depression, family strain, and conflict for as long as I can remember. Three years ago my mother informed my family that she had terminal cancer, was declining treatment, and wanted to live her last moments with her family in a happy and positive manner. I had to disregard every conflict we've ever had and focus on the time we had left to spend with one another. So mother and daughter time commenced as we ventured out with a local women's hiking group for the day. Neither of us had really hiked before and we both had a blast and shared a perfect memory that is instilled with me to this day. More time passed and I slowly watched my mother's health deteriorate. During this time, I was introduced to the hiking community with open arms and a ton of smiles. I made a few friends that took me under their wing and they taught me so many aspects of hiking and of the outdoors. I soon realized that the outdoor world was going to be much more than just a coping mechanism.
My mother passed a year after her diagnosis and my feelings were inconceivable at the time. The only thing that helped me get through the pain and grief of her passing was the mountains, the fresh air, and the laughs on the trails. My hiking buddies showed up every weekend for me, checked in on me, and always provided me support when I was struggling. As a remembrance to my mother, on her one year anniversary, I summited Mt. Washington. It was very special for me as I stayed in an AMC hut that evening and made sure that I was summiting Mt. Washington at the exact time that she passed away. I wanted to show her how far I've come in the year and that no matter what, I was going to do it and be okay.
During this three year grief journey, I went from not knowing how to read a trail map to being a hike leader for the LGBTQIA+ community with the Dyke Hikers, a volunteer trail steward with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, an outdoor mentor to new hikers and specifically an outdoor enthusiast that thrives in the mountains. I have recently left the mental health services field in which I spent fourteen years advocating for children with mental illness. I took a leap of faith and recently started working as a Support Guide at the Ridge and Valley Charter School educating youth for a sustainable future. I now know my purpose and I can finally say that I know my mother is proud of who I am becoming.
Follow Erica's adventures on IG @finkers28!
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