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The Wild Depths

A Soul Journey

By Carmen HeniginPublished 25 days ago Updated 21 days ago 3 min read

I have always been a traveler, a wanderer and a wonderer, a risk-taker. Though I have traveled extensively and even lived in both Africa and Europe, Jackson Hole, Wyoming hit a chord within my soul that will never be silenced.

Late August of the year 2020 saw my husband, three daughters and myself pack up a a giant travel trailer and embark on a cross-country adventure. We had never done anything like this before, but I homeschooled the kids while he worked from the road. This unique time in our history provided an opportunity for us to do something we had always talked and dreamed about doing, but never actually anticipated being able to accomplish. We began from our home in Virginia and, for two months, we explored out West-from South Dakota to Glacier National Park to the Rocky Mountains and everywhere in-between.

Teton National Park/Photo by Carmen Henigin

Covid not only provided the opportunity to travel, but also, apparently, for my long-held trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder to roar into our lives. I have always moved at a frenetic pace; antsy if I had to stay home, always on the go, preferably traveling, constantly starting new activities and projects. Turns out, running from yourself can look a lot like accomplishment, but when the global pandemic hit I was forced to stop. I was on a waitlist for a therapist, but the damage was affecting not just me, but my family, as well. When something would trigger me, and most of the time I didn't even know what the trigger was, my reactions were instantaneous and uncontrollable. It was as if I was outside my body watching a stranger shout and yell at my children and husband. It also provided momentary relief, much like lancing a boil, but the people I love most in the world were paying the price and I didn't know what was happening or why. I just knew it felt as though my soul was bleeding all over everyone and everything.

Glacier National Park/Photo by Carmen Henigin

During our trip out West, my virtual therapy sessions started and we began peeling back the layers of trauma. My Daddy dying suddenly when I was a child, my mother's difficult second marriage, living in a war zone with gunfire, bomb drills and escape plans; being raised with cult-like teachings and rules that my therapist very clearly said was religious abuse, being a parentified child raising her younger siblings, a narcissistic mother: the list seemed never-ending. I thought my tears and hurt would never end. It felt, and still at times feels, as though my grief for the child I never got to be will last forever.

Our Covid trip itself provided some unexpected therapy. The continual moving of states and campsites and the new sights and adventures helped my mind and heart to heal. The physical activities of constant hiking and exploring helped my body work through the trauma. My soul, though...my soul seemed destined to never heal. It still felt like an open wound. While my PTSD episodes started to become less frequent, they were still just as emotionally and verbally violent as they had been. Then, we reached the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole in Wyoming.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming/Photo by Carmen Henigin

My breath literally caught in my throat when my eyes first caught site of the landscape. The wide expanse of the valley gave way to towering 14,000 foot mountains, unobstructed by foothills. The soaring peaks seemed to offer both mystery and freedom. The valley, with the Snake River winding it's lazy way along the floor, held the promise of peace. Buffalo grazed, antelope ran and moose made their deceptiviely calm way through the long grasses. Further into the mountains, Colter Bay, unselfishly and joyfully, offered it's multi-colored rocky shore for my children to make natural paints to watercolor, a large curious fox wandered through the site, and the deep waters themselves, a foreground to the mountains, were so crystal clear you could see to the bottom. In truth, it felt as though my soul had finally come home. We had found a landscape that was large and wild enough to hold the depths of my grief and pain and still have room for the rest of me. A place where I could breathe and not feel trapped within myself. A place to which I return in my mind, over and over and over again, to help control my PTSD triggers and unlock and begin to understand the wells of pain within. A place that turned the key for me to be able to begin another journey - a journey of healing.

Lake Jackson, Wyoming/Photo by Carmen Henigin

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About the Creator

Carmen Henigin

I love to travel, adventure and exploring. Turns out, I also love writing. I recently published my first book "A Depressed Woman's Sarcastic Take on Life," and am working on several others! I look forward to learning from other writers!

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  • Dana Crandell15 days ago

    A wonderful story of healing. On a side note, Teton and Yellowstone Park are gorgeous, but not the best Wyoming has to offer, in my humble opinion. If you ever find yourself heading that direction again, spend some time in the Wind River Mts. or Bighorn Mts.

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