Monday, August 6, 2012

The Ramblings of a Recovering Phobic

Some of you may already know this, but I feel the need to write about it any way. For a long time I suffered from a debilitating case of anxiety and social phobia that kept me from living a normal, healthy life. Instead of being able to hang out with people, doing normal, everyday stuff, I felt the need to withdraw and avoid certain social situations all together. Since I didn't spend much time with other humans, other than the time that was required by my job, I filled my life with fish. Fishing became a passion for me; fly fishing especially. I went fishing as often as I possibly could. Five, six, sometimes even seven days a week I would go fishing, from March through September. On weekends I would spend pretty much every waking moment on the water, and on weekdays I would do everything I could think of to get out of work early, speed home to change my clothes, hop back in the car, swing by some random fast food restaurant, and then head east into western Wisconsin, which is home to a plethora of high quality trout streams, where I would fish until it was too dark to see. Then I would drive home in the dark, try to get some sleep, and wake up to do it all over again the next day.

There's gotta be a big trout lurking right next to that bank directly across from the guy. If that was me in the photo I would have caught it already...
Trout streams are beautiful places to while away a few hours. Languid and peaceful, they are a perfect setting to get away from the stress and anxiety of everyday life. I was able to lose myself in the natural world, where I had countless run-ins with interesting animals on a daily basis. Watching deer come out of the woods and sip water from the pool I was standing in is one of my most memorable experiences, but on pretty much every trip I was witness to some facet of life in the natural world. Turtles sunning themselves on exposed logs; muskrats busily swimming around, doing whatever it was they were doing; kingfishers noisily flying up and downstream, looking for a lazy fish to divebomb and have for dinner; bald eagles soaring a few feet overhead as they, too, were looking for a fish dinner. I saw all of these and countless other episodes of life out in the wild.

But the wildlife scenes were just an added bonus. The fishing was the main reason I kept going back day after day. Fly fishing is a very complex sport/art, and the act of fooling a wary trout on a fly that I concocted was a most therapeutic endeavor. I think being alone on a tranquil trout stream is one of the best prescriptions you could ask for if you are in the midst of agony or suffering, and I made sure to keep my refills coming.

A few years ago I sought actual medical help to deal with my phobias, and have been living a relatively normal life since. As you know, I have gotten married to an amazing woman, and we have three terrific kids. I don't have the time to fish nearly as much as I used to; in fact my days on the water have dwindled from almost 200 per year to somewhere between 5 and 10 per year. But I still have a deep-rooted love for the fish, the streams, and what they meant to me when I was in a time of need. I want to pass on that love to my kids, so that they can know the joy and peace that part of our world brought to me. The two older kids already have their own rods, and I've managed to help the oldest to catch a sunfish or two already. The Boy doesn't seem too interested yet, but I'll give him some time. An appreciation of the outdoors doesn't happen overnight, and it's too important for me to push it on him before he's ready.

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