Cheryl Strayed’s Battle with Depression

Cheryl Strayed’s Battle with Depression

Cheryl Strayed’s Battle with Depression

Depression is a psychological disorder that is becoming a global enigma in recent years. Depression levels range from mild to severe and it damages an individual’s emotional well-being. Some of the common symptoms of depression include a somber mood, lack of joy and interest, loss of weight, sleeping difficulties, weight loss, poor decision-making, and inadequate concentration. When depression becomes uncontrollable, it triggers other chronic illnesses like blood pressure, hypertension and even insanity, which eventually lead to death. Every person suffers from depression at various points in life. Pressures at the workplace, broken romantic and marriage affairs, poverty, unemployment, and death are key factors that facilitate depression, particularly among children, teenagers, and adults. After examining Cheryl Strayed’s book “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” I learned that Cheryl is battling with depression that originates from isolation and miserable life.  

At the age of 22, Cheryl Strayed decides to hike for three months on the Pacific Crest Trail as a way of overcoming the various emotional challenges in her life. The sudden change of her life and that of her family leaves her severely depressed. Her depression begins when her mother dies after a few months of diagnosis with stage four cancer. Another emotional challenge arises when they divorce with her husband because she is unfaithful in marriage and addicted to heroin. The isolation from her stepfather and brother also increases pressure in her life. Throughout the journey, she undergoes painful and horrific moments following her poor initial preparations. For example, the unfitting hiking boots break her toenails. She faces various hurdles in the journey, including loss of direction, hostilities from people and animals, severe climatic conditions and rugged terrain. While on the journey, Cheryl attempts to find peace with her past by meditating on her mother’s love and the traumatic breakup. On the way, she finds kind-hearted people who support her physically and emotionally.  For instance, Albert assists her in getting rid of unnecessary luggage. With all the fatigue, dangers and starvation, she reaches The Bridge of Gods, where she feels joyful after laying the past to rest.

Cheryl confirms that she is battling with depression by starting the journey of discovering herself. In the first chapter, she narrates the things that force her to start the three-month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Dreams and nightmares are some common signs of depression; they deprive Cheryl her sleep, especially after her mother dies. She recalls an incidence in her dreams where her mother orders to be killed by her repeatedly. She states, “She’d ordered me to kill her over and over again” (Strayed 161). Negative dreams indicate that one is battling with emotions or self-rejection. Studies reveal that negative dreams are strongly correlated with higher levels of self-criticism among depressed individuals (Agargun 95). Apart from losing her mother, Cheryl’s reckless life reveals that she is suffering from depression. For example, while on the Trail, she recalls times she had sex with strange men because of stress and heroin addiction. Additionally, the act of carrying unnecessary items on her journey intimates both physical and emotional struggles. Death, broken relationships and solitude are the major causes of depression in life. Cheryl encounters these heartbreaking situations, an indicator of her depressing condition.

The mood swings during her journey to The Bridge of Gods confirms that Cheryl is suffering from depression. Occasionally, people consider depression to be a mood disorder. An individual experiences both feelings of happiness and sadness interchangeably. Cheryl’s mood keeps fluctuating because of her struggles with isolation and past events. After the death of her mother, she separates with her husband, stepfather, and brother in a mysterious way. The separation act intensifies the feelings of sadness in her life. Despite her financial struggles, she desires to have a companion at her initial stages of the journey. While in a motel she states, “I thought about going out and finding myself a companion” (Strayed 37). As such, she is feeling sad and dissatisfied with her current lonely situation. Past events also torment her moods regularly. Apart from her mother’s death, Cheryl meditates on Paul’s love. For example, she recalls how Paul cautioned her about heroin. In chapter nine, Paul likens heroin addiction with the act of putting a gun on an individual’s head and pulling the trigger (Strayed 137). The moods changes emerging from present and past encounters reveal that Cheryl is a depressed character.

Cheryl’s depression continues with the fatigue and worthless feelings that she portrays while hiking on the PCT. Launching a journey into the wilderness paints an image of suicide because of traveling on dangerous grounds. Apart from the cold climatic conditions, the rugged terrain tortures her physically and emotionally. Additionally, scary wild beasts threaten Cheryl’s life. Pursuing a dangerous journey is an indication that she no longer values her life because of the negative past events like death and divorce. The journey is tiresome and full of challenges, and this denies her happiness.  For instance, in chapter twelve, Cheryl struggles with thirst because the water reservoirs and tanks are dry. Luckily, she quenches her thirst after disinfecting dirty water. She confesses that she took iodine pills from her first aid kit and dropped them it the water (Strayed 88). Thirst indicates that an individual is fatigued especially after traveling long distances. Cheryl also encounters demeaning characters who make her feel worthless because of her loneliness and deformed figure. For instance, she encounters two male hunters who intimidate her even after treating them well. She describes them as obnoxious and sexists who destroyed her water purifier (Strayed 271). Inadequate finances, ineffective hiking costumes, and poor accommodation are some of the challenges that increase her fatigue during the journey. Taking a horrific journey as a way of discovering herself confirms that she no longer values her life.

The recurrent thoughts about the past miserable events also affirm that Cheryl is battling with depression. Majorly, depression develops when one thinks excessively about past events and situations. Extreme thoughts about lost love and death dominate the better part of Cheryl’s journey. Her strayed thoughts about her mother dominate chapter sixteen after realizing that it is her birthday. Despite being on the busiest part of the PCT, Cheryl still recalls her mother’s flaws that contributed to her death. She maintains that her mother had gone a “phase during which she’d smoked pot on an occasional but regular basis and had no qualms about doing it” (Strayed 251). During this moment, she feels emotional because her mother could indulge in insane activities in front of her children without caring. Cheryl has been carrying multiple things and experiences in her mind for the better part of the journey. In chapter nineteen, she rips pages of a book entitled “Ten thousand Things” and sets them into the fire (Strayed 287). Burning the book is an indication of burying the thoughts and feelings she has been carrying throughout the journey.

Cheryl’s book reiterates depression as a psychological disorder affecting many people globally. From the book, one realizes that death, family separation, and broken relationships are prime causes of depression in life. Cheryl’s negative dreams about her mother’s death indicate a lack of sleep and mood swings as a symptom of depression. Also, persistent sadness, feelings of fatigue, and worthlessness are other factors that cause depression to affect individuals physically and emotionally. Overall, depression is an adverse psychological disorder that triggers other health problems in life. Through social networks with kindhearted people, one can easily overcome this psychological condition.

Works Cited

Strayed, Cheryl. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Alfred a Knopf, 2012. https://www.academia.edu/27944481/Wild_From_Lost_to_Found_on_the_Pacific_Crest_Trail

Yucel Agargun, Mehmet, and Rosalind Cartwright. “Melancholic Features and Dream Masochism in Patients with Major Depression.” Sleep and Hypnosis – International Journal, 2016, pp. 92-96. http://www.sleepandhypnosis.org/ing/Pdf/dbede1947937411e971040c054020330.pdf


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